Cycling and running workouts in winter – stay safe

Kim Hookem-Smith
Yahoo Lifestyle
9 November 2012

Cold winter weather, grey mornings and dark evenings can be a workout turn off for even the most fanatical about fitness.

[Related: The best cycling accessories]

But for your health and happiness, exercising in the winter is even more important in the summer.
Plus if you’re like us you’ll have an ideal dress you’re planning to fit into for party season and coincidentally, winter is the best time to lose weight.

After Bradley Wiggins and cycling coach Shane Sutton's accidents this week, there are calls to make cycling safer. But whatever form of exercise you do outside, make sure you keep fit in a safe way. Here are our essential rules for winter workouts.

[Related: Basic all-weather cycling rules]

The great outdoors

If you can, catch some light while you work out in the winter to get a vitamin D boost. But if that’s impossible, don’t let the dark put you off.  Just be aware that you’re not as visible to traffic as it is t you, so whether you’re running, cycling or just walking to the park, be vigilant.

More than a third (36 per cent) of UK cyclists have been knocked off their bicycle by a car, van or lorry at least once, according to research by Protect Your Bubble, so it’s not worth taking any risks.

Making yourself seen in your exercise clobber is essential. So make sure you stand out:

Winter kit bag for runners and cyclists

•    Hi-viz clothing & reflectors. White, neon and light coloured clothes show up better in dim lights and reflectors will make you more visible to cars with headlights. You can buy additional stickers and bands to accessorise yourself in glorious technicolour

•    Lights. It’s a legal requirement for cyclists to wear lights at night but it’s just as important for runners to be visible to traffic, as well as walkers, other runners and cyclists.

•    Warm gear. Getting the balance right can be tricky as it’s freezing when you step out but after you’ve worked up a sweat you’ll feel boiling. The best idea is to wear sweat-wicking fabrics that protect from the cold but don’t stifle. Go for long sleeves and full length running trousers and add gloves and warm socks for your extremities, which won’t benefit as much from the body heat you generate. Cyclists may also want to include a balaclava or scarf, hat (under the cycle helmet), cycle specific or ski gloves and shoe covers.

•    Sun cream (seriously), which also protects your skin from the wind and cold

•    Your phone. If you do get into trouble you need to be able to call for help so find a way to take your phone with you, either in an arm band, bum bag or pocket

[Related: Chris Hoy on being a cycling rock star]

Safety tips for runners:

  • Join a group or take a friend with you. Not only will this make you feel safer in the dark, it will also help with motivation. If none of your friends are willing, there are schemes that can help you find a local running buddy. And that also makes it harder to call the evening work out off!
  • Change your route regularly. Though it’s unlikely, you’re best off changing where you run regularly so unsavoury individuals don’t see you run past the same place at the same time and could potentially ambush you. Also stick to well–lit areas and avoid alleys and dark backstreets
  • Remember that running in reduced light throws off your balance so give yourself time to acclimatise and take it easy

Safety tips for cyclists

  • Take it easy and be aware of the road conditions, especially if it’s icy or wet
  • Cycle slower to give yourself more time for corners and to deal with any hazards
  • Reduce tire pressure to give you more grip – which will also slow you down a little
  • Fit mudguards. They’ll stop mud, grit and rain water ruining your clothes and will also protect your breaks and gears from bad weather
  • Don’t undertake on the left and avoiding sitting to the next to cars preparing to turn left at junctions and traffic lights.  This is already a blind spot for motorists and in the dark or wet they’re even less likely to see you. If there is room, get ahead of the vehicles that may turn left so you will be out of the way first. Or, if that’s not possible or involves undertaking pull back. Many cyclists have been killed by vehicles turning left onto them. Don’t let it be you.

Stay warm, stay safe and stay fit. Send us your top winter weather work out tips on Twitter.

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