Gear Reviews

Winter Training Essentials

This week has been that week where everyone in Britain starts going “oooh, it’s starting to feel like winter, isn’t it?” To be honest, it’s not that cold yet and we’ll probably have another mild spell before winter really hits, but it’s definitely been a reminder that I can’t necessarily just count on being able to go running in my usual shorts and tshirt at any time of day without really worrying.

I’m a big fan of the principle of ‘no excuses’ – in other words, being so ready to run under any conditions that there is never an excuse not to go. Actually, I think that might be another way of saying that I love having loads of kit, and sometimes having some nice kit to wear is reason enough to go running even when it’s grim out, but hey. Either way, in the name of ‘no excuses’, here are a few of the things that I’ve recently moved from the back of the cupboard to a more prominent shelf in my kit store…

  • Leggings; I’m not a huge fan and an all but the coldest days I’d generally rather wear shorts, but sometimes leggings just take the edge off those really really nippy days when, without them, it would be hard to make yourself go for a run…
  • A fleece hat; this is brilliant, lightweight but fleecy and shaped to cover the ears. The only problem is that it’s almost too warm for most runs, and I’ve recently bought a lighter weight one from Iffley Road, which I reviewed recently, however this is nice for the start of a run and even if it comes off later when I want to cool down a bit, I never regret having it with me when I’m running home from work on a dark November evening…
  • Long-sleeved running top; my fellow rejects will recognise this as the ‘freebie’ that London Marathon sent us as a consolation for not getting in. Previously I wore the almost identical one they sent out last year, and now I have two. Yay. Long-sleeved, with thumb loops, high collars and vented panels they’re perfect for running on colder days, and have the half-zip which means you can add some ventilation once you get going. I also like it for trail runs or run/hikes.
  • Gloves; these are absolutely brilliant, super-thin but warm, with yellow palms (I think possibly for cyclists to help them when indicating) and conductive pads on the thumb and forefinger so you can still use a smartphone, they are a must-have for cold days as your hands will never get warm no matter how hard you are working.
  • YakTrax; these almost never get used, since in London it’s rarely that snowy or icy for long, but ‘no excuses’ remember, so for those days when it really is dangerously icy, these lightweight, low-profile, easy to slip on mini-crampons mean you can still run safely!
  • Headtorch; also not particularly necessary in London, but vital for trail runs in the winter, when it can be dingy by 4pm and dark by 5. Mine is a fairly lightweight petzl with good battery time and a red light that I mainly use for work but can be handy when worn backwards on your head or round your waist if you’re running along a reasonably well-lit road but want to make sure you are properly visible from the rear.
  • A decent sports watch; hours, minutes and seconds are great if you can pinpoint your location every 2 seconds and calculate your average pace over 24 miles without breaking sweat.  For everyone else there’s a GPS sports watch waiting in the wings.

The main thing missing is a really good lightweight rainproof. The only one I currently have is the london marathon freebie from two years ago, which is decent but neither as light not as waterproof as some of the best ones on the market, like those from Nike or Patagonia. Something like this will definitely be on my list to buy in the not too distant future.

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