Top tips for running in the dark this winter

peachylau running in the dark

Although I’ve never been one to post all of my workouts on my ‘fitness instagram, the lack of recent posts for the past couple of weeks is an accurate reflexion of my decreased levels of activity. I’ve been hit by the “too-dark-too-cold-too-tired” fever (a highly contagious winter bug) and avoided running in the dark. Except that according to my calendar, 2017 race training is supposed to start this weekend… meaning that I will have to suck it up and run in the dark. I thought I’d share with you my top tips to run in the dark this winter, and mainly how to STAY SAFE while doing so. 

Top tips for running in the dark this winter 

∇ Run in the morning. It’s hard to be motivated to run in the dark, but personally I think that it is even harder to think about it all day and then have to go after a long day at work. If you run in the morning, it is out of the way. You can then enjoy the sunrise if you are lucky, and you are allowed to brag for the rest of the day while on your endorphin high. Plus, as my friend Steph says, people who would want to harm you while you are running are probably still asleep. 

∇ Fuel properly. If you follow the tip above, chances are that you will go for a fasted run. This is fine depending on the distance you are running. I would recommend having a glass of water and a bite of a banana/cereal bar or consider carrying one. You do not want to feel light-headed and vulnerable when there is no one around. 

∇ Dress appropriately. As an old (?Scandinavian) say says “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing”.  Next time you dress up for one of your winter run, ask yourself whether or not you have applied the onion theory i.e. dressed up with multiple breathable layer to make your run more comfortable. Many brands now have stylish winter gears and you might want to add this top and these leggings to your Christmas wish list. 

winter running in the dark

∇ Be visible. Now that you are motivated to go running early morning, that you are appropriately fuelled and dressed upi, we might want to be make sure that you are safe, shall we? Aim to be as visible as your Christmas tree and sprinkle yourself with hi-viz! From vest, to gloves or hats, there is a solution for you that will be a great compromise between comfort, style and safety. Many of us don’t realise how hard it can be for cars to see us! I’ve run outdoor many times thinking “this isn’t too bad” only to do the same route driving and realise that when in a car, you can see F’ all. 

∇ Run against traffic and obey all traffic rules. Linking to the above point, make sure to run against traffic so you can see cars coming, making it easy to adjust your route accordingly.

∇ Beware of your sound system. How many of you like running while listening to music or a podcast? I do. However there is a reason many official races forbid wearing headphones. It is distracting and can make you vulnerable. One compromise is to use bone conduction headphone that deliver music via your cheekbones, enabling you to hear impending traffic at the same time. 

∇ Plan your route. Best to go running on familiar routes that you will have scouted out previously in the light and make sure that it is a well-lit route. 

∇ Vary your route. Try to have a couple of routes under your belt so you can vary them and not go along the same one at the same time. Not only this will be better for your safety, it will also help you prevent injuries. Indeed, many runs have camber etc, leading you to raise one leg higher than the other. This will affect your gait and can lead to injury from your body trying to compensate and activating inappropriate muscles. 

∇ Share your route…but not with everyone. I record my routes via Strava and I will often send a pictue of my route to Lawrence. I also tell him at what time I am leaving and at what time to expect to hear back from me. When using such tracking system, check your security settings. On Strava, you can set up a “safety radius” around certain postcodes so people cannot track your house etc. There is one massive flow in the system though. If you join a group such as a parkrun group, Strava assumes that you do not mind sharing your details and will render your routes public. I discovered that when a man I did not know commented on one of my recent runs…

∇ Carry your ICE details / medicine. Lastly, try to carry your “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) details or programme them in your phone. This is especially important if you have a medical condition or treatment that you’d want medical staff to know before treating you e.g. you’re on warfarin. Also, be a little bit responsible? If you are diabetic, carry some fuel with you as  you do not want to get a hypo. If you are asthmatic, carry your inhaler as the cold can precipitate an asthma attack? 

dark winter running

This may seem like an extensive and daunting list, but it is nothing complicated nor time consuming to implement and it will keep you safe during your winter training. Let me know how you get on and you are always welcome to send me an email (peachylau@gmail.com) or a tweet @peachylau to let me know when you are going for a run and when you are expected to get back 😉


Do you have other tips to stay safe when running in the dark? 

This post contains affiliate links, all opinions are my own

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