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Plea for runners in Inverness and the Highlands to stay safe in winter


By John Davidson

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A head torch can be a good idea when out in winter.
A head torch can be a good idea when out in winter.

Runners in the Highlands are being urged to take make sure they are doing all they can to be easily seen when exercising outdoors.

With gyms closed again due to the lockdown, an Inverness running shop says it has seen an unprecedented demand for running kit online and expects this month to be one of the most active yet as people embrace New Year’s resolutions to focus on their health and wellbeing.

However, it is estimated that 68 per cent of people haven’t sought guidance or support when it comes to taking up running. And with the current cold snap, many runners are putting themselves at risk of injury and in danger by not being easily seen on the roads.

The Runners Need store has launched its #WeFeelSeen campaign to share its expertise in staying safe, reducing injury and choosing the right kit.

Bill Williamson, store manager at Runners Need in Inverness, said: “It is great to see so many Inverness runners getting outdoors and moving. There are so many benefits to be had. Not only can running improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, which is much needed after this year, but doing so in challenging winter conditions can also help boost performance and make you stronger.

“However, with new runners not getting the advice they need, it’s a ticking time bomb for injuries. In fact, studies show that novice runners get injured twice as often than those who are more experienced, and there are some common pitfalls that those at all levels will experience when running in winter, such as not being seen by others on the road, pulled muscles and tripping over unseen obstacles in the dark.

“The best thing to do is make sure that you’re well prepared for the conditions you’re running in. With mornings and evenings still dark it is so important that you make yourself as visible as possible to minimise your risk of not being spotted by other road users. If you have the correct kit you don’t need to let the rain and cold put you off from lacing up your trainers and getting outside.

"That being said, it’s always best to exercise caution and use your common sense – icy conditions are best avoided to minimise serious risk of injury and always take care when crossing the road, particularly when it’s dark or if you listen to music.”

Choose the right footwear for your needs.
Choose the right footwear for your needs.

Runners Need top winter running tips:

1. Don’t underestimate the power of warming up and cooling down:

Warming up before exercising is always important to help reduce the risk of injury, but it’s even more so when it’s cold as muscles can be tighter than usual. Some low intensity cardio exercises like star jumps and high knees will help to get the heart rate up while dynamic stretching will help to prepare your body for what’s to come. Likewise, take the time to stretch and cool down after your run to help flush out any lactic acid and prevent soreness the next day.

2. Know your route:

Understanding where you’re running is essential to staying safe – particularly when it’s dark. When building a route, you need to be aware of any areas which may be poorly lit, have reduced pedestrian access, or even have bumps and obstacles on the ground such as uneven pavement, tree roots or loose drain coverings that may easily trip you up when visibility is low.

3. Think about laps:

While you might have enjoyed exploring trails or heading out to new areas during the summer months, when it comes to winter running, and particularly for novices, it can be a good idea to opt for smaller running loops. Yes, running the same route may be slightly boring, however it gives you the option of an exit strategy should you get into any difficulty.

4. Understand the weather:

Just like you should make sure you’re prepared for the rain and wrapped up appropriately for the temperature, you should also be mindful of the wind. Windy conditions play a huge part in how cold we feel. If you can, try to run into the wind when you’re starting out on your run so that it is blowing away from you when you’re heading home. This is because you’ll likely be more sweaty and won’t get as cold.

5. Get the right kit:

It goes without saying that when you’re out in the dark, you need to do all you can to make sure you’re seen – particularly on roads. Your kit doesn’t need to be expensive but it is vital you invest in some high visibility pieces, and even think about using a head torch. Sweat-wicking fabrics are also a good idea as well as protecting exposed areas of skin with moisturiser.

6. Tread carefully:

Making sure you have the correct footwear is essential when running, not only to prevent injury from slipping but also to ensure you’re safely supported. Try a gait analysis to help you choose the right shoe for your foot as well as looking for the best tread for the surfaces you run on.

7. Stay hydrated:

While it may be cold outside, you’ll still be sweating, so it is really important to stay hydrated when you’re out running – particularly if you’re heading out on a long distance. It’s also important to understand that the cold air can often make you feel as if you’re not sweating and losing water, so you may be more dehydrated than you think.

8. Regulate your breathing:

When heading out in the cold your breathing can sometimes feel more difficult. Try to develop a rhythm by inhaling and exhaling every three steps. This will help you feel more in control and alleviate any struggles.

9. Switch up your training:

One of the most common pitfalls of new runners is not adding enough variety into your training. To improve and develop it is best to incorporate a variety of training techniques such as interval, fartlek and hills. Likewise, increase your mileage gradually instead of jumping in headfirst and make sure to cross train to ensure you’re using different muscle groups to avoid overworking the same muscles and causing injury.

10. Get a running buddy:

Team up with a friend to go running with. Not only will it keep you motivated and make running more fun, but it is also safer than venturing out alone.

Team up with a buddy to help your motivation.
Team up with a buddy to help your motivation.

Bill added: “It is so important you take care when out running during the winter months. If you want expert advice on kit that will help to keep you visible, the best shoes to support your running technique, or even some useful tips to help minimise your risk of injury, we have lots of advice online until our store can safely reopen.”


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