Can you run your way to happiness now the colder weather has arrived? Amy Dawson finds out…
From cosy knitwear to crackling fires, there’s plenty to take pleasure in as winter approaches. Nevertheless, the shorter and darker days can get many of us down, and in some cases even trigger SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It can be tempting to hibernate indoors, but going out for a run is actually one of the best ways to beat the winter blues (and it’s a lot cheaper than a Caribbean holiday!)Fresh air, sunlight and exercise are all well-documented mood boosters. And by getting out for a run during the colder months, we make the most effective use of the limited hours of UK daylight. ‘Over the winter months a lot of us suffer from lack of sunlight,’ says running coach Elaine Omand (dundeerunningtours.co.uk). ‘This leads to a lack of vitamin D in our bodies, which is linked to SAD. This, along with lower levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin, can leave us feeling lethargic and unhappy.’It’s thought that lower levels of vitamin D in the winter might reduce the levels of serotonin in the brain, causing lower moods. Luckily, in addition to releasing uplifting endorphins, exercise is also known to boost levels of serotonin, helping to improve mood.
Lift your spirits
‘The combination of exercise and fresh air on a winter run will make you feel great,’ says Elaine. ‘This could help to improve your energy levels, and your mental health.’While running on a treadmill will still give you a pick-me-up, nothing beats the mental boost you get from a run outdoors in nature. The burnished golds and blazing reds of the late autumn leaves will lift your spirits even on the drizzliest of days. And the changing scene provided by outdoor running, particularly if you can switch up your routes, will also help you to stay motivated for longer.Furthermore, whether you’re noticing the beauty of your surroundings, or taking care where you tread your feet, the added focus required by a wintry outdoor run means that you’re less likely to think about how tired you are.‘There is something magical about running on a crisp winter’s morning, when the ground is frosty and the sun is low,’ says Elaine. ‘Making the most of a winter morning will really wake you up, and make you feel good about yourself.’
As we head towards the end of the year many people let their healthy habits fall by the wayside, waiting to restart them with New Year resolutions in January. However, by setting up a healthy and mood-boosting routine earlier on in the winter, you can enjoy the entire season in a more steady and contented frame of mind.‘With running, consistency is key,’ says Adele Prince, a trainer at GoodGym, an organisation that combines regular runs with helping out in local communities. ‘By keeping yourself active all year round, you will help yourself stay on an even keel.’If you’re new to running, or haven’t done it for a while, then you’re in luck. The colder months are the easiest and the most effective time of year to take it up. It feels much less hot and sticky, and is far less dehydrating. Runners find it a third more comfortable running in average UK winter temperatures compared to summer conditions, according to a study at St Mary’s University in London.
What’s more, you might even see better results from the same workout in winter, as your body has to burn more calories to maintain your core temperature. All in all, running in winter can give a real lift to your con dence and self-esteem.The colder months are also a particularly good time to use positive visualisation to motivate yourself to get out there. Imagine treating yourself after your run has nished, and it will be easier to keep going.‘It all feels so much more rewarding when you’ve managed to get outside in the fresh air, even when the weather doesn’t seem as inviting,’ says Adele. ‘Just think of the lovely warm shower that you can get into once you arrive home, and the nice big mug of tea you can curl up with! It will all feel so much better after you’ve enjoyed a run.’
Winter running is not without its mental and physical challenges, but as long as you are warm and comfortable in the right kit, if you can learn to accept (and even embrace) the cold and dark, running can help you to stay calm and content right through to the rst blossoms of spring.‘You can absolutely use a “mindful” approach to running to keep feeling positive all winter,’ says Adele. ‘Getting out in your local green spaces is the perfect way to clear your head and stay positive. You feel the seasons changing and nd yourself noticing new things as you go, switching off from stresses and being “in the moment”.’While this time of year can be a challenge at times, by getting out for a run, you really can shake off the winter blues. It’s time to grab your trainers and go