In most parts of South Africa, winter is the most beautiful time to hit the trails. Waterfalls, storm chasing, abundant plant life and good old puddle jumping are usually all the motivation we need to head to our favourite trail heads. But for those who are new to the idea of training through the cold months, here's some advice and inspiration to nail the season ahead.
First the good news. Colder weather means faster times over shorter distances. Yes, it is actual science! Cooler temperatures reduce stress on the body, and you will experience lower heart rate and reduced risk of dehydration. Carbohydrate reserves are also drained faster in cold weather, for swift energy conversion. So now is the time to map out a short to medium distance trail route and demonstrate your STRAVA prowess. You will be glad you did, when racing season finally gets the green light.
Winter running is the very best time to strut your stuff. Not catwalk style, just sufficiently to be seen by traffic and fellow runners. Reflective gear and headlamps are winter trail running must-haves. All the cool kids are doing it.
Gear is always important, but particularly in winter where the unpredictability of mountain running temperatures can catch you off-guard. The sunny slopes of the base can vary greatly from the chilly summit, so be prepared. Regardless of season, we should never set out on a trail run without the basics such as a wind breaker, beanie or buff, a thin base layer and a space blanket. An ankle roll happens all too easily and you don’t want to sit around with rapidly diminishing body heat as a bank of icy mist slides in. Additional extras can include arm sleeves, which are easy to remove if temps increase, gloves and tights. Natural fibres work best for breathability and warmth, so look for mohair or similar, especially where socks are concerned. Remember, covering your head is a very effective way to reduce loss of body heat. And a headlamp is critical gear; don’t be caught in the dark trying to fumble down with a dodgy cellphone torch.
Post-run planning is as important as pre-run. Have warm, dry clothing close at hand. A flask of tea or soup is a welcome relief when coming off a wintery trail. Don’t stand around (social distanced) chatting after your run.
You know what they say… there is no such thing as bad weather, only a bad attitude!
Words by Kim Stephens