Running in winter: Brrr! Pie payback: Mmm!

Tue, Nov 27, 2012, 00:00

I cannot think of anything worse than going for a run in this wintry, rainy Irish weather. But I am worried about the weight piling on over Christmas. Is there something else I can do in the comfort of my own home?

I am in complete agreement with you. I cannot think of anything worse than going for a run in this awful weather. In fact, I shall avoid going outdoors at all today if I can somehow persuade my husband to drop his court case, pick up the twins, do the shopping, and pack in a five-miler for me on his way home . . .

Ah, if only we could get someone else to deal with the gritty things in life for us while we sit down in the warmth drinking eggnog and eating cake. Wouldn’t that be nice? But alas, we can’t outsource our health and fitness to anyone else. No one else can burn those calories off for you. (Sips hot chocolate and takes large bite of warm mince pie.)

I never want to run in the rain. It seems borderline insane, frankly, but I do it. Why? Because I take my fitness and health seriously – as I do my eating – and at Christmas time I like to eat all of the pies. And I still want to look decent in my party frock and not have to start 2013 feeling as though I need to shift a stone. I like my weight to stay roughly the same throughout the year, but realistically, I know that it will go up around Christmas on account of the extra pie-eating, unless I do something to counteract it.

And that is running.

I’m not sure if it is the uber-gritty weather (your body will have to burn more calories just to keep warm), or because once I’m out there and halfway through the run, I may as well squeeze in another mile or two and that way not have to go again tomorrow, but running when it is cold and rainy really does do wonders for the waistline, let alone the mood. Three times a week for 45 minutes or so and I honestly don’t worry about what I eat. Running is my diet.

Yes, you can wiggle around in your front room for 20 minutes to a DVD, but it will earn you fewer pies and give you fewer of those much-craved endorphins too. Brave the cold outdoors instead, however, and you will get a whole load more bang for your buck. Running in the winter can be, frankly, brutal, but the payback packs a huge punch too. Wrap up warm – beanie, gloves, waterproofs, the whole shebang – and once you’ve gritted out those first 10 minutes you will be transported to a different plane. Those 45 minutes will fly by, and when you are done, you will feel incredible: bursting with energy and vitality, skin glowing, body warm as toast, endorphins raging around your brain (in a good way). Nothing beats it. And trust me, that cake, that mulled wine, all those delicious Christmas treats will taste so much better because your run has earned you the right to eat all the pies.

Yes, it’s gritty. Yes, it’s cold. Of course you’d rather lie on the sofa in front of the fire with your feet up eating chocolate. And my advice is to do just that. As often as you fancy. After you have been for your run.

Ruth Field is the author of Run, Fat Bitch, Run.

Tweet your query to Ruth at @gritdoctor

Races of the week

The prestige event of the week is the Waterford Half Marathon, but Saturday’s race has been closed to entries since it hit the 1,500 mark. However, there are plenty of alternatives – even if most of them are of a shorter distance – and the big trend now is in Christmas-themed races. On Saturday there’s the Big Heart Santa Run in Galway, and then on Sunday there’s a host of races: RNLI Reindeer Run in Rathfarnham’s Marlay Park, Dublin, the Santa Dash in Cavan, Christmas Rush in north Co Dublin (all 5km and 10km) and the 3rd Annual Turkey Trot (5km) in Carnmore, Galway. Christmas races seem to come earlier every year. Details of these races are on

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