Hot chocolate and cake, or a run in the dark, cold Irish winter? Easy choice

A winter run can be really comfortable and pleasant if you are well prepared.

As we move into deep winter, I'm so desperate for exercise and for sunshine and so lacking in spirit to go outside and get me some. All I want to do it drink hot chocolate and eat cake. I need some Grit, doc! – Siobhán

We are all there. It is really hard to get ourselves outdoors to exercise now that the temperature has dropped. The fall in temperature comes hand-in-hand with a mysterious desire for rich fatty sugary foods, as though we are literally laying down fat reserves for a long period of hibernation.

I suffer from this too, but one thing I’m using as fuel right now to get me outside is that my mood really suffers if I don’t run, even more so in winter with less sunlight so I really must get out there to feel good.

The more I tell myself that a daily run is necessary medicine, a vital pill to pop in order that I can function properly, the easier I find it to go.


Then there is the kit thing. I felt like an idiot last week thinking it looked cold and going out for my run in one of the twins’ bobble hats and scarf (I couldn’t find mine and didn’t want to faff about wasting time looking for them and in so doing possibly lose the motivation to go running at all). It was itchy and tight (he is seven years old) and I quickly overheated.

I was sweating like a pig half way through the run and had to carry the hat and scarf rolled up into a large ball which put me slightly off balance, was irritating and distracting.

It also ensured there was no danger of me losing myself to the run and entering any kind of zone. Then this morning, I made the same mistake in misjudging the conditions; it was so bright and clear, I thought I didn’t need to wear any extra layers and so went without – and froze.

Some kind of beanie hat that, crucially, covers the ears properly is key to your comfort

So, check the weather and dress accordingly, don’t go by how it looks outside as I did. Global warming has made this a woefully inaccurate temperature yardstick.

A winter run can be really comfortable and pleasant if you are well prepared. Some kind of beanie hat that, crucially, covers the ears properly is key to your comfort. And it needs to be thin enough so if needs be you can whip it off mid run shove it in a pocket and not feel weighed down, so it’s worth investing in a proper runner’s one.

For the torso, layer up and make sure your outermost layer you can peel off and wrap round your waist without it interfering with your running gait. Gloves are a good idea too, but my top tip: two pairs of socks – the ultimate in winter running luxury. It matters not what material they are made of. I’m not convinced by the benefits of any running specialist socks at all, but I am convinced that two pairs keeps your toes toasty warm from the start and there is no such thing as your feet overheating on a winter run. Not in my case anyway.

Time indoors

Tell yourself a winter run is worth two in the summer because of how much more awesome you will feel afterwards, and how much more your body needs it.

After all, we spend so much more time indoors at this time of year and need reasons to get outside. Think of that warm hot chocolate as your body acclimatises to the colder run – how much more you’ll enjoy it afterwards, how much you’ve earned it.

I'm cheering myself on with the thought that I could be running in snow next weekend when I visit Iceland

I’m cheering myself on with the thought that I could be running in snow next weekend when I visit Iceland. And thinking, however cold I am today, it’s nothing compared to how cold I’m going to feel next week. And I’ll motivate myself after Iceland with the same thought flipped on its head; feeling thankful and grateful that I don’t live somewhere that cold and rarely get outside to run as a result. How lucky we are that our winters are so mild!

The other big carrot (or stick, I'm not sure which) is our Christmas trip to Australia to visit my gorgeous baby niece.

My sister and husband are 11 years our junior and in a totally different place body/fitness-wise and, being Aussies are basically outside all year round playing sport. The idea of stripping off down to a bikini or one-piece on a beach during the summer at my age pains me – full stop. It only happens on a family summer holiday and even then, rarely. But you can’t get away with being shy about this kind of thing in Australia.

Factor in that I’ll be surrounded by my sister and nubile 30-year-old friends, and that my skin will be at peak Christmas pastiness, and suddenly the idea of a daily run round the woods seems not just necessary, but essential.

Hell yeah, this fat bitch needs to get her run on, and fast, because this Christmas everything gets bared.

The Grit Doctor says . . . Jingle all the way