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Jürg Widmera- fitness

The mental techniques you need to improve physical performance

We often hear professional athletes, from world champion boxers to marathon runners, talking about the ‘mental side’ of sport and competition.

But what is it, and how can normal, everyday athletes like us use it to improve their own performance? Here are my thoughts.

Positive visualisation

This is a technique that actually works in almost any situation. We might be waiting to go into a difficult interview for a job. Or we might be about to run 1500m. But by thinking clearly and consciously about successfully doing the activity before we do it we are actually preparing our minds and our bodies for that success.

Here’s how it works in practice. Whatever the activity, when we visualise a positive outcome in our minds we actually create new neural pathways in our minds. This is just as we would do for a real life action. And it means that when we actually do the thing in real life, our brains are ready to succeed.

Mindfulness

One of the other key mental strategies that can benefit athletes is mindfulness training. There are lots of different meditation techniques out there, as well as apps like Headspace and Calm which help to improve our mindful attention.

The key here is that this isn’t just about increased focus (which is also a benefit of mindfulness techniques). It is also about enjoyment of the experience of an activity. When we are fully engaged and in the moment with our bodies, our minds and our environment, we are also enjoying all the benefits of that activity too.

Improving resilience and confidence

The ability to bounce back and get back to winning ways after a defeat is a key skill for athletes. It’s what sets the best apart and helps them to be consistently successful.

And it is one of the most important areas of focus when it comes to the mental side of sports. So how do we improve resilience and self confidence?

Well, techniques like positive visualisation and mindfulness can help us to be more successful on one level. But resilience and confidence also don’t just come from winning.

They are also a product of how we react to defeat. These qualities grow when we see setbacks as learning opportunities and as a way of contributing to, rather than diminishing, our sense of our own abilities.

So, go easy on yourself. Push yourself physically, but when you come up short sometimes, learn to cope with that mentally too. Learn from your mistakes and bring these lessons into your next session.

Our top five running shoes for road running

It is one of the great pleasures of running: having an excuse to go out and buy a new pair of running shoes. You’ve put the hard miles in out on the road, and your old pair are showing their age – so, here is our guide to the five best shoes that money can buy.

Go on, you’ve earned them!

1. Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit

If money is no object, then there really is only one choice for us. The Vaporfly is prohibitively expensive, of course, but then there is an incredible amount of technology and testing crammed into it.

The upper hugs your feet almost like a pair of light, breathable socks, but with more than enough support too. There’s a carbon fibre strip embedded in the ZoomX foam sole for support as well.

You’ll feel a remarkable amount of energy bouncing back out on the road from that sole – but then this really is a true racer’s shoe. If it’s good enough for 2 hour marathon man Eliud Kipchoge then it’s good enough for us.

2. Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo

Another Nike, but one that is slightly more within reach for the average runner. If you can’t afford (or justify) the high price you’ll pay for the Vaporfly, then the Pegasus Turbo is your next best bet.

It might not give you that extra 4% (but who really needs that, anyway!) but Pegasus is a well-loved name in the world of running shoes for good reason.

You actually get quite a bit of that 4% magic anyway – they’ve used the same ZoomX foam and you’ll find the sole still feels wonderfully cushioned out on the road.

This is the latest iteration of a classic, versatile shoe that is as good for a slow Park Run as it is for a marathon. Highly recommended.

3. The Brooks Ghost 11

Brooks are a big name in running and the Ghost is one of their most well-loved road shoes. It’s considerably more affordable than the Vaporfly too, which makes it a great option for the beginner runner.

They’re light and yet a pair of Ghosts still give you an incredible amount of support. The sole is stable and gives you an extra bit of cushioning – something your knees will thank you for once you start getting more miles under your belt.

4. Adidas Adizero Boston 7

Some people swear by Adidas running shoes and while we’re not usually one of them, this shoe really caught our attention.

It’s well cushioned for one, but we loved the way that you never lose any feel for the road beneath your feet. The construction is lightweight and felt stable, even over longer distances and varying road conditions.

It’s a shoe that will probably appeal to more experienced runners – it feels light and speedy, and the kind of trainer that you may well run a PB in one day.

5. New Balance Fresh Foam 1080v9

These are comfortable shoes – make no mistake. But New Balance have also stuck an insole in there too to give you a perfectly cushioned running experience.

While you will still feel the road beneath your feet, with the Fresh Foam you get the sense that the bumps are nicely ironed out.

They’re fully breathable, of course, and while they are not the most exciting looking shoe out there, they will look after you for mile after mile.

Jürg Widmer Probst

Jürg Widmer Probst - fitness Marathon

Preparing for your first marathon

So, you’ve finally done it. You’ve gone and plucked up the courage to click ‘submit’ on your online entry. You’ve paid your fee, agreeing to run your first marathon, and worst of all, you’ve told all your friends you’re going to do it.

There is no backing out now – and now the real challenge begins. How on earth do you prepare for something as mind blowingly gruelling as 26.2 miles of hard running?

Well, we’ll be honest – it isn’t going to be easy. It wouldn’t be a marathon if it was. But it is do-able. Here are our tips for marathon first timers.

Get the right training plan

Notice the key word here is the ‘right’ training plan. There are countless ones out there – just search online – but they are for a myriad of different abilities and time scales.

So, think about how long you have to train before the big day. And have a very clear (and most importantly, honest) sense of where you are at in terms of fitness – and then choose your plan accordingly. Also, it’s probably well worth getting yourself checked out by a doctor if you have any doubts about your health.

Never increase your mileage by more than 10%

It’s a simple rule, but an incredibly important one. Keeping any mileage increase to 10% at the most is a great way to balance both pushing yourself to run further with protecting yourself from injury. So, if you run 10 miles one week, run no further than 11 the following week.

Use those rest days!

When you’re really getting into running it can be very tempting to do it all the time. You’re feeling great, and you can see the improvement you’re making. Then along comes one of those boring days with an ‘R’ for ‘Rest’ next to it in your training plan, and you decide that one more little run won’t harm you.

The problem is that those rest days are absolutely crucial – they allow your body to recover, but also to embed some of the fitness that you have been building up while you’re running. Don’t miss them out – they’re there for a reason.

Enjoy the day itself

It sounds ridiculous to say when you’re running well over 20 miles, but do try and enjoy the day. Yes, it will be unbelievably tough, and you are probably going to have more than a few dark moments.

But it is also really important to try soak up the experience of being out there for your first marathon – after all, you may never do it again!

So, while you are out there, look around you. Soak up the adulation of the crowds, high five the kids as you pass, and enjoy the luxury of being able to eat as many jelly babies as you feel like.

You have earned every single last one of them.

Jürg Widmer Probst

The art of warming up and down

The art of warming up and downAge teaches many valuable lessons. But one of the most important for athletes is how the increasing vulnerability of our bodies underlines just how important it is to warm up and cool down when we exercise.

Don’t get us wrong – it is important to warm up and cool down at any age, and regardless of your fitness levels. You’ll never see a 20 year old sprinter just wandering out of the changing rooms at the Olympics and straight into a race. Whatever our age, we need to prepare properly for what we are about to do. The issue as we get older is that we have less and less margin for error – the things we can get away with when we’re 25 just don’t work when we’re 45.

So, the bottom line is that warming up and down is important – but what might not be quite so clear is exactly why we need to do it. The basic principles are these.

A double benefit

By warming up before we exercise, we’re doing a couple of things. The first is that we’re getting our heart pumping just a little faster. That’s preparing it for the activity to come, but it is also starting the process of getting more blood pumping around  your body. As your circulation increases in around your joints and muscles, you become more flexible and your muscles are getting ready to move once you start exercising.

But when we warm up, we often also stretch our muscles – which also gets them in the right shape for the activity we’re about to do.

There’s another benefit to warming up properly too – and that’s on the mental side of things. When we take the time to warm up we’re also giving ourselves the space to transition into the activity, not just physically but also in terms of our focus. Anyone who has done any sport at all will understand just how important the mental side of it is, and warming up plays a key role in this.

Time to cool down

But what about cooling down?

Often, when we’re tired, it is the last thing we want to do. Most of us just want to grab a quick shower and get some food inside us – but warming down is just as important as warming up. Obviously, most of the benefits are simply the reverse of warming up – it returns our heartbeat to something like normal, and gives our muscles a chance to relax back into shape. But it’s also a chance for our muscles to get rid of some of the lactic acid that builds up when we exercise hard.

Again, warming down also serves as an important opportunity to bring our minds back into every day life. We can reflect on how we performed while we were exercising, and begin to reconnect with the world around us.

We’re often asked about what pre- and post exercise routines we recommend, and the one we always suggest is one of the very simplest. Our advice is simply to walk a little before you run, or on your way to working out at the gym. Walking is a great way to gently begin to raise your heart beat and warm up your muscles.

And of course, if you’re feeling really good (and you think no one is watching) you can always throw in a few dynamic lunges as you walk, just for good measure.

The world’s toughest trail running races - Jurg Widmer Probst

The world’s toughest trail running races

We all get tired of running on the roads sometimes. It can be monotonous dodging the crowds and the traffic, and the tarmac is punishing on our joints – particularly our knees.

So, what better than pulling on a pair of trail shoes and heading out into the wilderness for a while? Running off road has been around for as long as men and women have loved to run, but trail running is having a real boom at the moment. There are thousands of races and trail running challenges out there – but here, we’ve picked just a few of the very toughest on the planet to inspire you.

1. The UTMB, Switzerland

One of the most famous trail races on the planet, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) is a single-stage mountain ultra marathon – which really is as gruelling as it sounds. It is as tough to get into as it is to run – you’ll need to have been competing in ultra marathons for a while, accumulating the necessary points (and endurance!) to enter. But if you do get in, you will enjoy a truly unique experience – a route that covers 171 kilometres (with nearly 33,000 ft of climb!) – over the Alps of France, Italy and Switzerland.

2. The Barkley Marathons, Tennessee

If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary on this infamous race, you might want to before you even think about trying to enter. This race is a true anomaly in the world of trail racing, and is the brainchild of one man, Gary ‘Lazarus Lake’ Cantrell. The race takes place in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, Tennessee and is approximately 100 miles long. We say ‘approximately’ because the route changes every year and is notoriously fluid and hard to follow.

The race was inspired by the story of an escaped convicted who managed to cover just 8 miles in the woods over a period of 55 hours – the challenge for runners in the Barkley Marathons is to try and run the 100 mile route within a 60 hour cut off. Only 40 runners a year can enter – all you need to do is pay your fee, write an essay entitled ‘Why I Should be Allowed to Run in the Barkley’ and bring a license plate from your home country if you are (un)lucky enough to be chosen to race.

3. The Bob Graham Round, Cumbria

Actually more of a mountain running challenge than a set race, the Bob Graham Round is one of the toughest out there. The challenge is to run across 42 of the English Lake District’s mountains within 24 hours – something that guest house owner Bob Graham himself first achieved back in 1932.

It has been a jewel in the crown for trail and fell runners ever since, with professional trail runner Killian Jornet holding the current record. If you can beat his incredible time of 12hr 52m, then your place in trail running history is all but assured.

We hope these races inspire you to try running off road for yourself. While these incredibly tough races might be out of reach for most of us, taking the time to leave the tarmac behind and enjoy the wilderness is something we can all enjoy.

Jürg Widmer Probst

Jurg Widmer Probst

tips for rest days and recovery runs

TIt is one of the strangest sights in sport. Right in the middle of the toughest cycle race on the planet, the riders in the Tour de France have a rest day.

Now, there are plenty of things that we can imagine doing on a rest day after a few thousand kilometres of hard cycling (if we ever got that far) – a spot of sightseeing maybe, a gentle walk or maybe just lying down in a dark room for a few hours. But pretty much the last thing we would want to do is get on a bike again: which is why it is always so odd to see so many of the pro cyclists either out on a ‘short’ training ride or grinding away on a spin bike. But this is what they do – and like every other aspect of their training and racing it is all a part of a carefully planned out system to keep them in the very peak of condition.

Now, we’re not suggesting that any of you are going to be taking part in one of cycling’s Grand Tours any time soon – but the professional riders’ example does offer an interesting angle on the importance of rest and recovery days as we all try to get fitter and perform at our best. So, here are a few quick tips on making the most of those rest and recovery days.

Take them, don’t skip them

It is very easy to give rest and recovery days a miss when you are feeling great. It is particularly hard when you have just taken up a new sport or activity – it feels good, it makes you feel better, and you just want to keep doing it. But it is incredibly important to take a break from time to time – we would suggest at least one day a week off if you can, and maybe even more frequently if you’re just starting out at running.

You don’t always have to put your feet up

There is a difference between rest days (which are pretty much what they sound like) and recovery days, which usually include a ‘recovery run’ of some sort. The principle behind these – a little like the rides that the Tour de France riders do – is to give your body time to repair itself while keeping it moving. The idea here is to run at around half your normal speed, and by keeping the muscles moving and the blood pumping you should actually be recovering even more quickly than you would on a day on the sofa. 

Mix it up

When you are running, don’t run at your limit all the time. While it is good to push yourself, we really don’t recommend that you do it every day. Depending on how many days each week that you are heading out, we suggest that you make at least three of your weekly runs at ‘recovery’ pace. It is all about building some variation into your routine – not only does a change of pace help your body to repair itself, but it also keeps things more interesting.

Don’t just rest on your rest days

‘Rest’ in this context doesn’t just mean sitting in front of the TV all day. Even if you don’t do a recovery run, we still recommend that you try to get out and do some form of gentle exercise. We’re huge fans of walking here – it is a great way to warm up and cool down before and after a run, but it is also a perfect way to keep moving without too much of that damaging impact you get when running.

Listen to what your body is trying to tell you

Our final tip is just learn how to listen to your body when you’re not on a rest day, in order to make sure that you take the breaks you need, when you need them.

We always recommend running without headphones – not only is it safer, but it is also a way for you to focus solely on your body, how it is moving and how it feels as you run, without any distractions. While you hopefully won’t literally hear your body cracking and groaning under the pressure of running, you should certainly feel more in tune with it – so listen honestly to the feedback it is giving you, and do the right thing.

Jürg Widmer Probst
SQUATTING

The secret power of squatting

We all already know how to squat comfortably. It’s one of those ancient, in-built behaviours that we all still have within us – but the chances are that most of don’t do it anywhere near as much as we should. Just to be clear – we’re not talking here about ‘squats’ – the energetic workout that many of us will be familiar with from our time in the gym. Rather, we’re talking about the less vigorous kind of squatting that we can all do more of as an alternative to sitting conventionally.

Because squatting is actually incredibly good for us, in many different ways. In many areas of the world, it is still a natural part of daily life – but today it is a skill that has been largely forgotten in the west. So, here is our guide to rediscovering the secret art of squatting – and why it is has such an important role to play in keep us strong and healthy.

We are born to do it

Long before we moved into towns and cities, and started sitting on uncomfortable chairs, driving cars and working and eating at tables, we squatted. We would spend a good proportion of our day squatting, and so our bodies really are born to do it. Today, we spend so much of our working lives in chairs, in positions that are incredibly bad for our bodies, so squatting is a very simple, very human thing to do – and a wonderful natural skill to rediscover.

You’ll probably fall over the first time you try and do it

For most westerners, when we squat we try to still stick with what we know. People who are used to spending a large proportion of their daily lives in a chair will usually squat down, but keep their heels off the ground. In this position the legs are bent at around 90º – relatively similar to the position we sit in. The original, more natural squatting position for humans however is with heels down – it will feel odd to begin with (and you’ll probably topple backwards) but try it until you are comfortable. In this position we stretch our backs out more and put less pressure on our feet.

It is a fantastic work out for your core

Try it again, now. How long can you hold the position for? Even in a simple, natural squat, we are really working those core muscles. Compare it to your usual seated position – sat at a desk, our core muscles aren’t engaged at all, but when we squat our obliques, lower back and abs are all working together. And a strong core of course is the secret to better posture, and the correct alignment of most of the major muscle groups in our bodies. So, ditch the plank, and give squatting for a few minutes every day a go instead.

It makes us stronger and more flexible

When we squat, we improve the way our glutes, hips and ankles stretch and move together. When we are sat for long periods in a chair, our muscles relax, and even our bones aren’t worked in the way that they are when we lead a more active lifestyle. Squatting regularly every day counters this, and stretches everything back out again. Our joints are freed up and we are simply stronger and more mobile, particularly in our hips, which can be a big problem area for some people.

It gets the blood pumping

While it might not feel particularly vigorous, squatting is actually a great way of boosting your circulation. When we squat, we encourage our organs to move back into the right positions, and we stimulate our glands and our blood flow to move more freely. By assuming such a natural position, we are essentially making it easier for our bodies to circulate all the most important things it needs to where it needs them most. 

It makes us happier

This one might be harder to prove, but in our experience it really does. For us, this is simply the logical outcome of all of the other benefits of squatting: we are happier because we are more flexible and stronger, we’re getting fewer injuries and we’re pumping our blood into places where it was previously restricted.

But squatting also just feels great – and it is a very simple, natural change that we can all make a part of our daily lives.

Jürg Widmer Probst

Jurg Widmer Probst

How to avoid injury

We’ve all been there. We take up a new sport or exercise, or set ourselves a challenging goal, like running a marathon. We throw ourselves into our new passion 110% and give it everything we’ve got. We feel good the first few times we do it, we start to improve and we try and do more, doing it harder and doing it for longer. And then: it all goes wrong. That little twinge in our hamstring that we felt on our last run has blown up into something far more serious, or the strain in our shoulders when we lift weights has suddenly got a whole lot worse. The end result is we have to take time off to recover properly to prevent the injury becoming chronic.

It’s a common enough experience, but one that really doesn’t have to happen. So, how do we go about avoiding injury? Here are a few tips.

1. Take your rest days

Those blocked out days in your training plan with a big letter ‘R’ next to them are there for a reason – so don’t ignore them. Rest days work in the same way that a good night’s sleep does – they are an opportunity for the body to recover itself in between the days when you are stretching your muscles and ligaments as you exercise. When we exercise hard – for example lifting weights repetitively – we are actually causing lots of tiny micro tears in our muscles. The rest days are when your body takes the chance to repair these tears, by adding more muscle on top. So, when we rest, we’re not just taking a break – we’re actually giving our bodies the time to build up the added muscle we want.

2. Build it up slowly.

Of course, this much easier said than done, especially when you are just starting out, full of enthusiasm for a new sport. But it really does pay to build up slowly – it’s one reason why having  an end goal like a specific race or a target weight in mind is great. Why? Because it forces you to follow a plan – whether it is specific weights, exercises, running distances or a certain pace, you will approach your new passion in a far more gradual and methodical way. Too much, too soon, and you will almost certainly injure yourself. Taking a gradual approach is therefore also a great way to stay motivated – you’ll see yourself making steady progress over a much more sustained period.

3. Get the right gear, and learn how to use it.

This is actually an incredibly important point, because it goes to the heart of what many people find most enjoyable about exercise. Browsing for and buying the right gear (whether it a new pair of trail shoes or gym equipment to use at home) is fun – there’s no getting away from it. But is also important to remember why you are buying it – your end goal always has to be because it improves your performance.

So, don’t just buy the running shoes that look the coolest or that have the most five star reviews – go to a proper running shop, try a few different pairs on, and talk to the experts there about what you need your shoes for. Or if you are heading to the gym, desperate to use the latest piece of equipment, just take the time to talk to the trainers about exactly the right way to use it before you do.

4. Warm up, and cool down.

When you’re desperate to just get out there and get on with it, it can be very easy to skip the warm up. You might jump up and down on the spot and do a few half hearted stretches, but that’s not warming up. Equally, when you’ve been outside in the freezing cold for an hour, or working out hard on a gym machine, the last thing you want to do is spend another ten minutes cooling down. But it really is essential. There are plenty of quick warm up and cool down routines out there, but if you can’t face anything too elaborate, our advice is simply this – if you are going to go for a run, just walk or lightly jog for five minutes before you start in earnest – and do the same at end. The same goes for the gym – instead of driving there and back, just walk to warm up and cool down.

5. Don’t exercise when you’re injured.

The best way to avoid a serious injury is not to compound any minor ones you might already have. No one knows your body like you do, so trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right – if you are pushing yourself to run a kilometre too far on that aching ankle, or you think your sore shoulder might just hold out for one more bench press – just stop.

All of the tips above will go some way towards preventing you from injuring yourself, but if you do start to feel a problem, then always take a break and make sure it doesn’t become a chronic one.

[ENDS]

Jurg Widmer Probst

Choosing the right workout plan for you

For those of us just starting out in the world of weight training (and even for those who have been doing it for a while, if we’re honest), choosing the right workout can be a tough call. There is a huge amount of choice out there, whether you are taking your advice from your friends down at the gym, a personal trainer, or the thousands of blogs and websites out there. Each one has their own take on what works for them, or they have a new fitness product, technique, book or app to push.

So how on earth do you go about deciding what workout is right for you? Is there a straightforward strategy – and a simple set of steps – that you can go through to try and identify a workout that really works? We think there is – so here is our take.

Work out why you want to work out

It sounds obvious, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that it still shouldn’t be the very first thing that anyone who is looking to choose a workout should do: ask yourself, what do you actually want to achieve with your workout? Are you looking to lose weight, get an impressive physique or just to feel stronger?

This is an essential element of getting better at any sport or physical exercise. With clearly defined goals, you give yourself a motivational target. On those days when the workout is getting tough, a longer term goal can give you just that little bit of extra focus and perspective that is often enough to get you though the hard times. Knowing why you are doing something can help you to motivate yourself.

But of course beyond that, having a clear goal also allows you to make a more focused decision about what you need to do to achieve it. When you know where you want to get to, you can work out a step by step way of getting there. So, pick your goal, and then find the best workout plan that will help you to achieve it.

Be realistic

The big thing we’ve learned about fitness goals over the years is that you need to pitch them just right – they need to be realistic and achievable, but they need to push you too.

Taking this approach is actually a really important way of deciding on the right workout for you, because it encourages you to think honestly about what you can commit to every week. If you pick a weight training goal that requires you to be in the gym six times a week, and you have a young family and a full time job, neither the goal nor the weight training plan required to meet it are realistic.

So, as well as your goals, it is really important to think about what you can actually do, both physically and in terms of the time you have available. By not giving yourself time to do what you need to do, you will doom your workout to failure before it even starts.

Make sure you choose a workout that you actually enjoy

Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t take your weight training workout seriously. Or that every moment of it should be enjoyable. Of course, it’s going to be tough, and weight training, by its very nature, needs to push you so that your body will extend its physical limits as you get into shape. Instead, we’re just saying that actually enjoying the workout or weight training you are doing is a fundamentally important part of achieving those workout goals that you have set yourself.

There are a few good reasons for this. The most obvious is that as human beings we generally find that we stick to things that we enjoy and avoid those things that we don’t. Even in a gym culture of ‘no pain, no gain’, at heart we’re still more motivated to do things we like doing. And then, looking at the bigger picture of how we go about choosing a workout programme that actually works for us, motivation and staying the distance are absolutely crucial. All workouts, without exception, work through progressive repetition and if you don’t feel happy about seeing the programme all of the way through then it is unlikely that you will feel the full benefit.

So, the bottom line is this. If you can find a workout that helps you to realise your fitness goals, that is tough but achievable, and that most of all is enjoyable – then that is the right workout for you.

Jurg Widmer Probst

Best bits of winter running kit

Getting out for a run over the long winter months can be incredibly tough. Those short, dark days and the bitter cold offer plenty of excuses for putting off your regular run until the days warm up a little. But in our experience, running in the winter can actually be just as fun (if not better) than your summer runs. The key to enjoying it – as with so many outdoor activities – is about making sure that you have got the right gear for the conditions. So, with that it in mind, here is our pick of just some of the best bits of winter running kit out there.

  1. Trail shoes

Running shoes are yet another area of outdoor equipment where Gore-Tex and breathable, water resistant materials have made all the difference. In the old days, running in the snow, ice and mud could quickly become a matter of worrying about the growing pain from the cold you felt in your toes – followed swiftly by the even greater worry of not being able to feel anything at all after a while. The winter is a great time to hit the trail and get muddy, and with a pair of running shoes like the Salomon Sense Ride GTX® Invisible Fit your feet will stay warm and dry in even the toughest conditions.

  1. Running tights

A good pair of running tights can make all the difference, keeping your legs warm and your muscles flexible. The best ones won’t restrict your movement in any way and should actually help to keep your muscles in good shape by compressing them slightly. Get yourself a pair of windproof and water repellent ones like the R3 Partial Windstoppers from Gore and you won’t look back – they are super comfortable, they move with you, they’re breathable and they even have a little zip pocket for your keys. Just don’t try and put anything too bulky in there.

  1. Base layer

What on earth did we do before we had base layers? An extra vest or a t-shirt probably just about did the job, but thermal layer technology has taken things to a whole new layer. These layers keep you warm of course but because they are breathable you also don’t start to feel uncomfortably sweaty. Most base layers will also ‘wick’ any moisture away from your skin too, and they are flexible and fitted so that they don’t rub uncomfortably. As with all of these things we recommend shopping around a little to find the one that suits you, but we are big fans of the old mountain runner’s favourite – the classic Helly Hansen striped base layer.

  1. Gloves

Forgetting your gloves on a winter run can be a horrible experience – we’ve probably all done it, where you reach that point of no return, decide to forge on and eventually get home with two blocks of ice for hands. Of course, a standard pair of warm gloves will do the job (providing they’re nice and light), but we really like this pair from Pearl Izumi. They’ve got a nice little pouch to put your front door key in, they’re wind proof and there is an additional mit that fits over the fingers if things get really chilly. The fingers and thumbs also have a special conductive coating so that you can fiddle with your Strava app or choose your next song while you’re running without having to expose your fingers.

  1. A Buff ®

Seriously – if you haven’t got one of these handy neck-scarf-sweatband-bandana hybrids, we urge you to get one. They are ingeniously constructed so that there is no seam (which can rub your neck and cause soreness) and they stretch without getting baggy. They are easy to rinse out and wash, and dry almost instantly. We’ve also found that we wear ours all year around: in the winter months a Buff will do a great job of keeping your neck warm while you run, and for those really bitter days you can pull it up over your face to protect you from the wind. At the other extreme, the material is light and breathable enough that it also keeps you cool in the summer, but wicks any moisture away from your skin so that you don’t feel uncomfortable while you run. Ingenious.