January has to be one of the most depressing months. It’s been dark, cold, wet and miserable for several months now but the winter gloom is not yet over. As a result, any activity taking place outdoors requires an immense amount of motivation, discipline and, yes, bravery.
However, I do think there are some positives for winter. For instance, if you want to give running a go, but can’t face the gym or feel too self-conscious to venture outdoors, then the early and long-lasting darkness brought about by winter can be a friend to you.
My mum and I used to run regularly in the dark of winter, and I actually think it can be more relaxing than running in the sunshine. Darkness is the perfect cover for the self-conscious – the gloom makes it harder for anyone to recognise you and the multiple, large layers required to keep out the cold can lessen any fears of being in a public place in running gear. The dark also makes a well-worn running route look a little different, especially during the Christmas period when coloured lights magically appear.
Running in the cold is perhaps less fun, but it does mean that when you take that first tentative step outside, you are instantly spurred to movement.
Another advantage is that dark, winter nights tend to mean that people cosy up indoors rather than hit the streets, which means that you are free to fly down the pavements without having to dodge double pushchairs, gaggles of teenagers or the group of friends who insist on walking side-by-side across the whole path. Sigh.
I also, probably mistakenly, feel as though I am running faster at night. This may be all in my mind, but I swear that it looks as though I am powering along. If you decide to give it a go, perhaps you can let me know if you have the same experience.
However, before you do decide to tiptoe out into the cold, wintery night, I have one word of caution – pick your route carefully. Yes, this of course means well-lit roads with plenty of crossings and paths that are free of ankle-crunching potholes, but I would also include shops on this checklist.
Years ago, my mum and I had a two-lap route around our neighbourhood, but unlike you lucky things, no one had cautioned us about thinking about what lay on the route. So, three times a week we ended up running past a rather delicious-smelling fish and chip shop TWICE per outing. Cold and hunger is not a good companion when you have to run past the intoxicating smell of battered fish and fresh-fried chips… Torture is no exaggeration. So, learn from our mistake and ensure that your route does not take you down past all your greatest temptations.