Winter running - stay safe

Keen runners will know that there's no escaping the cold and dark if you are to keep up your fitness regime during the winter months. But it's essential to stay safe if you're out pounding the streets at this time of year. Here are some top tips for keeping both safe and warm.

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Layer up
The problem with running in winter is that it's cold outside, but you can quickly work up a sweat. That's why layers are essential for winter fitness. As a base layer, always choose a thin, tight-fitting, synthetic top that will wick any moisture away from your body and prevent a chill. Stay well away from naturally absorbent materials such as cotton.

A middle layer, like a fleece, will insulate the body if it turns really cold, but should still be loose fitting and wick away moisture, while the outer layer is simply a protective shell to protect you from the wind, rain, snow and sleet the British weather so often throws at us. Once again, pick a breathable material like nylon or Gore-Tex to let out moisture, and ensure it has a full-length zip to help you regulate body temperature.

For the long winter nights, a pair of full-length running tights with a brushed lining will keep you warm and toasty.

Look after the extremities
In order to keep the all-important brain warm, the body will automatically draw heat away from other body parts in cold weather. For this reason, if it's really chilly outside, don a hat or headband, at least to begin with. You can always remove it as you heat up.

The right socks are also important as the feet can quickly become damp and chilly after a good workout. Any good running store will have socks designed specifically for this task, but try to look for those with a high wool content, as the pockets in the fabric will trap air and keep your feet warm.

Be seen
Staying warm in winter is only half the battle - staying safe is equally important and that means investing in some reflective kit. White clothing will undoubtedly help drivers and other pavement users to see you, but these days there are plenty of reflective options to suit all budgets.

For just £4, a reflective Snapband can be quickly strapped around your arm, wrist or ankle so grab a few to make sure you'll be spotted in the dark. Ronhill Vizion also make a lightweight LED strap for added illumination.

Alternatively, for the bargain price of around £7, a Nite Vision reflective bib covers your front and back without adding a hefty layer, and combines a reflective V as well as fluorescent material.

But for all-round visibility that you can use as part of your kit, however, opt for the pricey Ronhill Vizion Photon Jacket (£85). Made of a breathable, wind resistant material that you can wear instead of your Gore-Tex, it is fluorescent with tape strips for 360 degree reflectivity AND an integrated LED light system. The perfect all-rounder.

Are you a regular winter runner? What's your essential piece of cold weather running kit? Leave your comments below...