Dealing With Darkness


by John Stanton

In the winter, daylight is a precious commodity. Many of us experience the daily challenge of leaving the house when it’s dark and returning after the sun has already set. However, with proper planning and a positive attitude, you can maintain your fitness and still enjoy your training. Here are some suggestions to help you dodge the darkness.

Get out there during the day.
Take advantage of the daylight as much as possible. If your schedule is flexible, prioritize your run in the mid-morning or early afternoon. If you have a more traditional work day, try to run or walk during your lunch hour at least once a week. Exposure to natural light helps regulate your inner body clock and provides a bonus helping of vitamin D.

Go for quality, not quantity.
To squeeze in your run before the light fades, you may have to shorten your time or distance. You might find this frustrating at first, but it’s not a cause for concern. In fact, running outdoors in the winter burns up to 12% more calories and 32% more fat than doing the same run indoors. This is because you are simultaneously burning calories to run and to maintain your core body temperature. So, you don’t need to go as fast or as far to get a good workout.

Wear reflective gear.
When running in the low-light conditions of early morning, dusk or evening, you need to make yourself readily visible to passing vehicles. In addition to the reflective details or stripes on your clothing, consider adding a visibility aid such as a reflective vest, head lamp or LED armband.

Run with a group.
Realistically, some of your runs may need to occur in the evening, and there is safety and motivation in numbers. At our free Run Club, there are clusters of runners heading out together at a variety of paces and distances. Run Club occurs every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, with some stores now offering Friday and Saturday time slots as well. Ask at your nearest Running Room location or view any store’s schedule on our website under “Find a Store.”

Winter running requires some creative scheduling and a new sense of discipline. Remember, just getting yourself out the door and sticking to your training program is in itself a major victory. Be persistent through these dark times, knowing that brighter days are ahead. Before you know it, the days will be getting longer—and so will your runs.



John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.



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