Will Renwick headed onto Hampstead Heath for an outdoor fitness session with Professor Greg Whyte, one of the country’s leading physical activity experts and a former Olympian. Find out what advice the Merrell Ambassador gave Will for tackling winter workouts head on
How important is keeping fit through winter?
Fitness is about consistency. As most people know, you’ve only got to let it go for a short period of time and all of a sudden it’s much more difficult to regain it again, both physically and psychologically. Winter is the time when it’s easiest to let go. So it’s the one time of year when you really need to concentrate.
There are plenty of excuses to not train in winter, the short days and the weather being the main one. Is there a way of getting around this?
There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment – it’s a classic comment but it’s so very true. So number 1 is get the right equipment, there are plenty of running groups who go out at night with running torches and high vis jackets. Number 2 is change where you run, rather than going into the parks and woods, stay a bit more urban and on the roads where it’s lit.
What benefits can it bring to mental health?
Seasonal affective disorder affects up to one in three people in the UK, their mood changes, they get lower self-esteem and feel lethargic, sometimes depressed, and getting out can make a massive difference.
For me, getting outside is therapy. I’m at a point that if I don’t get out it really affects my mood. It’s my time to escape, to get out in a nice place, spend some time with a friend. Just time that you don’t often get during a normal, busy lifestyle.
So going through summer to winter you wouldn’t say you take your foot off the gas whatsoever?
It’s all about keeping goals, that’s what works for me anyway. If you’re just exercising for the sake of it, it’s a bit nebulous and it’s easy to give up. Whereas if you have a goal to aim for that becomes the motivation, that becomes the driver. So I don’t tend to find I get a lull during winter because I’m always looking for the next goal.
Can the cold conditions alone actually bring some benefits directly?
The optimum temperature for endurance exercise is 11 degrees. When we exercise we generate heat and that’s the perfect temperature to regulate it. So November, December offer perfect conditions for this.
Would you always prefer to be exercising outdoors then?
Always. I love the fact that your gym changes everytime you go out into it. But it’s about finding what works for you, some people love being indoors and the comfort of being in the gym. What I would say to those people is actually to take things outside and mix it up, it adds a great flavour to your training.
It doesn’t have to be a big green space, and it doesn’t even need to be a green space at all, just get outdoors.