It’s cold, icy, dark, and you probably can’t feel at least one part of your body at any given time. Yes, that’s winter running for you, and the experience of training through the long, dark winter months can be challenging for even the most hardy and motivated of runners. It’s no coincidence that winter is the “off season” for many runners – it’s just hard to get out the door, and many people appreciate the rest after a tough racing season in the fall. But for those of us who want to continue running through the winter months, whether simply to stay in shape, to reduce stress, or to train for a spring race, here are a few great ways to make sure you stay on your feet and out on the roads from December to February – and beyond!
- Sign up for a spring destination race: It seems obvious, but races are great motivation to keep training. Instead of picking a race in May or June, which might allow for a little slacking off during winter, choose a fun destination event in the early spring (March or April) that you’ll be excited to train for. Not only will the idea of a vacation give you literal light at the end of the tunnel during the long winter months, the knowledge that you’ll have to compete in a distance event will encourage you to get out the door and onto the road.
- Remember that misery loves company: Hardcore running groups never stop training, and there will always be someone running year-round. Knowing that there will be someone out there come rain, sleet, or snow and on dark mornings and evenings will give you a reason to head out the door. After all, you wouldn’t want to be left alone in the cold, right? Talking makes the miles go by faster, anyway.
- Try warming up inside before your run: One of the hardest things about running in the winter is heading out into the cold and feeling like you’ll never warm up. Sometimes, it can take miles, if it ever happens at all! Rather than waiting to warm up during your run, try getting your heart rate up and generating some sweat indoors by doing some quick cardio moves like jumping jacks, high knees, or jump rope before you head out the door. You’ll find that the cold air feels a lot more refreshing if you’re already warm, and it’s not nearly as shocking to head out.
- Run during the warmest part of the day: While running during the workday may not be accessible for many people during the warmer months of the year (for obvious sweaty reasons), running during the winter is a much more viable option. A short midday run takes advantage of the warmest, sunniest part of the day and gets you some vitamin D and an energy burst! There’s no better way to recharge during the day, and the colder temps mean the sweat situation will be a lot more manageable.
- Work towards discipline: Let’s face it – we’re not always motivated to run, and that’s because motivation is a fleeting, temporary feeling that inspires us to make a decision or affect change. Instead of worrying about finding your motivation, work on moving towards discipline. Discipline grows as we make consistent decisions about running, health, and anything else in life, but it’s like a muscle – it has to be worked in order to grow. Set small goals regarding your winter running and work to establish a habit of getting out the door a certain number of times per week, no matter the pace or distance. As you become more accustomed to the weather, discipline and habit will take over and you might just find yourself heading out the door no matter what the temperature! You can do it!