How to Stay Motivated During the Winter Months
by Tina from RunnersConnect
It is already that time of year again.
You arrive home from work and it’s already dark. You leave for work the next morning and it is still dark. Winter is the time most runners struggle to maintain motivation, and it is easy to see why. We are hoping this guide will make staying on track a little easier, by helping you to be prepared, and see the silver lining of running in the winter.
First, let’s address the biggest downsides of running in the winter, and how we can overcome them:
One of the worst aspects of running in the winter is the deep chill we feel all the way through to our bones. There is almost nothing worse than fingers and toes losing all sensation, followed by the painful return of your circulation. Questioning your sanity, and fighting the urge to turn around and go back into your warm house almost always accompany those first few minutes, but if you stick with it, you will be glad you did.
When it comes to dressing for winter running, layers are king. You want to try to dress for temperatures 10-15 degrees (F) colder than you are going to be running in. Once you get through those initial few minutes, your body will warm up and you should be comfortable. That being said, when it is cold outside, your body will divert the blood away from your extremities, meaning that they are more susceptible to feeling the cold. It is better to wear thicker gloves and socks and risk them being too warm, than to try to run with numb fingers and toes.
Most of your body heat is lost through your head, so wearing a headband or a hat is going to make your run much more enjoyable (especially for your ears!). Neck warmers and bulas are also great for keeping the heat in.
If it is an option for you, removing layers is a great idea once you warm up, especially if you are running a workout, that way you will prevent overheating. If wind-chill is an issue for you, a good running jacket will make a whole world of difference, and you can layer underneath as you need.
Now what about the other downside of winter running that brings out even colder temperatures than during the day?
Running in a wooded trail in the middle of the day, with a beautiful blue sky backdrop requires a lot less motivation than a cold, dark night, especially when running options are limited by the availability of the streetlights. For most runners, running in the dark during the winter months is unavoidable.
Wearing clothes with reflectors on will give you some peace of mind that cars will be able to see you. Many running stores also offer high visibility belts and straps that will increase your safety further.
If you are feeling adventurous, and looking for ways to run new places that are not well lit, look into a runners headlight, which can be found at most major running stores (or online). This will allow you to branch outside of your neighborhood, giving you more freedom to enjoy your run.
Runners who get up early to complete their run for the day are getting plenty of practice for race day. Your body will get used to waking up early and being ready to go when the sun comes up. This means when it comes to race day, it knows what it going on, it is already in a routine, and you can go into race day feeling relaxed knowing you are prepared.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are running at night, you are running when you are already emotionally (and physically) fatigued from your day. We recently found that the ego depletion that occurs from mental tasks affects your ability to perform. If your body gets used to running when you are tired from the day, when race day rolls around and you are completely fresh, you will feel strong and energized believing you can do this after suffering through your night time training.
Another benefit that you may not have learned to appreciate (yet!) is that during your runs in the dark, your fight or flight response is triggered, giving you a free adrenaline rush that you can use to run faster without expending any extra energy.
Winter runs also bring about more of a runner high, as you have that satisfaction of knowing you got out there while most people are curled up by the fire.
Not only will it give you an added confidence boost, but you will be able to remember all those days you got out there and did it when you really did not want to, and it will give you an extra level of determination to dig down and use during your race.
For those of you racing a spring marathon, if you follow your marathon training schedule during the winter, and get your training in, you are going to feel so strong when the ground thaws and you can look back knowing that you were committed, and you can appreciate those milder temperatures even more.
Running with a phone is personal preference, and there are pros and cons for using it; it will increase your safety in case you need to contact someone, but it can be dangerous for runners who need their senses to listen out for cars and other dangers.
If you do use headphones, have the volume on low enough for you to hear cars, or consider purchasing single ear buds. Regardless of whether you take your phone or not, make sure you always let a loved one know where you are planning on running and how far for safety reasons.
If you are going to take your phone, but your playlist is getting a little boring, consider listening to a story run or an audiobook. The time will pass quicker and you can use the time to learn something new.
Alternatively, if you like the time spent running to be just you and your thoughts, you could use the voice memo function on your phone to record any reminders or ideas you may have. You could even just stuff a small notebook into your running jacket to write down notes.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you spent a run thinking about a great idea, only to forget it by the time you get home? Using the time for running to process your thoughts, almost as a form of stress relief, this can be enough of a motivator to get you out the door after a hard day.
Finally, remember that no matter how many loopholes and excuses you come up with to get out of going for a run, you are never going to regret a run. It takes about seven minutes to start enjoying a run, but you can spend a whole evening (or day at work) reaping the rewards, and showing that smug smile off knowing that you took one step closer to your ultimate health or running goal.
Runners Connect is a community of expert coaches that provide custom and dynamic training plans tailored specifically to your abilities, pace and goals to help make you a smarter, fitter, and faster runner. We’re fellow runners and experts in one thing only—improving your running.