Staying Motivated in Winter

Staying Motivated in Winter

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
July 25, 2023

Shorter days.

Colder temperatures.

With the late fall, winter, and early spring months….motivation to get out and run can be a challenge. The temptation to stay inside in your warm, cozy house can be hard to overcome.

But the benefits of getting out and running or run-walking in the winter are great.

Beyond the obvious (getting exercise), breathing fresh air in the winter months and being exposed to sunlight—even the low light under cloud-cover—can help ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder or just a feeling of gloominess not experienced in warmer months.

And these days, with the pandemic still affecting our sense of normalcy, we could all use a little pick-me-up.

To keep you running this winter, here are a few tips and tricks:

1. Partner up.

Making plans with a running buddy will help keep you accountable. You’re less likely to skip a run if you know your friend is outside on a corner in the cold and dark waiting for you (I hope!).

Consider scheduling runs with a compatible running buddy three-or-so times a week, and the two of you can tackle winter together.

2. Find a running club.

Running clubs tend to meet one to three times a week for group runs throughout the year.

Evening runs in a group, with everyone wearing headlamps or carrying lights, can be really fun and invigorating. Plus, you have the added safety in numbers when running in the dark.

3. Get a good light and reflective clothing.

If you’ll be running at dawn or dusk, or pre-dawn or dusk in the darkness, it’s imperative to have both a good headlamp, handheld light or other wearable light—some can be worn around the waist or on backpack chest straps—so you can illuminate your path for safe footing.

Likewise, it’s important to wear reflective, high-visibility clothing so cars and bikes with lights can see you.

Safety is paramount, and knowing you can see and be seen will help you brave the darkness.

(Take other safety measures as well, like not wearing headphones; running in safe areas; being hyper-aware of oncoming vehicles, bikes, and humans; carrying a phone and pepper spray, if running alone.)

4. Warm clothes, gloves, hat.

Depending on where you live, the winter climate can be a big deterrent for getting outside.

It’s not that you need to go buy a whole new running wardrobe to make winter running happen, but getting your hands on a couple key items that will arm you against the elements can eliminate an excuse to not go, and also provide motivation (it’s fun to wear new things).

A good jacket that protects from cold, rain, snow or all three will do wonders for comfort, as will simple items like gloves and a beanie.

And here’s a tip: Wear long socks that bridge the gap between your shoes and tights or pants. There’s no sense in covering your whole body with warm clothing and leaving your poor ankles bare.

5. Add traction.

If your winter climate serves up snow or ice-covered ground on occasion, or all winter, you’ll need traction to keep you from hitting the deck.

If you’re running fresh snow, trail running shoes without added traction devices should suffice—and you can opt for GoreTex uppers to add warmth and protection to your feet.

Potentially icy surfaces call for metal traction, like YakTrax Run or Black Diamond’s Blitz, or shoes with carbide spikes built into the outsole.

How flat or toothy the traction needed depends on the conditions—carbide spikes do well on thin layers of ice, toothy metal grips ice hiding under snow.

Just make sure to take off spikey shoes or traction devices before walking on your wood, carpeted or tile floors.

6. Make the treadmill fun.

Yes, it’s possible to make treadmill running fun. Aside from watching TV or listening to podcasts or music, utilizing the pace and incline tools of a treadmill make it a great training tool.

Doing intervals where you increase your speed or incline for a minute or two, then recover for the same amount of time before repeating the interval can make a treadmill workout fly by.

7. Envision the after.

Visualization is a powerful tool and can do wonders for motivation.

You know how you feel after a run?

Sweaty, tired, happy, and calm?

Focus on that feeling to get yourself out the door or onto the treadmill.

Your mind will soon crave that feeling and it will become easier and easier to tap into the craving to get you running.

8. Embrace a sense of adventure.

Getting out in cold, maybe blustery conditions, or in darkness can be adventurous, and adventure is good for the soul.

Plus, it makes you a tough-as-nails runner which will translate into your fair-weather running prowess.

Just think about running a 5K race in June…If the going gets tough at mile 2, you can tap into your winter self and think:

“If I ran through that snowstorm in February, I can run one more mile right now!”

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