Winter is creeping upon us, as it is now mid-November and temperatures are dipping into the freezing range! Monday morning I even ran in leggings and a jacket; if it’s that chilly in Seattle, then colder temperatures are likely occurring throughout the rest of the country.
I personally love running in the chilly temperatures (as long as there’s not ice on the ground!), but the winter months can pose an obstacle to staying fit. There’s less daylight, the weather is often inclimate thanks to snow, wind, or rain, and we often find schedules packed with holiday parties, final exams or big projects at work, and travel. November and December are thus often the months where we lose our motivation to run.
However, keeping up with your running over the winter months certainly has its benefits. First off, the consistency of running year-round proves one of the best ways to prevent injury. Most runners are injured when they increase their mileage or their speed. To circumvent this risk of injury, maintaining a decent mileage base with a sprinkling of speed year-round will avoid the sharp increases in volume and intensity at a start of a training cycle that can lead to injury. Additionally, I will argue, running is such a significant stress relief and immunity booster that it is beneficial for your overall health to run during the holidays and winter months.
Don’t succumb to the siren song of the sofa! Of course, there are the normal tips of finding a new route, adding variety to your routine, and buying new running clothes, but when those fail to motivate you after a few days or weeks, follow these tips to stay motivated in your running this winter.
1. Create a rewarding post-run routine.
I love the very act of running, which is in part why I run 5-6 days a week, write this running blog, and work as a certified running coach. I also love my post-run routine, and I often eagerly look forward to it on morning where I’m just not having the most enjoyable run. After a chilly late fall or winter run, few things feel more rewarding than a hot shower, a steaming cup of black coffee, and a warm bowl of oatmeal with fruit, chia seeds, and a dollop of peanut butter. While a hot shower, coffee, and a warm breakfast are always wonderful on their own, the effort of the run beforehand heightens the sense of enjoyment.
Whether it’s a hot shower, your favorite meal, or your daily treat, plan something small and simple yet rewarding that you can do after each and every run. As you form this habit, your brain will build associations between running and the post-run reward and thus create more positive associations towards running, which will then help you head out to pound the pavement even when you’re not quite feeling motivated.
2. Concentrate on your long-term goals.
Many people find motivation to train when they have short-term goals, such an upcoming marathon or half marathon;, when there’s no major race on the horizon, their motivation may languish. Most runners, however, likely also have long-term goals. Perhaps you want to eventually run a sub-2 hour half marathon or eventually qualify for Boston. Even if this year is not the year you do that, you’re still slowly yet surely working towards these goals.
The key to achieving your long-term goals is consistency over months and years of running, rather than a singular strong training season. Use your reach-for-the-stars training goal—even if it’s not one you plan to achieve in the next 12 months – to motivate you to stay consistent in your running. This doesn’t mean that you should train hard or specifically during the off-season or the winter months; it simply means that even just a few miles a day can have a significant impact on your ability to achieve future goals, and that should be motivation to keep you running even without a major race to train for.
3. Use running as your “me” time.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you likely crave some alone time during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Running provides alone time and allows you to mentally decompress, get lost in your own thoughts, and focus on your health and personal well-being for even just a few minutes. The endocannabinoids and endorphins released during running relieve stress and lift your mood, so the pressure of cooking for a crowd and holiday shopping will feel less overwhelming after a run.
I personally opt to run without music, and I find that the hour of being completely disconnected from my phone, social media, and the demands of daily life to be utterly relaxing and rejuvenating. Additionally, exercise and fresh air helps beat the winter blues that naturally come from being inside because of the weather and the fewer hours of daylight. I honestly feel physically and mentally my best when I’ve gone for a run, which is motivation in itself, and I’m sure you do as well!
4. Run for something greater than yourself.
Still not motivated to head out the door? Try running for something beyond yourself. Thanksgiving and Christmas focus on gratitude and giving, so let the spirit of the season guide you. I always use the Charity Miles app on my phone; for each mile I run, a set amount is donated from a pool from their sponsors to a charity of my choice. Charity Miles features dozens of charities, my personal favorites being Wounded Warrior, Feeding America, Back on My Feet, and Soles4Souls. The app works for both outdoor and indoor runs, so you can make your miles matter more regardless of the weather.
You can also spend your run making the world a better place. Spend a few miles picking up litter as you run, which makes the trail or road a better place for people and a safer place for animals. You’ll be surprised how much litter there is when you look around, and even small pollution like that has a negative impact on our environment and the homeless. Take the time on your run to smile at and greet everyone you pass; you never know who could benefit from a smile that given day. If it’s an option in your area, you could even run with dogs from an animal shelter or volunteer with a group such as Back on My Feet to help others.
I’ll be linking up with the lovely Jill Conyers on Friday for Fitness Friday. Be sure to check out the link up and find new fitness blogs to read. Thank you to Jill for hosting!
Questions of the Day:
What keeps you motivated to run during the holiday season and colder weather?
What tips would you add to this list?
What time of year marks the start of winter for you? —> The first snowfall, which is always mid-November where I’ve lived.