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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Faraone

5 Fun Tips for Winter Running

I get discouraged to run during winter.

My training has no focus without a race to train towards.

I’m bored with my training and need something different.

I’m tired all the time.

The above statements are fairly common right now-and for good reason. Not only are we going into the winter season, which brings about its own share of running challenges, but our bodies (and mind) are increasingly tired after many months of training. Furthermore, we may be feeling some version of “COVID fatigue”, which can leave us feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally drained. Gyms are closed and running groups are on hold again while we bunker down in the latest round of restrictions. All of these factors can shrink our motivation to run!

But here’s the good news: I’ve listed 5 suggestions that might add an dollop of perkiness to your training. You can pick one or pick them all and see for yourself which ones will give your motivation a jolt!

Stop Running

When is the last time you took a break from running? Not because of an injury, but because you proactively decided to do so? Taking a step away from your running has benefits. First of all, you are giving your body ample time to rest by removing the high-intensity impact of running. Although consistently taking a day off is beneficial, taking a prolonged break from running brings your healing to deeper dimension. We often fail to realize how tired our body is until we give it a proper chance to stop. It's not beneficial to always run on tired legs.

Taking a break from your running routine also means that you are no longer tied to a schedule and may have more time to devote elsewhere (or more time to simply do nothing!) This break can also make it easier to give yourself some additional TLC—like perhaps sleeping in, now that you don’t have to wake up for your early morning jog.

After a short break, you might start to crave running again. Recall the saying absence makes the heart grow fonder? There’s no better way to get excited all over again than by taking a little hiatus!

Mix it Up

Many of us train in a consistent manner where one week looks similar to the next. Although this has some benefits, the drawbacks are that it can get boring and we begin to train on auto-pilot mode where it’s easy to lose focus.

This can be a perfect time to add some spice to your training by doing something different. For instance, if you trained all year for longer distances, try scaling back the volume and focus on speed. If you've always tracked your weekly volume by distance, start measuring your runs by duration. Change your weekly schedule and run on different days, or try doing your long run midweek.

Another way to change your training is to add in a new element—for instance, cross country skiing or snow-shoeing—both activities are great cross training alternatives. Or maybe you’ve been thinking of taking up Pilates or incorporating strength work more often and consistently.

The point here is to remove the staleness of your routine by injecting some new life into it. This can boost your motivation, while also making you a stronger, fitter runner!

Make Easy Fun

Easy runs should make up the majority of your weekly volume, so why not give them some pizzazz and make them more enticing? For instance:

  • If you’re a creature of habit and could run your existing routes in your sleep-it’s time to come up with some new ones! Challenge yourself to only run in areas where you haven’t been before

  • Intentionally plan on running a negative split

  • See how low you can keep your heart rate while running comfortably

  • Run with someone new (keeping 6 feet apart)

  • Plan a virtual run with someone e.g. you’re both out the door at 630am; this can be really helpful with getting you out the door on those cold dark mornings

  • Do a set of push ups or a minute of plank at regular intervals on your run

  • Add in a few short hill sprints of 15 seconds

Setting a particular intention for a run can be more motivating, compared to simply running mindlessly, and also hold you a bit more accountable i.e. Did I do what I had set out to do?

Run Naked

Not literally, but figuratively (otherwise you’d freeze!)

But I am suggesting that you leave your Garmin at home and see what happens. Were you able to pay more attention to your body and adjust the run based on this feedback? Did this influence the duration and intensity of your run?Was the run less distracting and more enjoyable? Was your run a reflection of what you wanted to do, as opposed to what you felt should be done?

When we let our bodies/mind dictate the run, rather than our watch, we are more likely to make appropriate choices. The run becomes more of “I want” vs “I should” and it also allows us to be more kind to ourselves; how many times have you looked at your watch and said something like “I can’t believe I’m running this slow; what’s wrong with me today?”

There are two ways to go about this. The first one is Run Naked, where you ditch the watch completely. Just go out and enjoy your run, allowing your body to dictate the distance and effort. If you're feeling light and rested, you can extend the run or pick up the pace. If you're feeling sluggish, slow your pace and pick a route with less hills.

Or you can try the Under the Jacket Run. The next time you’re out, hide your watch under the cuff of your jacket or place it in your pocket and ONLY look at it after your run. This can be a great way to see how well your perception matches reality. Before checking your post-run stats, ask yourself how far you think you ran and at what pace; them check to see how accurate your estimates were. If your predictions were way off—you have your work cut out for you!

Shop and Show Support

Who doesn’t feel good when wearing a new top or jacket rather than ratty old stinky clothes? It’s an automatic pick-me-up! There is also an element of practicality (in case you need to justify shopping), as the colder weather and reduced daylight warrants additional base layers, warmer jacket, hats, mitts and additional reflective gear. But this isn’t just about you—you're also helping out small businesses by shopping locally.

Like these ideas? Would love to hear how you made out! Or feel free to share your ideas for giving your motivation a boost this winter.

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