As a runner, one of the toughest times of the year to stay motivated and get your running done especially in the Midwest is December-February. The daylight span is shorter, the temperatures drop, and snow and ice can make outside routes treacherous at times. However, I’ve actually found that with the right frame of mind, appropriate planning, and the help of a good running partner and other running friends you can actually have some of your most productive running. In fact, I experienced that in January when I logged 275 miles (mostly outdoors) – my highest monthly total ever!
I am predominately a pre-dawn runner. With nearly an hour commute to work each way, I have found that the best way for me to ensure that I get my workout in is to do it before work. Yes, this means I can’t stay up very late and most days I’m hearing my alarm at 4:45 a.m. However, I also beat most of the rush-hour commute as I get most of my drive done and then run routes close to where I work. One of the big keys for me was joining a gym just a block from work so I can shower after my run and also have a treadmill on the days when outdoor running just doesn’t happen due to the weather or road conditions.
Since most of my runs during the winter months are done in the dark, safety is my first priority. This means wearing appropriate gear so that you are visible to oncoming traffic if you run in the road like I do the majority of the time. I highly recommend the NoxGear Tracer360 as a very lightweight and extremely visible way to make people aware of your presence on the road. I’ve had several people tell me that they really appreciate me being so visible. And honestly, I forget that I have it on because it’s so easy to wear.
One of the best ways to guarantee that you’ll stick to your running plans especially in the winter is to find a great running partner who shares the same passion for running that you have and possibly even some of the same goals. This doesn’t mean you will always run every single mile with them because you might not run the same pace, but on days you don’t run together you can still push each other virtually with the workouts you do on your own. Knowing that you are meeting up with someone helps hold you accountable to not hit the snooze button or to wimp out because it’s cold outside. And sometimes having a running partner helps you make the good decision to forego the outdoor run because the conditions are unsafe and a better workout awaits inside.
Speaking of conditions, it really is possible to run in cold weather. You just have to dress appropriately. However, more than the temperature, I take into consideration the traction I can get on the routes that I plan to run. If I’m just doing an easy run, I’ll run in almost anything except ice. However, if my plan for the day calls for tempo or speed work, then as much as I despise the treadmill I will use it to help me accomplish my goals for the run. While it’s fun to post pictures of ice beards or -22 degree temps on your car thermometer, there is also no shame in nailing your run in a warm, climate-controlled environment.
Another way to break up the monotony of winter training is to invite a bunch of friends you don’t normally run with to join you for a long run on a weekend. Thanks to dailymile.com and Facebook, I have a group of friends scattered about the Central Ohio area which I follow and keep daily tabs on their running exploits. A couple of weeks ago, I reached out to a bunch of them to see if they wanted to join me for a 20-mile run. We ended up with a great group and the run seemed to take no time at all as I got to introduce a lot of them to the area for the first time. And it didn’t hurt that there were donuts at the end.
One final thing that will help you stick to your running is to sign up for a race. Whether it’s training for a spring marathon or a local 5K, putting some of your hard-earned cash on the line will help you get out there and log the miles necessary to meet your race goals.
So, grab some cold weather gear, reach out to a running friend, and hit that pavement to log some miles. Before you know it, the days will be longer and you’ll be rooting for cooler temperatures. Oh, and it’s only 40 days until spring!