How to Beat the Winter (Running) Blues

Living in Chicago can be tough weather-wise, especially during the winter months. There are only a few runners I know who truly embrace the cold, rather than simply put up with it. The bitter cold and dark, combined with the lack of sunshine, truly makes getting my butt out the door extremely difficult. I have found that February is the worst for me. I am able to maintain some sort of motivation in November (as I am often still coming down from the high of my fall marathon training) and December. Right around when my motivation starts waning, New Years resolutions give me a renewed sense of purpose. However, by the time February hits I am ready for spring.

There are a few things that I have found help me to stick with my training schedule during the winter months.

  1. Dress Appropriately 

What it means to “dress appropriately” can be different for everyone. Admittedly, I am always cold and tend to overdress. However, certain things should be non-negotiable for any runner once the temperatures start to drop.  When I left for my run yesterday morning it was 12 degrees. I left the house wearing two tanks, a long sleeve top, jacket, warm socks, two layers of gloves (my hands are the worst), an ear warmer, and a neck gaiter. I actually think I may have been a little overdressed (there was no wind) but I was comfortable, if not borderline hot, the entire time.

Other pro-tips: I cannot stand cold water during the winter, so I drink a cup of decaf tea during my drive to the run to hydrate. I also love using Hot Hands during those runs where it is really cold (and not only in my gloves — I will also stick them in my sports bra to keep my core warm).

      2.  Set a Goal 

Signing up for a race is always a good motivator. As the spring racing season creeps up, signing up and setting a goal is a great way to stay motivated and to force yourself out the door. If you feel like you are in a slump – find a coach to take your training to the next level. Accountability is key!

      3.  Get Creative With Your Training

Until I joined CrossFit, I was horrible about cross training (see above discussing accountability). The winter months can be the perfect time to try new things — yoga, spinning, swimming, CrossFit — the options are endless. It’s perfectly okay to back off the mileage during the winter (or any time that your body needs a break for that matter)! Trying other activities also helps the body to stay healthy as it wakes up muscles you aren’t necessarily used to engaging and gives other muscles a rest.

      4.  Create Treadmill Workouts

I don’t love the treadmill, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.  Especially now having a newborn, the time that I have to workout can be unpredictable. If I run a steady pace on the treadmill I will undoubtedly become bored in minutes. Instead, I play games with myself. Most often, I will bump up the pace after a certain amount of time and work my way up and back down for the duration of my run. For example, after a warm-up, I will start at 6.6 for .1 miles and bump it up a notch every .1 miles (or .25 miles or .5miles or however I am feeling that day). I will then either start over or go back down the ladder. I have found that because my mind stays engaged the run goes by much faster.

How do you stay motivated during the winter?