The leaves are falling. Daylight’s in short supply, and the chill in the air has most runners thinking of hibernating. While you might need to trade in your running shorts and tank tops for wool wicks, tights, and jackets, the colder weather shouldn’t keep you from doing what you love.
Feeling as if you are standing still or moving backward in your training can make the winter season a very frustrating time for runners, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few tips to help you maintain your running stride.
1. Running Accountability
Complacency rears its ugly head all too often. Even the most dedicated runner has likely struggled with this on occasion, but learning to hold ourselves accountable takes perseverance and practice. It requires establishing a system of measurement and assessment, writing down your goal, and listing out the tasks that you must perform daily.
It also means establishing a set of rewards and consequences based on your ability to meet those tasks. Then, find a coach who can check in with you regularly and ensure that you are meeting your goals, performing your tasks, and facing the required consequences, if necessary.
2. Outside Our Comfort Zone
Have you felt stuck in your running routine? Maybe you are bored or frustrated that you don’t seem to be progressing. What you need are new running possibilities and that is exactly what running in colder temperatures will provide you. Your immediate reaction may be to continue doing things the way you usually do and to stay in your comfort zone. It’s comfortable there, right? However, the possibilities that making this minor change in your running routine could potentially set the stage for major fulfillment. After all, it is sometimes the smallest shift in our thinking or routine that can bring about the biggest opportunity.
3. Dressed for Success
Runners often hesitate to enter winter racing events for fear of injuries. However, this means missing out on one of the major benefits of cold weather race events — faster times. We run a lot faster in the cold than we do during the hot-summer month.
Cold weather running requires the proper attire. How you dress for the elements can make or break your cold weather runs. The right cold weather gear can make all the difference in the world.
With the drop in temperature comes to a decrease in daylight hours and nighttime visibility becomes essential. Reflective materials that are sewn into clothing, shoes with attachable lights, a headlamp, and even a flashlight will not only ensure greater visibility but safety as well.
5. Warm-up Inside
Have you ever taken a frozen steak from the freezer and tapped it on the counter? It’s stiff and not pliable. Your muscles in the cold are just like that steak so don’t expect that when the weather is cold outside you can do a proper warm-up outside. Spending 10-15 minutes doing some dynamic stretching and calisthenics indoors will decrease your risk of injury and make the run much more enjoyable.
6. Weather Ready
The only thing more unpleasant than being unprepared for foul weather is burning up from too many clothes. Design your run with the intention of shedding layers as you go. Avoid clothing that is cumbersome or that cannot be easily removed. Must haves include t-shirt, long sleeve T-shirt (polypropylene or capilene), wool wicks, running tights, and a light jacket.
What you will and won’t likely need:
- Long sleeve T-shirt (polypropylene or capilene)
- Wool wicks
- Running tights
- A light jacket
- Face mask
- Beanie Scarf
- Full-length thermal underwear
- Wind pants
7. Work Capacity Over Speed or Mileage
Runners want to run faster. The best way to improve our run time is to run more, but running more is not viable for those who find winter running challenging. You have other options. When you start to find it difficult to take to the road the answer isn’t simply to jump on a treadmill. While that is an option, it doesn’t offer nearly the overall advantages that cross-training will provide you. The best option for you would be to participate in an indoor boot camp or go to a gym that specializes in metabolic conditioning.
Metabolic conditioning allows you to perform shorter more intense aerobic training combined with various forms of resistance training. These sessions range from 30 to 60 minutes and can be structured with free weights, body weight, and kettlebells.
Many runners who incorporate cross-training and metabolic conditioning have seen increases in their run times even while decreasing their mileage. Cross-training also maintains consistency and provides a much higher level of intensity than running. It also strengthens your core and builds more explosiveness in your lower body through activities like plyometrics, resistance training, and sprints. Some facilities even offer incline speed training and sled drags.
8. After the Run
Once you finish your run, it is important to remove all wet, sweaty clothing. If your running gear mostly consists of clothing made from materials such as polypropylene and capilene, you will be more comfortable as these tend to pull the moisture away from your body while still allowing you to remain warm and dry as possible.
9. Running Buddies
Chances are you can’t always count on a running partner unless your running partner is a man’s best friend. However, if you establish your own monthly running event, you can meet up with other runners. A great bonus is that it also adds another level of accountability. Tip: to challenge yourself, invite runners who are faster pace-setters than you. Pushing yourself against those who are stronger runners has a way of making you better.
10. Travel Runs
When the weather is at its worse and outdoor runs are limited, it might just be time to head to warmer climates. Vacationing in warmer climates provides a great opportunity to meet new people and explore new running treks.
Winter months don’t need to be a setback, but you have to be prepared for what the months ahead will bring.
Manage your expectations, begin slowly and over time you can easily build up.