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Staying Motivated While Running in the Cold

BY Briana Boehmer

Lets face it, there are many days during the winter months where training can be tough. So how do we find the motivation to run on days that give us little reason to crank out the miles?

I happen to live in a notoriously cold part of the country where the current temperature is -8 degrees Fahrenheit. Add in the wind chill, and we sit at -32 today (no, that is not a typo). Most would not fault me for wanting to curl up next to the fireplace on days like this and leave my running shoes idle. Beyond the current conditions, I am approaching two months of consistent cold, sunless days; providing ample ammunition for a list of compelling reasons to make drinking hot cocoa my workout.

Lets face it, there are many days during the winter months where training can be tough. It is dark and cold during the times most of us can get in our training—before and after work. Most of us can only stand so many miles on a treadmill at any given time. So how do we find the motivation to run on days that give us little reason to crank out the miles?

As a longtime coach, I have developed several strategies to get the job done even in the most difficult situations. I have a bag of motivational tricks rooted in working with the way we tick, rather than against it. When we reach the really hard points in training, getting the job done comes down to working with our own personality, strengths and weaknesses to get to the finish line.

Here are some ways to get motivated to run today.

1. Remember your underlying motivation.

Generally, what are the things that get you out the door for your runs? Is it to qualify for a big event? Perhaps you are after a personal record? Or maybe running helps you de-stress? Whatever your day-to-day running motivation is, remind yourself of the important reasons you run in the first place. Remembering why you run can help you get out on a gloomy, cold day.

2. Give yourself constructive distractions.

One of the challenges of winter running is dreading the process, be it running on the treadmill or in frigid temps. Calculated distractions can make all the difference.

If the weather has you running inside, mix up your run with mini-challenges. One of my favorite indoor workouts combines 2-5 minute efforts on the treadmill with a set of functional strength exercises like squats and planks. Want to give a workout like this a whirl? Time will fly by.

Try the following:

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes. Build to comfortable/moderate-paced running.
  • Then complete 4-5 sets of 2-5 minutes at 10K to half marathon pace straight into: 20 body weight squats, 1:00 plank hold while lifting your legs side to side keeping glutes engaged, and 10 pushups.
  • Run 2 minutes easy in between each set.
  • Cool down as needed.

If the deterrent is being outside in the cold, enlist outdoor distractions. Plan to run with friends that will hold you accountable. If you have to run solo, find landmarks on your route that you can use as starting and ending points for pace changes in your run. When you mix things up, it is easier to forget about the cold.

3. Spend time on the areas of your running you neglect in the heart of the racing/training season.

There is nothing more motivating than turning a weakness into a strength. With most runners, strength training, flexibility and drills/mechanics get tossed aside for an extra mile or two of running. Use the winter as a time to address neglected areas. The result come racing season will be nothing but good.

4. Use the weather as motivation for racing season.

When you reach a rough patch in a race and need to dig deep, drawing on times when you overcame obstacles can be the extra boost you need. I often use my cold-as-all-get-out runs as reminders of how tough I really am. When I’m pushing hard in a race, I reach back in my memory to how I got through an even tougher run in sub-zero temps. Look at a cold day as your way to add to your toughness factor!

Bottom line, don’t let weather be a barrier. If winter can dish it out, you can most certainly take it.

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About Briana Boehmer

Briana Boehmer has been a TrainingPeaks user for over eight years, guiding runners and triathletes to reach their personal best at any level — from competing at Boston or Kona to reaching the finish line for the first time. She is a former Division I runner and current elite-level triathlete. Follow Briana on Twitter.

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