The nights are getting longer. When your alarm goes off, it’s freezing, it feels like the middle of the night. The thought of getting out of those cozy covers and into your running shoes just isn’t very appealing.
You’re not alone in avoiding winter running. Studies from the Journal of Sport and Health Science show that many summer gym rats turn into winter hibernators when temperatures dip.
But we’re going to help you move against the grain. Sure, winter exercise isn’t quite as fun as when the sun’s out, yet there are ways to make running more enjoyable. Here’s how.
Set Up a Reward Mechanism
Humans are still simple creatures deep down, which means we respond to some very basic behavioral systems. Use this to your advantage. To give yourself an extra oomph of motivation, set up a reward mechanism every time you run.
For example, let yourself pick from a selection of small wins. Here are just a few ideas: a morning brew at your favorite coffee spot, ‘credits’ towards a larger reward (e.g. dinner out with a friend, or, a little shopping!), or a guilt-free session of sitting in front of the TV watching The Office.
It doesn’t matter what reward you give yourself at the end of your run. Just make sure to set one up that you will enjoy and that will motivate you to get out of bed!
Buy the Right Running Gear
You can’t wear the same good-weather running gear when it’s freezing outside. Focus on quality first and foremost, but make things a little more fun by adding a personal touch to your cycling apparel. If you feel uninspired, just go for bright colors that go beyond your normal lineup (it will also help vehicles see you!)…
It’s not just about making you’re run more enjoyable, either. You need to ensure you wear quality gear that’s appropriate for the weather for safety, too. You don’t want to overdress to avoid overheating, but at the same time, you want to keep your body warm.
Layering is your best bet to keep comfortable and safe, with moisture-wicking fabrics an absolute must for your base layers. You want that sweat to move away from the skin, or you may cool down to dangerous levels.
Think about adding hats, gloves, masks, and/or neck gaiters. Owayo has a good tip for keeping your feet warm and preventing frostbite by putting hot packs under your socks. And yes, again, go for moisture-wicking high-quality materials. It’s worth the investment!
Leverage The Buddy System
It’s easy to set your alarm to snooze when no one else is waiting for you. You can shut those curtains, get back into your snuggly bed, and pretend you never were planning to run in the first place.
To avoid skipping a session, buddy up with a friend. It’s one of the most effective ways to ensure you stay on track. It’s also a lot more fun to run with someone else. You can set goals together, talk and catch up, and just have some social contact.
One of the best ways to make running a social activity is to join a park run. These are free community events that usually take place on Saturday mornings. People get together to run 5k in an inclusive and welcoming environment. No time limit, and no last-place finishes.
Implement a Warm Up Routine
The cold isn’t quite as cold when your body is warm. Seems like an obvious statement, but you’d be surprised how many people head out into the winter freeze without doing a proper warm-up first.
We get you’re eager to get out there, but without implementing a warm-up routine, you’re not necessarily going to have a good time. Before you head out, spend a couple of minutes doing a few jumping jacks, running up and down your stairs (neighbors permitting!), or perhaps consider doing a full 5-minute warm-up.
Trust us, warming up will make you’re run far more enjoyable. You’ll already be warm, which means that cold winter’s run won’t be quite so frosty.
Forget the Stats
Data tracking devices have made our lives easier and more convenient. They can help in improving our performance and health, often motivating runners to keep going.
But in the winter, devices can have a negative effect. And also bear in mind that in extreme weather conditions, our performance can vary wildly. Being too deeply invested in data during super cold winter days can have a detrimental effect.
Instead, stop worrying about your distance or speed, just enjoy being outside. Pat yourself on the back for getting out there when most people are cozying up in front of the fireplace.
Vary Your Routine
Most of us have a specific small set of routes that we take on our regular runs. It makes sense, especially if there’s a time constraint. You can’t exactly drive out to the middle of the countryside when you need to be in the office at 9 am.
But whenever you can, try and vary your routine. Studies show that it helps keep us motivated and less likely to quit. Even if you’re just running around your local neighborhood, change up the streets you usually take. It can make a real difference!
Staying at Home is an Option
Finally, we’re going to give you a little bit of unorthodox advice: take pause before embarking in extremely low temperatures, and don’t feel guilty about staying comfy and warm at home. You can even give yourself a few ‘credits’ (going back to the reward system!); for example, for every five runs, you get a ‘get out of running free’ card.
Plus, it’s not always safe to run when it’s just too cold. If you’re in Alaska, Sweden, or Canada, for example, where winters can be particularly harsh, running when it’s less than approximately -20 degrees Fahrenheit, is just not a good idea.
Instead, take a day off. Or hit the gym. Do a home workout. Don’t feel guilty about making the safe choice. Remember, the road will always be out there for you tomorrow!
Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler