. When one says ‘winter’ you immediately think of the cold, the wet and the gloomy. Winter is that time of year when the weather seems its harshest and it’s difficult to find motivation for things we normally do quite easily, like running.
In this article, we will look at 5 ways to stay motivated in the winter months, so you can keep your running mojo.
Why do we lack motivation to run in the winter?
It’s not difficult to start coming up with reasons for why we lack motivation to run in the winter. Here are a few of the most common complaints runners find themselves making. I know, because I have made them in the past and occasionally still do make them (though I still run anyway),
1. It’s cold
Without a doubt, this is most runners biggest issue with running in the winter. Humans are mammals, which means we are warm-blooded. Humans prefer hot adapting to and thriving in warmer temperatures.
When it’s cold our bodies expend more energy to keep our internal temperature constant and warm. The body doesn’t like being in cold environments because it is riskier than being in a warm environment. It has to work harder to fuel your muscles and keep the organs supplied with warm blood to function.
The body prefers warmer temperatures and lets you know with the pleasant, comfortable feeling you get when you slip under your duvet or when you’re sitting in front of a nice fire. The body is trying to keep you in a safe, warm environment and it does this by sending warning signs whenever the temperature drops. Therefore, it’s so difficult to spring out of bed into your running shoes and out into a cold morning.
2. It’s dark
Another objection to running in the winter months is that it gets darker earlier in the evenings and stays dark later in the mornings. Lots of people don’t like the idea of running in reduced visibility so choose not to run.
One issue people have with running in the dark is the safety reason. You can’t see as well in the dark, so you might be more at risk of hitting something or being hit by something (like a car or a person) than during the day.
Also, the human body is set up to trigger sleepiness when it detects lowered light levels as it associates this with night time and subsequently going to bed. When it’s dark, some runners associate this with going to sleep or doing some other relaxed leisure activity and don’t feel compelled enough to run.
3. It’s more likely to rain, snow and sleet
In general, people don’t like bad weather, and this stops some people from running in the winter. If you don’t believe me, think of a small talk situation where someone has gone ‘not raining again, is it?’ or ‘the weather is so bad today’? If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard weather-related phrases like these hundreds of times.
It’s more difficult to run in poor weather conditions like rain, snow and sleet compared to running in the warm and dry. As a result, people tend to run less in winter and lose their running mojo.
4. Season Defective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be used to explain low motivation to run in the winter months. According to the NHS, ‘SAD is a type of depression that comes and foes in a seasonal pattern. Also known as winter depression because the symptoms are usually more apparent and more severe during the winter’.
Symptoms of SAD include low mood, loss of pleasure in everyday activities like running, eating more, sleeping for longer and lacking energy during the day. If you suffer from SAD, you may be less motivated to run and as a result, lose your running mojo.
For more information on SAD, check out the NHS article here.
How can I stay motivated to keep running in the winter?
Those were just a few reasons we lose motivation to run during the winter. Let’s not dwell on the problems too much. Instead, we are going to explore some solutions to get you up, out of bed and into your running shoes. Here we go!
1. Get a good night’s sleep
Let’s face it, winter is the perfect time of year for snuggling up in your duvet and getting some shut-eye. It’s pleasurable to escape the cold in the solace of a nice warm bed. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or to leave the warm house for a cold run.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you will be twice as likely to wake up and press the snooze button rather than go for a run. This works for when you’re tired and lounging around your house. If you’re tired, you’ll be more likely to not run because staying inside in the nice, warm, comforting house is nicer. Especially when you’re tired anyway.
To ensure you get out into the winter weather for a run, get a proper night’s sleep so you are well rested and less tempted to skip your workout and opt for the comforting option instead. Try and get around 7-8 hours as a rule of thumb, but everyone’s different so you might need depending on your physiology.
2. Lay out your clothes & shoes the night before
The more obstacles there are in the way of us doing something, the less likely we are to do it. It’s a fact. If you must make a conscious effort to locate your running gear, this can act as a mental barrier between you getting out the front door and embarking on your winter run. Not good.
Instead, remove all friction between you and the run. Make it easy for yourself and lay all your running gear out neatly the night before. Get your shorts or leggings, shirt, shoes and a charged phone (for optional music, an audio book, a podcast etc.) and lay them out so they are easy to reach and put on.
Having everything prepared makes the running experience run smoothly and removes the mental barrier of thinking ‘now I have to spend five minutes finding my running gear, I have no clue where my shirt is…’ and so on.
Think of it like the TV chefs who say, ‘here’s one I made earlier’. It’s much easier to get one they prepared earlier than to make that part of the recipe from scratch. It’d be too time consuming and arduous. Lay out your clothes & shoes the night before your winter run. Make it easy for yourself.
3. Make running a social affair with parkrun a club or with a running partner
An easy way to stay motivated to run is to involve yourself with other runners. When you’re running solo through the harsh, cold winter, it’s difficult to motivate yourself out the front door. However, when you have other people in the picture like a running buddy, a club or even parkrun, motivation suddenly increases. If you have people who are in the same boat as you, counting on you to turn up and not skip the run, you will be more motivated to show up and put in some miles.
Attending parkrun on a Saturday morning is a fun social event where the community gets together for a 5K run. Sign up online, attend and run for free with tens and sometimes hundreds of other like-minded individuals. The fact you’re running with others makes it so much easier, motivating and fun.
A running partner is someone who runs alongside you. They can be a family member, a neighbour, a friend or even someone at your running club. You and the partner will agree a time and a place to meet before setting off on a run, side by side. Having each other for company is fun and you will be able to push each other through the blue winter runs.
You could also join a running club. Clubs are a collection of individuals in the local area who meet at least once a week and perform a set distance run or maybe even complete some running related exercises. Joining a club will increase your motivation because you suddenly belong to a group and adopt an identity of being a ‘club member’. You will not want to let others in the club down by not attending and you will be more likely to turn up. Week after week.
Make running a social affair to ensure you keep your mojo during the winter months. It might be one of the best things you can do!
Check out the following social running themed blog posts for more information:
- 11 Great Reasons To Have A Running Partner
- Why parkrun Will Optimise Your Running Life
- 11 Reasons To Join A Running Club
4. Equip yourself with proper running gear
I know loads of people who start running in the summer and really enjoy their first experience with the sport. The sun is shining, shirts and shorts are being worn and there are smiles all around. Very nice. However, as soon as winter comes, I don’t see them out running again. When I ask these friends about why they stopped they often explain they do not have proper running equipment for winter weather.
It might sound simple and self-evident, but a lot of runners do not realise a different set of winter gear will do wonders for their comfort during harsh weather. A decent set of leggings or bottoms, long sleeved compression tops and a jacket, thick sports socks and even ear protectors, go a long way during the winter.
All the items can be sourced cheaply and once purchased make winter running easier. Being okay with the fact it’s raining outside because you have a waterproof jacket. Not worrying about running in the cold as you have thick sports earmuffs on. Just some benefits of wearing proper running gear during winter.
Equip yourself with proper winter running gear and notice the difference. You will be more motivated and inspired, I promise.
For more information on proper running gear, read the following blog posts:
- 13 Best GPS Running Watches
- 10 Great Running Jackets For Women
- 10 Great Running Jackets For Men
- 11 Best Headphones For Running
- 10 Great Energy Gels For Runners
5. Reward yourself after your winter run
Humans love rewards. It’s how we’re biologically wired. If you just tell yourself ‘I have to run or else.’ With no reward up for grabs it’s likely you will not feel motivated and will probably end up skipping the run.
Instead, you can incentivize yourself to run during the winter months by promising yourself a nice reward. The reward can be anything and will vary from person to person, but I would recommend keeping it healthy. It’s all well and good rewarding yourself, but if your reward is a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken or a large kebab it kind of defeats the object of running in the first place.
Personally, I reward myself with my favourite drink. A lovely black filter coffee. It sounds simple and not like a reward to most people, but it is to me. Everyone will have different rewards. Yours might be to have 30 minutes playing a video-game, allowing yourself to read a book or some quality time in the bath to yourself. Whatever gets you going!
Incentivize yourself to go for a run in the winter months with a reward each time you run. It’s proven to get you out of the winter blues and into your running shoes.
For those of you running races in winter, check out the following blog post on ways to celebrate as a reward:
There you have it. 5 of my favourite ways to stay motivated to run during the winter.