5 Ways to Show Up This Winter

A runner pushes a stroller through snow in winter

Despite the benefits you get from running, sometimes you just don’t want to do it. Winter can be dark, cold, foreboding. But if you plan ahead and prepare for the elements, you’ll likely never regret your decision to show up.

Here are five ways to make it easier to lace up your shoes and go.

Two runners work out on a snow-covered road in winter

1. Make SMART goals you won’t want to break.

SMART goals are defined as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timebound. For example, let’s say your goal is to start running this year. To set yourself up for success, you could sign up for a beginner-oriented training group for runners designed to get you to a local 5K start line.

The goal gives you a specific race with a measurable outcome. Plus, the steps you need to achieve the results, along with a group to challenge, motivate and support you. It’s relevant to your fitness level, and you have a particular date by which to complete the training and race. To get even more specific, maybe you decide you want to complete the race within a certain (realistic) time or simply that you want to cross the finish line with a smile on your face. Just be realistic, and be kind to yourself along the way.

2. Schedule runs with others.

Even when the weather stinks or when you don’t want to get out of bed early, you’re more likely to show up if you know someone else is counting on you. Chances are you’ll enjoy the run much more, too. Working out with others can dramatically increase your motivation, and it can help you develop bonds with your run pals that make them feel like family. You’ll have days when you feel great and days when you don’t. But your running friends get it and will encourage you to stick with it. They will push you to run longer and harder than you would have alone.

3. Plan ahead and anticipate obstacles.

Running well takes time and strategic planning. If you schedule most of your training in advance and can be flexible, you will be well equipped to handle obstacles that come your way.

Plan your longest run for the weekend or for the day when you have the most time to get it done. Pre-plan which days will be for speed work first, and fill in days for moderate runs, cross-training and recovery in between. Then consider factors like the weather, your work schedule, social commitments, etc. If you know that Mondays are long and draining, it’s probably a great day to take a relaxing yoga class instead of hammering out your most intense run. Similarly, if you check the forecast and see a huge snowstorm on the way, swap runs around to make your life easier.

The elements are common obstacles in the winter. It depends on where you live, but you will probably have bad weather. Unless it’s unsafe to run (and sometimes it is), decide that you will get out there anyway. To stay safe while running in the winter, get a rain-resistant jacket, gloves, tights and ear warmers that will keep you comfortable. If you’re running in the dark, keep yourself safe with the right gear. If you want running to be a priority, anticipate your obstacles and don’t let them stop you.

A runner pushes a stroller on a snow-covered sidewalk in winter
Two runners get ready for a winter workout on a snowy track

4. Make time for self-care.

To be a healthy and balanced runner you must listen to your body and optimize recovery. If you’re exhausted, take a day off, and don’t feel guilty about it.

In fact, prevent exhaustion in the first place by adding off days ahead of time. Everyone needs days for rest, cross training, weights or yoga. Sleep, hydration and nutrition are also crucial to your recovery and self-care.

As you put together your running schedule, plan ahead to make sure you’ll have healthy meals available if you get hangry and want to reach for the junk food instead of cooking. Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky’s second cookbook “Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.” is full of suggestions to make this easier.

For example, take an afternoon each week to prep ingredients that you can throw together at the last minute for a healthy rice bowl or quinoa salad. This way when you return from a long run and feel like you have to eat immediately, you’ll have healthy food ready and will be less likely to go out to eat or binge on chips.

5. Celebrate your victories, even if they seem small

Achieving your goals is a reward in itself, but be sure to revel in every victory and pat yourself on the back along the way.

When you have a great workout or race, enjoy it! When you run farther than you ever have before or find a new training group, pay attention to the happiness this brings. Take a moment to feel gratitude for your body and the opportunities that it brings you.

Research shows that there is power in celebrating small wins because we create momentum and motivation to keep striving toward a goal when we feel like we are making progress. So, if today’s run felt easier than it did a month ago, or you got to sleep early every night this week, take the time to notice and to congratulate yourself for the progress you’re making. It truly makes a difference and will help you continue to show up and see self-improvement.

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.

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