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Running Through Darkness: Tips on Training in the Winter

I don't want to go running tonight.

It's 3:30PM and dark outside. Through the window, I can see the streetlights flickering on and smell fresh garlic and onions starting to sauté as the Italian restaurant next door prepares for dinner.  I'm still at work for a few more hours, and I know that by the time I'm done all I'll want to do is go home and stuff my face with as much food as possible before I fall asleep on the couch with my dogs. It's not that I am sad or had a bad day. I'm just tired from a full day of work. My feet are sore, my stomach is grumbling, and the blackness of the sky is telling me it's time for bed.

The only problem is that I need to go for a run tonight. I was going to run this morning, but when I woke up at 6AM and couldn't see any light shining through the window, my body told me to hit snooze on the alarm.

Now it's almost 10 hours later and I'm regretting that decision.

I don't want to go running tonight.

Perhaps you wouldn’t expect someone who works in the running industry to have thoughts like these but I do, especially during this time of year. This time of year, my hands turn purple in the cold and I regularly worry about how I am going to meet my daily vitamin D requirements. Between October and March in Tacoma, it can be tough to log in those extra training miles. However, like me many runners have countless reasons why they should still be running despite the season. Some of us need to run to keep off those extra holiday pounds or simply stay healthful and mobile, others are training to to beat a PR. Whatever the reason, perhaps you could use a few tips and tricks to help make running through the darkest part of the year a little easier. Here are a few that have made a difference for me:

Tip #1:
Dress Warm.

Sometimes the biggest deterrent to getting out for a run is the cold. If you feel stiff past the first 5 - 10 minutes of your jog, or if your hands and feet are turning purple or numb, that's a sure sign you aren't wearing enough clothing. Believe it or not, a pair of lightweight running gloves, some fleece lined pants, and a cozy headband can do wonders for making your winter run much more comfortable. If you get so soaked with rain that you feel like your bones are freezing, consider adding a light waterproof shell to your getup or swapping out your regular road shoes for the Gortex weather-proof version. All of this and more can be found at your local Fleet Feet.

Tip #2:
See and be seen.

The Fleet Feet Tacoma Tuesday night run group always lights up before heading out.

[The Fleet Feet Tacoma Tuesday night run group always lights up before heading out.]

No matter how aware we are of our surroundings, sometimes we don't notice a crack in the sidewalk or a car swerving around the corner before it's too late. That's why it's important while running in the dark to both see and be seen. My favorite way to make sure I am covered before I head out on a dark run is to throw my Nathan reflective vest over my head and slap my Black Diamond headlamp on my forehead. I may look like a wannabe-construction-worker jogging through the city streets, but at least I know I'm safe. At Fleet Feet, you can find whatever reflective gear suits your taste, from clip-on strobe lights, to hand held flashlights made just for runners.

Tip #3:
Fuel right and stay hydrated.

Most of the time we only think about hydration during the summer, but the truth is hydration can be just as, if not more important to keep track of this time of year. Why? Partly because this time of year we forget to drink water. Though it's rainy here in Washington, on freezing cold days, it can be extremely dry. Plus, for some of us, the holiday season can mean more drinking with friends, eating lots of mom's pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes, and sipping on all kinds of tasty hot and bubbly drinks instead of on water. All of this can contribute not only to malnutrition, but also to dehydration. And dehydration can mean muscle cramps, tiredness, and lack of motivation.

My favorite way to boost up my hydration and pack in the vitamins is to sip on a glass of Nuun in the late afternoon or evening. By this time of day, my energy starts to drain as my body decides it’s time for a post-lunch siesta. Nuun gives me a boost of vitamins and liquid that can sometimes turn my day around. In fact, this is the number one trick that's gotten me out for a run on nights like I described in the beginning of this article!

Tip #4:
Run with Friends.

Here I am with a couple of my favorite running buddies post trail run.

[Here I am with a couple of my favorite running buddies post trail run.]

I have a friend that I look forward to running with about once a week. There is nothing that will keep me from hitting the snooze button on a dark morning than knowing she'll soon be waiting for me in the cold at the park if I don't get my butt out of bed. But there's more benefit to having a running buddy than having someone hold you accountable. When my friend and I meet up to run, we complain about the weather, and somehow that complaining makes it easier to reluctantly shiver our way into a stiff legged jog. Sometimes we run in silence, while other times we run in continuous, bubbling conversation, and either way, doing so together makes the time pass twice as fast as it would alone.
Whether just once a week, or every day of the week, consider finding a friend or group to run with. There are so many benefits to running with others, and I haven't listed them all above. If you don't know where to start looking for one, try Fleet Feet Tacoma's free Tuesday night group run, come to our Wednesday night walking group, or register for one of our training groups, where you'll have not only running buddies, but also a coach.

Another great running pal is the furry kind. My dog prefers trail running.

[Another great running pal is the furry kind. My dog prefers trail running.]

This time of the year, very often I look outside at the darkness and think...

I don't want to go running tonight.

And I'm sure many of you can relate, whether you are a veteran runner or just started this week. However, if you can just muster up the will to get out there and start moving, you may discover for the first or the hundredth time, the joy, invigoration, and even magic that comes with running any time of year.. SO, I hope these tips help you get out there.


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