Running is a funny thing. It can make you feel unstoppable one day and break your heart the next. It also doesn’t care what season it is or for what weather the forecast calls. If you live in a place that can have harsh winters, it can also do a great job of ruining your motivation.
Living in Minnesota my entire life, I know what losing your motivation feels like during those long, cold winter months. Over the years, I’ve thankfully been able to find ways to keep my running momentum up when the snow flies and the barometer drops. I’ve also found ways to ensure that I tackle running outdoors in the winter with safety precautions in mind.
First, let’s talk about motivation. One way I like to stay motivated is to adjust my running times during the day, if needed. I much prefer to run in the morning, if possible, as I feel like it sets the tone for the rest of the day.
However, sometimes the winter temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit in just a short amount of time. It can often mean a difference of running in 40 degrees versus 20. Switching the actual day I run can also help. If Saturday looks to be 20 degrees, cloudy, with heavy winds, yet Sunday is 50, sunny and a light breeze, I’ll definitely choose the latter.
Sometimes staying motivated is as simple as signing up for a winter race! I’ve run a race every January for over a decade now. Knowing that I need to stay trained during the winter for that race helps keep me going on the days when it’s cold and dreary out and I’d much rather stay in bed.
My final tip for staying motivated is to run on a treadmill. While everyone may not be fortunate enough to have access to one, a treadmill is a great way to get in those miles without worrying about how many layers you’ll need or the road conditions. A treadmill also comes in handy when there’s a snowstorm outside, sub-freezing temps, or when it’s dark and icy.
Along with winter running comes extra safety precautions. Nothing can put a damper on those moments when you finally have some great motivation to go running, only to realize you’re not equipped to deal with a snow-covered sidewalk. Winter running doesn’t have to be a scary thing!
The biggest precaution I take during the winter is with my shoes. I have a specific pair of shoes I use only in the winter months. They’re waterproof — those cold winter puddles are no joke! — and have extra traction on the soles. This especially comes in handy when there’s ice hidden under the snow, which is often the case during the winter.
YakTraks are also a good option for snow and icy conditions. They slip on over your shoes and have metal coils on the bottom that grip the ground as you run. You can also insert small screws into the bottom of your shoes. This can be a more cost-effective way to allow you to utilize a pair of shoes you already own but help ensure that they’re ready to tackle the tough winter road conditions.
Another precaution for safety is to dress accordingly. This includes brighter colors so you’re more visible, but also wearing appropriate layers and ensuring that your extremities are covered. A warm base layer and a jacket made for winter running can be your best friend when the temperature drops. Most winter running jackets tend to have strategic ventilation panels, which help you from getting too overheated as the miles tick by, while keeping your core warm. Fleece hats and running mittens will help protect your ears and fingers.
My final tip for winter running safety is to make sure the sidewalk or path you’re on is clear. Try to avoid running in the road, especially if there’s no shoulder, as it can be easier for a car to hit you if they were to lose control. Also, when in doubt, slow down! If you’re unsure of your footing, slow your pace. Remember that you are still a runner no matter how fast or slow you go!
I hope you find these tips helpful, and they encourage you to get out there this winter and log those miles!