Winter is quickly approaching and I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, it’s the worst time of year to run outdoors. I struggle hard getting out the door in cold weather and as a result over the past few years, I’ve stayed inside on the treadmill for ~80% of my runs. Winters in Canada are LONG and last for what feels like forever.
However, there are some pros from cold weather running and it’s good to focus on those rather than dreading that burst of cold air in your face the moment you step out the door. I just moved out west to Calgary and the folks out here can experience some pretty brutal temperature drops. As a result of the move, I no longer have gym amenities in my building, so I need to drive 15 minutes to the nearest gym. The convenience aspect of running outside is going to force me to get out there more during the winter months.
In this post, I’ll outline some mental tips to help motivate you to get out the door, some thoughts to play on repeat when your legs feel like ice bricks, and when the wind chill makes it feel like you have razer blades going down your throat. Ah, the beauty of winter. Let’s get into it.
If I’ve committed to an outdoor run, I first need to crank up the heat and throw on a big, cozy sweater. The trick here is to overheat about 20-30 minutes before you’re ready to brace the cold. If I’m freezing when I wake up, I’m know I’m going to procrastinate. When I feel hot, my mind wants my body to cool off and I’m more adept at getting out the door quicker. This quick and easy tip can really help me cut my procrastination time in half and get me moving.
9 times out of 10, actually starting your workout is the biggest barrier when it comes to actually completing it – so the key is to ease the process of kickstarting your run. Laying out your winter running clothing the night before and putting on your gear as soon as you wake up (if you plan on tackling an early AM run) is a small way to eliminate the hassle of commencing your workout.
Mental Tips While Running
When you head out the door, run a flat route for the first few kilometers and run with the wind. Running against the wind will be an instant shock to your body and may cause you to throw in the towel early. You want to be as warm and comfortable as possible for those first few kilometers while your body primes and acclimates to the cold.
It’s also important to distract your mind from focusing on the temperature. I use a myriad of techniques here, but my favourites are listening to a good audiobook, some heavy EDM pump-up tracks or engaging in conversation with a friend or family member.
If it’s -20 out and you’re like me, the run is going to suck no matter what. It’s hard to adopt a positive attitude when stepping outside feels like you’re getting punched in the face repeatedly. If you hate the treadmill, but also hate the cold, try meeting in the middle of these two hates and split your run between the two. Mixing it up will help you avoid the experience of a long slog on the monotonous hamster wheel while also avoiding your limbs falling off from the cold. Perfect!
Another tactic is to break up your outdoor runs in two different segments: if you’re training for a race or have mileage goals you want to hit each week, instead of running 6 miles all outdoors try splitting it up into two 3 mile runs at different times in the day. You’ll stay warmer, have the mental endurance to tackle shorter mileage, and give your body a nice rest between runs. I use this tactic a lot in the winter.
Make sure you’re using technical fabrics. I got chirped hard from my very experienced ultra friends for wearing cotton sweaters while running. Investing in moisture wicking fabrics, a wind breaker, hat, a good pair of gloves (or two!), and face a covering can make your running experience so much more comfortable.
Try investing in a pair of winter running shoes that are designed with to give you better traction on ice and minimize slippage, so you don’t make the same mistake as me and fall on your ass repeatedly.
If you’re anything like me then we can share in the sentiment that running in the winter is not fun. However, to make it bearable and even slightly enjoyable, apply tactics to minimize resistance getting out the door, keep as warm as possible while running, and most importantly, try to distract your mind from the cold. What are your top tips for running outdoors in the winter? Leave a comment below 🙂