Lost your running mojo? Try these 10 winter running tips
I’m feeling pretty irritated with myself at the moment.
It’s funny that, because I counted myself as a fairly serious runner through the spring and summer. I even trained for a half marathon, which meant waking up at 5.30am before the kids were awake twice a week – usually the only time I can fit in a run on weekdays.
By the end of September, I was managing a weekly long run of 15 miles, and I completed the half marathon in a personal best time. I was enormously proud of myself, and even considered tackling a whole marathon next autumn.
But then suddenly the weather turned, the temperatures dropped and the days got shorter. When I pulled back my bedroom blind at 5.30am, it began to feel dark and uninviting. It didn’t take long before I stopped setting my alarm for crazy o’clock mid-week.
So while I feel sad that all my hard work and hard-won fitness is fast evaporating, I can’t seem to uncover my running mojo in order to do anything about it. I am managing to run once each weekend during daylight hours only, but I’m not sure that this is enough. For the first time since having children, I’m even wondering whether to join a gym.
I can’t be the only one who’s finding it difficult to stay fit this season. With the icy pavements, cold rain and gusting winds not all that far away, I spoke to fitness experts for their winter running tips, and how to maintain the motivation:
1. Don’t go it alone
Consider arranging to go with a friend rather than trudging out alone. ‘If a friend is relying on you to meet her, you’re far less likely to cancel, plus it’s a chance to catch up too,’ says fitness expert Laura Williams.
2. Schedule your run in your diary
Exercise will give you more energy, so schedule your workout in your diary as you would any other appointment, advises Laura. ‘Timetabling your exercise acknowledges that there is a commitment,’ she adds. ‘Take your gym bag to work, for example. If your kit is ready, and the workout is written in your diary, it makes it harder to skive.’
3. Wear cold weather running kit
Don’t struggle on with lightweight clothing as you may become too cold to exercise effectively. Buy yourself some decent running leggings and long-sleeved top, preferably made from technical running fabric, as a minimum. Depending on the weather, you may then need an extra layer, for example a thermal running top or rain jacket. When the temperature drops, consider adding a running hat or fleece headband, plus gloves. Don’t forget reflective clothing if you’re running in the dark.
4. Write it down
Note down any exercise you do, suggests Dr Ruth Lowry, senior lecturer in sports and exercise psychology at the University of Chichester. ‘We know that people who monitor their activity are more likely to succeed,’ she says. ‘So record your exercise in a diary plus how you felt afterwards.’
5. Set a goal
Find a spring event, like a 5k or 10k run or a cycle ride, to keep you inspired to exercise during the winter, says Phil Johnson, sport and exercise psychologist. His research shows that goals need to be specific, measured, achievable, realistic and timed (SMART) for people to feel really motivated. And he says once you’ve signed up for that race, join in the social banter online and seek sponsorship. ‘You’re more likely to reach your goal as it won’t just be something that you are doing for yourself any more, but for others too,’ he says.
6. Get an app
An exercise app for your smartphone is a great way to monitor your progress and so keep your attention, by updating you on your heart rate and activity levels. ‘Some apps also have a social media element, such as showing a map of your jogging route, which allows users to share and interact with each other,’ says Ruth. ‘This can make it more competitive, which many people find motivating.’ Good ones to look at are My Fitness Pal and Couch to 5k.
7. Break up big sessions
If bad weather means you can’t exercise for as long as normal, try breaking it up into bite-size chunks, says Ruth. ‘We recommend 30 minutes of activity five days a week for good health, or 60 minutes five days a week for weight loss,’ she says. ‘But you don’t need to do all that activity at once for it to count. So break your 30 minutes up – for example a 10 minute walk to work first thing plus 20 minute run.’ Use a pedometer and aim for 1000 steps in a 10 minute walk.
8. Make sure you have a standby
When it’s really icy outside or the weather really is too grim, don’t put yourself through the wringer. Sometimes it’s just too slippery to trudge along the pavement safely, for example. If you don’t have access to a gym, go for a swim, bike ride or long walk instead.
9. Turn shopping into a workout
Swap one exercise session a week for a mini workout at the shops. ‘The key is to be really active on your shopping trip,’ says Laura. ‘So carry as many bags as possible, take several detours to the car to drop them off, climb the stairs two at a time rather than taking the lift and clench your buttocks while queuing.’
10. Try a living room boot camp
Bring your workout inside with an exercise DVD, or turn your living room into a boot camp. ‘Start with a five-minute warm-up alternating jogging on the spot with step-ups on the stairs and shuttle runs along the hallway,’ suggests Laura. ‘Then do a circuit of press-ups, pliés, tricep dips and crunches for a minute each. Rest for two minutes, and then repeat. Do this boot camp twice a week and you’ll see results.’
As for me, I’ve decided to sign up for a spring 10k run – no backing out now – and will be rejigging my working hours so I can squeeze in a quick run once a week, just before I get back to the kids. It does mean I’ll be putting my little ones to bed while I’m dressed in my running kit. But at least I won’t be losing any precious sleep.