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Lost your running mojo? Try these 10 winter running tips

I’m feeling pretty irritated with myself at the moment.

I seem to have lost my running mojo.Woman running outside on a cold fall/ autumn or winter day

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.

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Comments (28)

  • Avatar

    Swazi

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    The weather is a big factor in exercising outdoors I agree. I’m back into running mode now and prefer the cooler weather actually. It’s nit great when it’s wet admittedly, but I quite like running in a bobble hat & gloves :o)
    Training for something specific always helps keep me motivated too – best of luck xx

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Great to hear that there’s at least one person who likes running when it’s cold outside! I should get some motivational tips from you. Good luck with your running.

  • Avatar

    Emma

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    Our weather is really about to change for the worse, so there are plenty of great tips there for me, thank you! :)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      It’s going to be even harder to go running when the temperature drops, so hope the tips do help!

  • Avatar

    Mammasaurus

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    I need to get back into running as I was running a couple of miles a day and even such a short distance is really rewarding, a great space of ‘free time’ mentally to think too.
    I favour the dark evenings to run in but with a husband who works shifts I find I have to grab a chance when I can. I’d not thought of trying out an app – I might give that a whirl! x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I love the ‘free time’ to think while running too, Mammasaurus. I also find it’s the only time that I get to listen to music on my phone – in the summer, that was a real draw to get me out of the house on the early mornings. Doesn’t seem to be working quite so well now though… Good luck with finding time to run.

  • Avatar

    Model Mummy

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    I am really struggling also to try and exercise in this weather.
    I have not managed to run at all. However we have been doing lots of family walks so i guess thats something. Next week we are going away to Wales and will be hiring bikes!
    Just wish i had the motivation to push myself and feel some benefits.
    The app is a good idea.
    Great blog! Glad i found you – definately my sort of reading.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks for your lovely comments. Good luck with the bike hire. I’d like to do more cycling, and that would definitely count as great exercise.

  • Avatar

    Tammy Chrzan

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    I have never been running in my life. I walk… a lot and I hike, but I have never ran… I have friends that are runners and they say it’s like a drug and you become addicted to it.
    I really admire you!
    I Hope you have a great week,
    Tammy

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thanks for your comments, Tammy. If you like hiking and walking, you might like running. You just get to the same places faster!

  • Avatar

    pinkoddy

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    You are very good, I can’t run even in the summer. I’ve started to swim a little bit when I take my children now. A gym sounds a good idea and your tips are great – my friend always takes a friend too. Good luck with keeping fit over the cold months.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thank you so much for your comments. Good luck with the swimming. I prefer running as I get pathetic and wimpy in cold water so I’d rather stay on dry land. A tropical pool is another story altogether though…

  • Avatar

    Aly

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    I’m not a runner at all.I do have a couple of FB friends who use an app that allows you to interact with them whilst they are running.I have to confess I usually say daft stuff but appreciates the support.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I like the sound of that app. I could tell my husband to put the dinner on while I’m out running.

  • Avatar

    Helvetia Handmade

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    Ah, great points. I was really enjoying running, but now I am finding every excuse not to go out. I am going to try some of these!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good luck. Hope the tips help. I know how easy it is to make those excuses.

  • Avatar

    Anna

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    Good for you! Great advice. I’m 4 months pregnant so that’s my excuse for now, but maybe in May… x

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      And being pregnant is a very good excuse indeed to not run if you don’t feel up to it. You can always try walking/ swimming/ yoga/ Pilates. Best of luck with the baby.

  • Avatar

    Helen Neale

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    I used to run b4 I had kids, and have just started swimming again. I keep thinking that I would like to dust off the old running shoes and take them for a spin…I am sure I could manage a short run…thanks to these tips at least I have somewhere to start now.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      I really admire anyone who swims regularly as that’s even more of an effort than stepping out of your front door in your trainers. Good luck with it, and if you decide to go for a run, I hope you enjoy it.

  • Avatar

    Fozia S

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    Must admit I am really bad when it comes to exercising…keep saying I need to start!

    But good on you, and good luck with the training for the run!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Thank you. I hope to keep trying!

  • Avatar

    Aisha from expatlog

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    I used to get frustrated as I’d run through spring, summer and autumn only to have to stop in winter. I’m currently in Canada and running in sub-zero temps is just pure idiocy – not only is the ice dangerous but the freezing air makes you feel as though your lungs are bleeding for the rest of the day. Luckily we’ve now joined a gym so I’ve switched to treadmill/track now and won’t have to build myself up from scratch again once the thaw comes :-)

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Wow, running in that weather sounds really tough. I’d definitely be opting for the gym too. Good luck with it.

  • Avatar

    Parentshaped

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    I just went for a run for the first time in a while, I just got a retired greyhound, so we are training together, Great tips – it was bloomin freezing out there and i realised I just wasn’t organised for winter running.

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      Good luck! Sounds like you’ve got some good motivation in the shape of your greyhound to run or power walk during the winter.Maybe that’s the key!

  • Avatar

    Alexandra Mercer

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    I was running 5 miles a day through the spring, summer and autumn but, like you, I lost all motivation in the winter. I decided to buy a treadmill a couple of weeks ago to use whilst it’s freezing, not as nice as running outside but better than nothing!

    • Avatar

      healthiermummy

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      A treadmill in your home is a great idea. Thanks, Alexandra.

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