With frigid temperatures and snowy weather, it's fair to say that winter running has it's challenges. But with the right gear and mindset, winter training has it's unique set of joys from the beauty of a white-filled landscape to the peacefulness of having roads and routes to yourself. Here are two RADrabbits on what motivations means to them during the colder months of the year.
How do I maintain focus on 2023 goals during winter months when the days are shorter and weather is less than ideal?
Winter can be a challenging time of year. While winters in Ohio are milder than in some parts of the country, we do have wild fluctuations in temperature, days turned into weeks of snow and ice, and darkness descends as early as 4:30 p.m. on many days. For me, consistency has always been the name of the game. If my training is a habit, then it’s not a question as to whether I’ll get it in, just how and when.
In the winter months, I become much more aware of the weather forecast - paying attention to when precipitation will occur, and what times of the day are predicted to be warmest. I do my best to structure my work and family schedules around my run - so that I run under the most favorable conditions. That said, there are days when the weather is cold and unpleasant most or all of the day. On those days, I run by effort and focus less on pace. I focus on the mental toughness that I am building and know that my ability to run through these conditions will prepare me for whatever circumstances I might face on race day.
The more I run outside in winter, the more I learn about proper layering in my clothing. Making sure you are properly dressed is vital in the cold weather so that you are prepared to withstand the climate. I usually am prepared with fleece-lined leggings, a long-sleeve base layer, puffy vest and don’t forget hats and gloves. I am usually run cold, so I tend to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed in the winter.
I used to be a treadmill runner in the winter, but I have started to love running outside in the cold weather. It helps alleviate the seasonal depression that I feel at this time of the year. The hour or more than I spend outside in my run gives me some fresh air, sunshine if I’m lucky, and exposure to the outdoors that I wasn’t getting from treadmill runs.
Of course, I have a race schedule to look forward to in 2023, and that helps structure my training and gives me to goals to look forward to. But the joy of running outside in the cold is an end unto itself. My sense of accomplishment after a winter run is often greater even if my pace is slower but I have a feeling that “I did a hard thing.” There’s a sense of camaraderie with the others who are also out there running in the cold.
Maintaining focus and consistency in the winter is as simple and as hard as just doing the thing. Hope I see you out there this winter!
Ilene Lin Bloom
Right now, I am sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop, enjoying an incredibly beautiful early winter day…the kind where I walk out my front door and take a deep happy breath. It’s in the low 60s in the middle of December in Colorado! I did get up this morning and run in the cold, but it was the kind of cold that I knew would shortly morph into this amazing day.
I know what will be coming soon though. The deep, dark winter. When many people seem to disappear from the outside. Where is everyone? This disappearance is universal apparently, in places that have real seasons. In my past life in Chicago, before I embraced running as an essential part of my life, I wondered the same thing each winter. Where is everyone? And then of course, spring would come, and everyone would come out of the woodwork. Back then, I would walk ten blocks every day of every brutal winter to get to work – I did not think much about it as that was just what I had to do. I certainly did not appreciate it, and it certainly did not drive me.
But now, in my life as an ultra-runner in Colorado, there is a choice. Why do I choose to run in the snow, in the sleet, in the rain, in the ten-degree temperatures? And why do I appreciate it and how do I keep focus to train for a race or to stay in shape during the wintertime? I think it comes down to the importance of braving the elements. I actually want to brave the elements, and this helps me maintain my focus during the “rough” winter months in Colorado.
There are so many things in our lives that we can let limit or control us. Tradition, structure, time of day, time constraints, personal and societal expectations, the dark and the light, and the list goes on. And of course, nature and the weather…the elements.
Yet, braving the elements opens an entirely new perspective. It goes along with something I aspire to as a person – which is to put myself in situations that I would not otherwise be in, to see things that I would not otherwise see. To become more resilient. To gain more freedom of movement and experience. To have one less thing to hold me back. I like to call it “freedom via Mother Nature.”
When I signed up for my first ultramarathon on New Year’s Day in 2015, I was excited overall but training in the winter still seemed daunting to me. However, it quickly became a lesson in organization and preparation, both of which are key to many things in life. I also quickly realized that it will be difficult to have a bad day in nature when I am excited about it, no matter what the circumstances of nature. We cannot control the elements of course, but we can control our approach towards braving the elements. Organization, preparation, excitement.
Now, I rarely even think twice about the weather. Learning how to brave and appreciate the elements really has made it second nature to be outside… which in turn really lets me feel more alive. I often feel like I can go anywhere and do anything outside at any time in any weather. This sense of freedom drives me in the winter months to maintain my focus on my running goals, and I remind myself how lucky I am every day I get to run, no matter the weather.