OK, we have it pretty good here here in Central Texas. Winter is just something we hear about from other parts of the country. Even so, winter running in Austin does take an adjustment. Obviously, it’s a lot colder and darker than just a few months ago and just going for an easy run can sometimes be a struggle. Often, it’s easier to come up with an excuse not to run. Some of the excuses may be legit–it’s too cold, windy or dark —which make it awfully easy to pull another blanket on and go back to sleep.
Going for a run when you know you might be cold and miserable is not something anyone looks forward to. But, assuming you’re dressed properly to ward off the cold and the weather isn’t too treacherous (namely, periodic ice storms), winter running can be rewarding and downright enjoyable. The key is getting motivated to get outside and run. Once you can do that and cover a mile or two, you might be surprised that winter running usually isn’t too bad. You might even find, if dressed properly, that it’s easier to run in the relative cold of winter than our hot, humid summer.
Here are 10 tips for staying motivated to run during the winter:
O Embrace it. Rather than shy away from running in cold weather, enjoy the positive aspects of winter running. For one, it’s a lot cooler than August. The Butler Lady Bird Lake Trail is less crowded. You don’t have to worry about wearing sun screen. And if it ever actually snows, you’re in luck because running in freshly fallen snow can be an exhilarating running experience. (Ice is not so nice.)
O Set winter running goals. Pick a target goal and try to accomplish it this winter. It doesn’t have to be particularly ambitious, but it should be meaningful and realistic. Keep it simple and make it compatible with your overall annual goal. Try some of these: Increase the number of days per week you run (but keep the mileage consistent), pledge to lose five pounds or run your first Austin Marathon or 3M Half Marathon.
O Try to run in daylight. If you’re normally a morning or evening runner, it will be dark when you run. Running in daylight is safer and more invigorating. Try to run at least a few times a week when the sun is out.
O Buy the best winter running gear. If you’re going to run through the winter in Austin, don’t chintz out and use old, worn-out, cotton running clothes. Buy top-of-the-line, technical, breathable gear and it will make even the coldest winter runs seem almost comfortable. Check out the newest clothes at stores such as Luke’s, Rogue, Hill Country, Ready to Run or Texas Running Company in Austin, Fleet Feet in Round Rock and Soler’s Sports or iRun in San Antonio.
O Cross-train. Let’s face it, some days the weather is simply too awful to run safely. Especially, if we get an ice storm, you run the risk of serious injury by slipping and sliding on the roads. Those are the days to go to a gym and cross-train. Either get on a treadmill, stationary bike, stair climber or elliptical trainer and do a workout that equals in time what you would have spent if you were running. Even if the weather isn’t awful, scheduling a day or two of indoor cross-training during the winter months is always a good way to build strength and flexibility.
O Train with a group on the weekend. Winter runs are a great time for bonding. Just getting through a long run in cold, wet, windy weather is easier if you have a group to complain and share it with. Also having a group (or a friend) who is waiting for you to show up will be inducement for you to get out of bed and go for a run.
O Be prepared for whatever winter can throw at you. The weather in Central Texas—mainly the wind—can change on a dime. Particularly on a long run. If you’re starting a long run in especially rotten weather, do loops so you can bail out if it’s too cold, windy or wet. If you’re not doing loops, have an idea what you will do if it gets too miserable and you’re too cold or wet to complete the run. Either have plans to run to someone’s house or car or carry a cell phone to call someone for help. There’s nothing worse than being stranded—cold, wet and miserable–five miles from home.
O Add a touch of variety. Run in different neighborhoods, roads or trails than you normally run. You might be forced to run slower in the winter because of the occasional ice or near constant north wind so try hilly courses to build strength. If it’s exceptionally windy, stick to the Butler Lady Bird Lake Trail where you are afforded some protection from the wind.
O Pick a mid-winter race in a warm locale. Plan a vacation around the race. Bring the entire family. Some good warm-weather marathon suggestions: Napa, Miami, Carlsbad Marathon, Los Angeles Marathon, New Orleans or the Big Island (Hilo).
O Take it easy on yourself. You might not be able to train at your best during winter and may even miss a few days because of the weather, but don’t stress out over it. If you miss a day (or three or four) because of bad weather, rest assured you won’t lose all your hard-won conditioning.
Winter is a time to relax and recharge.