Female runner enjoying running in the winter

Need to make winter running more enjoyable?

The winter months can be a difficult time to stick with your running routine. Between holiday parties, cold weather, and short days, running can quickly fall off of your radar during the winter months. Instead of falling into the rut that the winter months can create, implement these five steps to make winter running more enjoyable.

1. Dress Appropriately

Perhaps the most frequent complaint about winter running is how to handle the cold, often freezing weather. While dressing appropriately won’t eliminate the cold altogether, it will absolutely determine your comfort level during your run.

For reference, for temperatures below 45 degrees, plan to wear full-length tights or pants, a long sleeve shirt, a light jacket, headband, and gloves. As temperatures get closer to freezing, you should add layers that are easy to shed if you find you have overdressed. For instance, when the temperature drops below 25 degrees or colder, you may find yourself wearing multiple tops and pants along with adding thicker gloves and a hat.

During the winter months, gloves and a hat are a must. Find gloves that will help keep your hands warm but are also functional. Many gloves are touch screen friendly, so you won’t have to take off a glove in order to use your phone or smartwatch. Additionally, you will want to find a hat that fully covers your ears in order to protect them from the often-freezing temperatures.

2. Plan Your Warm-Up and Cool Down

When the temperatures are freezing, it is important to limit your time outside as much as possible. An easy way to do this is by warming up inside before you head out for a run. You can do jumping jacks, leg swings, walking lunges, or high knees in a hallway or open space in your house. Just as you would if you were warming up outside, do not rush through your warmup! Take your time before you head out into the cold, as your muscles will be nice and warm instead of shocked by the sudden drop in temperature from indoors to outside.

After your run has finished, do not lag in getting back indoors. The frigid temperatures can make cooling down outside difficult, so head inside to cool down and stretch. Once indoors, shed off your gloves, hat, and top layers before you begin stretching. Ironically, this will help your body stay warm as you cool down. Consider drinking a hot drink after you get back as it will bring your core temperature back to normal

3. Know Your Route

Nothing is more terrifying than heading out on a run and getting lost or running into a problem you had not planned for. To avoid unnecessary obstacles, plan your winter running route ahead of time. This is especially important as the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer. It is likely that your early morning run is now in the dark. While running in the dark can take some getting used to, having a route mapped out ahead of time will make it a little easier.

When running in the dark, make sure you wear reflective clothing or run in a well-lit area. You may also choose to invest in a headlamp or a handheld light to help you see when running through darker areas.

4. Don’t Fear the Treadmill

While the treadmill can get a bad rap from runners, it can be an extremely helpful tool to make winter running more enjoyable. On especially cold days, consider staying indoors and hitting a speed workout or hill workout on the treadmill. This will be a great use of your time and keep you warm! If you dread the treadmill, try working it into your schedule once or twice a week. Giving yourself a break from the cold is good for your body and will benefit your entire running routine.

5. Establish Your Why For Winter Running

As we said before, your running routine can take a serious hit during the winter months. To ensure that you don’t fall out of habit, establish a clear reason, or “why” you want to run. The “why” will help motivate you to keep going when your external motivators just aren’t cutting it.

Once you have decided on your “why”, it may be a good idea to create a motivation board or set a specific goal to keep you going. Motivation boards are great for helping to remind you of where you want your running to take you. Specific goals, like signing up for a virtual race or following a training plan with friends can help hold you accountable and on track. Place your board someplace you will see it at least a few times a day. If you are short on space, try using post-it notes on your refrigerator or write using a dry erase pen on your bathroom mirror.

Another great way to stay motivated and excited about running during the winter months is to do an end-of-the-year—or start of the year—run streak. Essentially, all you have to do is run every single day for a certain amount of days leading up to or directly following the new year. This is a simple and great way to keep your winter running routine enjoyable.

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