As winter sets in and the days fade to white, we face that annual struggle: To hibernate, or not to hibernate? At SeasonFive, we’re determined to keep going, come hell or high snowdrifts, but if you’re like us you’ve still found yourself Googling “tips for winter running,” “how to run snow ice sleet,” “current weather Maui,” etc. But those Top 10 lists all tend to offer the same advice — don’t wear cotton, dress in layers, beware of frostbite, and so on — common sense stuff for seasoned runners. If you’re struggling to get out the door, here are our tried-and-true secrets for pushing through (both physically and mentally).
Skip the coffee. With the days at their shortest and sunrise at its latest, boasting that you run at dawn is even easier — if you can get out of your warm bed to do it. If you struggle with mornings, get an outlet timer and plug a small space heater into it. Face the heater towards your bed and set the timer to turn on 30-45 minutes before your intended wakeup. The heat will wake your body up naturally, and you won’t have to roll out into a chilly room. (Just be sure to use a heater with a safety shut-off. For more information on space heater safety, click here.)
Shake it out. This one is best done in the privacy of your own home. Keeping your hands warm is both essential to a comfy run and the hardest part of it. Before you step out the door, swing your arms back and forth as vigorously as possible for 15-20 seconds, keeping your hands below your heart. This will force extra blood into your hands and warm them.
Bring tube socks back. Wear thin gloves or mittens, then pull your luckiest knee-highs over them. They’re thick, trap heat from your hands and arms, and will earn you the stares (presumably of jealousy) of many a fellow runner.
Go small or go home. Signing up for an early-spring marathon is a common recommendation, but even with a high up-front cost and the looming challenge, it’s still easy to slack off from day to day. Instead, sign up for smaller but more frequent goals. Even if you’re only competing against a few of your neighbors, a race next Tuesday feels a lot more pressing than one you can put off until March.
Get naked. Sign up and strip down for a race like the nation-wide Cupid's Undie Run. Once you’ve done a February 5K in the near-buff, nothing will feel as bad again.
Dear Diary. It sounds silly, but after your next snowy run, jot down a few lines about how you felt in the heat of it. You always know (deep, deep down) that once you start running, it almost never feels that bad or cold. It’s just hard to keep that truth in mind when you’re prepping to step outside. If you have a note from yourself assuring you that “It’s not that bad,” it’s a little easier to believe and get over that initial hump.
Take the one-way streets. If you usually just do loops around your block, beware: the temptation to shorten your run and just dodge back inside will be strong each time you pass your doorstep. A good trick is to run on a straight path away from your house — every step away is doubled (since you’re increasing the distance you’ll have to run back) and you won’t be tempted to stop on the second half (since you’d only be getting back inside slower). Just be sure that your halfway turn-around goal is within your abilities, so that you don’t get stuck in the snow.
Don’t test the waters. When you go swimming in the summer, do you dip your toe in first, or just jump in? If you just take the plunge, you won’t REALLY know how cold it is until you’re all the way in, and then the worst part is over. Half of getting into the cold is getting over the apprehension. If you’re heading out for a run into the snow, check the weather forecast and the windows for dangerous conditions, then just head out as quickly as possible without giving yourself time for second thoughts.
PLAYING THE PART
What’s done is done. When we see someone out doing something crazy, intense, or bone-chilling, we tend to ask ourselves, how do they do it? The answer: They just do. It's cold, they know it, and then they get out into it. If you want to be the kind of athlete who pushes through the miles in the winter, all you have to do is do it, and then you are. And once you’ve done it once, you know you can do it again.