A friend asked me today for some top tips to stay motivated and keep running through the winter. I suspect she’s not the only one who’s feeling that she’s lost her va va voom now the daylight’s disappearing and the weather’s worsening – so I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks for keeping going that work for me:
Get yourself a goal. Time and time again, my running plans have faltered and failed because, well, I’ve got nothing to run for. Having a race on the horizon makes all the difference. It doesn’t have to be big or long; you don’t have to race it fast if you don’t want to – it’s just a little something to aim for; a date in the diary to give you a sense of purpose and a reason to keep going.
I try to have at least one race a month to look forward to, and I use Runners World race listings (though admittedly these can be a bit thin on the ground in Scotland in winter); the Scottish Running Guide or, if you fancy something a bit more gnarly (read ‘steep’!), Scottish Hill Racing listings to find out what’s on nearby – between the three sites, you’ll find events of all types and distances to choose from over the next couple of months.
If racing’s not your scene, then check out Park Run – there are four official Park Runs in Glasgow, all free of charge, all starting at 9.30 on a Saturday morning, and all covering a 5k route that’s accessible to runners of all kinds – even those with buggies! There’s also a brilliant little independent park run up at Balloch Country Park, if you’re like me and you prefer an off-road outing. This one’s on tracks and trails; same time – 9.30 on a Saturday – only difference is that there’s no timing system, so you’ll have to track your own run if you want to.
If 9.30 in the morning doesn’t suit you – and I must admit it’s not always great for me; it doesn’t sit easily with dog-and-baby breakfast time! – then Advent Running is another brilliant idea to challenge yourself to get out and run every day in the lead-up to Christmas. The idea is that you run at your own pace, as far and as fast as you like, for 30 minutes a day from 1 – 25 December. I suspect it’s a lot easier in theory than it is in practice, but I’m absolutely up for giving it a go!
Advent Running has set up a group on Strava so you can track your activity, and if you’re not on Strava yet and you run with a smartphone, then getting stuck into the app is another great way to recover some lost mojo. Strava lets you track your routes and your miles, but it’s also social – you can follow other runners (friends or famous folk) and they can follow you. It’s full of features and challenges – a monthly 10k or half marathon (run it anywhere and any time; benchmark yourself against the rest of the world and get the t-shirt to prove you’ve done it); segments (pre-set routes or parts of routes, where you can compare your speed to anyone else on Strava who’s run there – you might even come home with an unexpected course record!); and the chance to give or gather ‘kudos’ (likes) from other users. Love it! Oh, and it works for cycling too.
So, what else? The obvious stuff. Try to run at the time of day when you’re most likely to enjoy it. For me, that’s the morning – getting out first thing is a treat and a pleasure, but if it gets to the evening then running feels more like a chore. The more you try to make yourself run at a time when you don’t want to, the more negatively you’ll think of running; the more negatively you think, the less you’ll want to do it … you get the picture. Find the time of day that works for you, and try to plan around that.
And last of all, remember running is not obligatory – you’re supposed to enjoy it! If you really just don’t love to run in the winter, well, there are other things to do. Swim, gym, join me for a Go Ultra Baby class(!) … there are options out there. For me, the big thing with any kind of fitness motivation is that it’s not enough to love the side effects of exercise (flat tummy; feeling of virtue; guilt-free mince pies …) – you have to love what you’re doing, too. Start with that, and the results will follow – guaranteed.