(You can also find this article in Dutch on Justgiving.nl)
In addition to being beautiful, running through snowy winter weather can also be exhilarating. The winter season also offers a great opportunity to mix up your training and take your fitness to the next level.
It can be tough to stay motivated to get outdoors in the wind, sleet or snow. Doing so, however, will surely be worthwhile when you reap the rewards in fitness and performance this spring and summer. Training through the winter will not only help you get fitter, it can help you stay healthy and energized too.
The benefits of winter running
- Running in colder temperatures trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently, making you fitter and faster.
- Training in the cold winter weather increases mental toughness. Try training through the winter and gain that needed edge to go the distance this spring or summer.
- Burn more calories running in the winter as you’ll likely be weighted down with more clothes and gear, plus your body expends more energy trying to keep warm.
- Fight the winter blues with weekly runs and post-run boosts of endorphins to keep you feeling energized all winter long.
- Cold weather running is also said to boost your immune system, so why not fight off winter colds and flus with some cool winter runs.
When outdoor running becomes unbearable, take it inside. Running on a treadmill is the next best thing, plus it gives you an opportunity to play with speed and elevation. If you have a long run scheduled and it’s too unbearable to do it all on the treadmill, break it up into smaller parts. Run half in the morning and half in the evening, for example. Grab some music or watch a movie to keep it interesting.
Shorten and intensify
Don’t be afraid to change up your training schedule if the winter weather doesn’t cooperate. Your training plan isn’t set in stone. If your long run seems less manageable that day, try a shorter, faster run. Or shorten a midweek fast-paced run with a quick session of Fartlek or speed intervals. Add intensity to your workouts if the weather causes you to cut it short and boost your fitness.
When you can’t make it outdoors and the treadmill loses its appeal, mix it up with some cross training. Skip the usual run and try strength training or another cardio workout instead. Or train like triathletes through the winter and replace a run day with swimming or cycling.
Bike paths are your best paths
In Dutch cities, running on bike paths can be your best bet on icy winter days. Sidewalks can be dangerously slippery, but chances are that bike paths will be cleared before you wake. Stay safe and run on the paths most traveled to avoid any falls.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
It’s wise to be conservative in extreme winter weather. However, don’t let the weather be your excuse. If it’s not stormy or 10 degrees below zero, chances are you can still get out for a run.
Winter weather can sometimes zap your motivation but don’t let it be your downfall. Use the weather as an excuse very sparingly. Each time you find easy reasons not to run, you’re training your brain for it to become a habit. Instead, make it a habit to get out the door no matter the weather.
I live in Amsterdam where we have many dark, cold and rainy days. If the weather gets me down, I ask myself, “If you don’t get out now, when will you?” This helps me out the door and every time I come back I feel rewarded and stronger for having done so.
Grab a friend or a group
If you still find it tough to self-motivate through the winter, find a running buddy or a group to hold you accountable. Set a weekly run time and stick with it. It’s much easier to get out the door when others are waiting on you and when you make it a bit more fun. As a bonus, grab a warm drink after your run for a weekly winter treat you can look forward to.