Runners Guide to Staying Motivated during the Winter

Running during the winter can be a challenge, not only because snow can make roads and trails treacherous, but those cold mornings and early sunsets can also contribute to difficulties motivating. Despite all of the obstacles we may see when it comes to winter running with the right mindset, gear, and tricks of the trade it can be a very do-able and enjoyable endevor. We reached out to three Maple Fanatics to learn their top tips on how to keep motivated and stay away away from hitting that snooze button and taking unscheduled off days.

Tips from Cole Crosby

Embrace the season
As a true Four-Season athlete, I take each season as a new opportunity to find joy in it. When I opened myself up to Winter and embraced it, I soon began to enjoy it. Winter offers much more peace and solitude than any other season. I can run trails and not see a single person. Often times, it feels as if I am the only person outside and I draw strength from that.  I love just running around town and seeking out holiday light displays and sometimes running to a big Christmas display and back home. To scratch my competitive itch, I snowshoe run which makes me look forward to snow. I look into gear for the season: gloves, puffy jackets, tights etc. to keep my wandering mind focused. There is value in Winter. You just have to step out the door and find it for yourself.

Take on an online or personal challenge.
In the winter, usually racing takes a back seat. There are less organized events going on especially in New England. So I often try to find an online challenge like a Holiday Scavenger Hunt run, FKT, Vertical Challenge, to keep busy but also still connect with others. Many of these online challenges have Facebook groups to bounce ideas off of one another as well as to provide support and praise. Sometimes you need a group and a cause to get out the door. 

Try a new sport or activity like snowshoe running.
Snowshoe running is winter trail running when your normal trail is socked-in with snow. I love it because it is running, but it feels like an entirely different sport and that is fun. Why not try Nordic skiing or curling? Winter to me is a time where the pace of things slows down and you can re-group and re-focus your energy on something different. And it doesn’t have to be running related. Maybe it is photography, cooking, you name it. Have fun with it. 

About Cole:
Cole likes to go long, really long. Motivated by the extreme elements of ultramarathons, Cole has developed a passion for running really long distances like 200 plus miles long in races in all different types of environments. Hot, Cold, Desert, Snow, Cole is motivated to see what our limits truly are. As a multiple-time member of the US National Snowshoe Running Team and force in the sport of Snowshoe running, Cole hopes to grow both the world of snowshoe, cold weather ultras, and multi-day racing all from his home here in Rhode Island.

Tips from Lindsey Herman

Staying motivated in the winter can be so tough for athletes of all levels. Where I live in Gunnison, Colorado, the temperatures can pretty regularly be 10-15 below zero when I am heading out for my morning run. I am usually dreading winter as the days get shorter and colder towards the end of fall, but then I somehow find myself embracing the change and actually enjoying the grind that is winter training! Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep motivation high through tough winters:

Get good gear and learn the art of layering.
Our bodies are pretty great at keeping our core temperature up, especially when we are running. A common mistake is for athletes to layer on tons of jackets, forgetting about the important outer limbs like hands, lower legs, and feet. Instead of layering a down jacket with a down vest and another shell on top of that, I like to prioritize a nice wool top with a good outer shell and then focus on keeping my hands and feet warm. For my feet, I usually wear a thin pair of ski socks. When it comes to hands, mittens are a MUST! On extra cold days, I’ll toss in a pair of handwarmers too! If I can keep my hands warm for the entire run, I am surely going to enjoy training more.

Remember not to take myself too seriously.
Sure, sometimes I will hit the treadmill for better traction or a warmer workout, but I think that running in the snow can make us more adaptable and remind us how “out of control” we truly are. These imperfect conditions that often don’t allow me to run as quickly as my “normal” easy pace are the perfect reminder that it is okay to slow down and enjoy the process. It’s also a great reason to mix in other things I might like such as snow shoeing or skiing. This is a wonderful time for more base building, and those low level snowy miles are a fantastic way to accomplish that. Plus, every once in a while I am bound to wipe out and fall on my butt; That’s the best reminder of all that I’m just not as cool as I think I am!

Fuel it up for long winter adventures!
On long runs/long winter outings, I sometimes like to break the outing up mentally by my snacks. I make sure to bring a whole variety of UnTappeds (Salted cocoa, salted raspberry, maple) and plan out when I am going to have each flavor on my run. When the going gets tough, I just focus on getting to the next snack! Making sure I fuel fully on all of my longer efforts helps.

About Lindsey:
Lindsey, otherwise known as Long Run Lindsey, is an elite trail and ultra runner who fuels big mountain adventures with big maple energy! Through her own pursuit of excellence in the sport and through her trail and ultra coaching business, Running Wild, Lindsey strives to shatter course records, guide others towards their ultimate potential, let people know that their story matters, and fuel it all with 100% pure maple syrup. Keep up if you can!

Tips from Lila Gaudrault

Stay hydrated.
It’s difficult to stay motivated without giving our body what it needs to perform. While thirst signals are often suppressed in the cold weather, this doesn’t mean we aren’t losing fluid! When the temperature drops, sweat actually evaporates more rapidly, and our lungs use increased amounts of moisture to warm the air we breathe in. This means that even if we don’t feel like we’re perspiring or need to drink, staying hydrated is still critical. I usually mix Lemon Tea Mapleaid into my water during long runs to add electrolytes, minerals, and flavor. 

Know your why.
Some days, it’s easy to be enthusiastic about running in a blizzard or deep freeze. We feel tough; invincible; ready to face the miserable conditions with a smile. Other times, the idea of lacing and layering up when the rest of the world is warm and dry is beyond difficult. During periods of low motivation, I often remind myself why I get out there in the first place: to feel good and work towards my goals. Whatever your why – whether it be staying healthy, chasing a PR, or simply exploring the natural world – it helps to keep it front and center in your mind during the winter. Write it on a whiteboard, tell your friends, and remind yourself every time you head out into that snowstorm.

Look ahead.
Unless you live in a warm climate, chances are that racing opportunities are fewer during the winter months. For many runners, this means that winter is the perfect time to set goals and plan for the upcoming season. I like to pick an early spring race and put it on my calendar before the first blizzard even hits. That way, I know that I’m working towards something tangible and can look forward to it even through the toughest weather days. Jumping into a mid-winter race is also a great way to assess fitness and build enthusiasm. I use these events to work on my weakness (shorter distances) or try something new (snowshoe racing has been a recent discovery of mine!) with no pressure. 

About Lila:
A lifelong Mainer, Lila Gaudrault got her start in ultrarunning as a high schooler. Today, at the age of 20, she pursues a variety of surfaces and distances, from fast road marathons to technical trail 100ks, while balancing training and nursing school. She holds multiple course records and FKTs around New England.