How to get motivated for Winter Running

Whether she knows it or not, this is not her first debut on the happy runner diaries as this lady has been my ride or die for a year of fantastic adventures.  But below is her first guest post. Straight from the soul of the very woman who keeps me personally accountable for 7AM weekday workouts when I want nothing more but to remain nested in the warmth of my covers. Below are Ms. Lauren Goodwin’s wise words on how to stay motivated for winter running. If you’ve ever met this beaming ray of sunshine, you’ll wonder how this optimistic creature could ever not motivate not only herself but all those around her, so I couldn’t imagine a better person to ignite the fire to keep our determination scorching hot all winter long.  

Below are her five necessary tips to drag your sleepy self out of the wintertime slump, and get those sneaks back on the pavement.

Ms. Lauren...

In addition to running, Lauren is also a certified yoga instructor.

In addition to running, Lauren is also a certified yoga instructor.

Well, runner’s, it’s that time of year again. Winter is upon us. The temps have dropped, the wind is blustery. We have the occasional snowfall, and it gets dark at a ridiculously early hour.  Our natural instinct to put on our comfiest jammies and snuggle up inside our warm apartment is kicking into high gear (ya feel me?).

It’s that time of year when going out for a run isn’t as easy as it was in the warmer spring and summer months. Winter running takes a lot more planning. Routes need to be carefully mapped out in well lit areas; layering becomes an artful of the most essential kind - not enough layers and you struggle to even get warm, but too many layers and you build up too much body heat and your sweat doesn’t evaporate.  

And, if you’ve spent the a good portion of the past 6 months or so training for a big goal race, your schedule is a little more loosey goosey with no real obligation to weekday training runs and early weekend morning long runs. Aka, you don’t really HAVE to go for that run.

Bottom line - more planning and less structure can leave you feeling a lot less motivated to lace up your sneakers and get out for a run this time of year.  

I admit though that I’m one of those weirdos where this time of year is actually my favorite time of year for running. There are few things that I enjoy more than the cold, crisp winter air filling my lungs, the occasional sound of the snow crunching under my feet with each stride (but if it’s shiny, watch your hiney!), and the feeling of bad-assery I get when I am finally forced to take off my top long sleeve layer revealing a short sleeve layer because I’ve finally built up enough body heat to be hot in 30/40 degree weather.

So how do I stay motivated in the winter months, even when I don’t HAVE to be running? I use 5 essential winter running steps.

Post 20-mile training run from Manhattan to Coney Island.

Post 20-mile training run from Manhattan to Coney Island.

1. Make a plan and write it down

When I’m marathon training I’m lucky to have coaches who literally hand us our training plan on a piece of paper.  But in the winter, it’s all up to me to create my plan.  So, I create what I call unstructured structure.  This means I’m not necessarily writing down the specifics of the workout, but I do write down what I would like to accomplish each day.  

Every Sunday night, I open my computer, look at my calendar of what I have going on in life, the schedule of any group fitness classes I want to attend that week, and how many days I want to run.  The non-movables go in first and then everything else gets filled in around that.  Sometimes, mornings get changed to nights; sometimes, days get flip flopped; and sometimes, days I had planned just don’t happen.  But knowing that there is some sort of plan and structure gives my brain some ease.

2. Set everything out the night before

Whether you are morning runner or not, mornings can be hectic. If you’re like me, you’d prefer to spend your morning easing into the day with a cup of coffee and a nice breakfast, not rushing around to pack everything you need for the day.  

I go back to my elementary school days and pack or set everything out the night before - my lunch, the clothes I’ll wear to run/workout in, and the clothes I’ll wear for work.  Sure, the outfit I packed for work may not look so great on (I swear it looked good in my head) or I may not be hungry for what I packed for lunch, but doing these seemingly small things keeps getting out for a run exciting instead of stressful.

3. Leave your GPS watch at home

In the winter, my Garmin literally sits on my shelf and collects dust.  Rather than getting all caught up in numbers and pacing and this and that, I just let my body move how it feels and wants that day.  Some days that means it wants to run really slow and enjoy the scenery, some days that means it wants to run really fast and get my heart rate up.  By not being a slave to a number though it gives my mind a break and lets me really, truly enjoy what I’m doing.  

Rather than beating myself up for not hitting a [insert your fast] pace - most likely because it’s freezing and maybe there’s snow on the ground - I remind myself, that hey, it’s freezing and maybe snowing and I’m STILL OUT HERE RUNNING.  That is an accomplishment in and of itself. Sometimes your brain just needs a break from being super goal focused and that’s okay.  I’m sure soon enough you’ll have another race on the horizon.

Which brings me to…

Completing the 2016 NYC Marathon.

Completing the 2016 NYC Marathon.

4. Sign up for smaller races

I don’t always need a huge race with a lot of hoopla to look forward to, but having something on the horizon definitely does help to have something to look forward to. The best part of it is that you still get all the excitement and endorphins of racing, but without the pressure of having to make a certain time goal or anything - crossing the finish line is reward enough!

5. Try new movement modalities

When I’m training for a marathon, the 2 months or so leading up to it, I pretty much live in a movement bubble - it’s crunch time, so no trying anything new. Must stick to the tried and true, the movement modalities that are already ingrained in my body and that my body is familiar with.  As soon as the marathon is over and I’m recovered enough to get back into things, I love to get my sweat on in new ways. That cardio dance class at the gym - heck yea I’ll be there; rock climbing with a friend - sure, why not?! I’m fairly adventurous and will try anything at least once.

And last but not least, if all else fails in the winter motivation department…..

6. Use the buddy system


Call up a friend and plan a very specific day, time and place you will meet to go out together. It can be the same day/time/place every week or it can be as simple as once a week you will find a match in schedules. No reason to go it alone if you don’t have to. For one, it’s probably safer if you are outdoor exerciser; and two, would you want to be ditched after you’ve crawled out of your warm bed at 6:00 in the morning and standing outside in 30 degree weather? Probably not.

So you wouldn’t do that to someone else. Enlisting a buddy holds you accountable to show up. No one is saying it has to be the hardest, most grueling hour of your day, but just knowing someone else will be there to chat with and keep you company can sometimes be all you need.

Happy WINTER running, happy runners!