Winter is without a doubt the most challenging season for runners. Sure, the summer heat brings its fair share of challenges, but it still doesn’t present nearly as many obstacles as the winter elements. Whether you live in a cold climate or not, the increased hours of darkness make fitting in a run during the day difficult enough as it is. Creating a winter running plan often turns in to an unexpected puzzle.
As winter approaches, the temperature drops and more hours of each day are spent in darkness, I find myself already battling some of the challenges of winter running season.
At times, it seems like following a winter running plan is impossible.
Increased hours of darkness makes finding time to fit your run in during the daylight nearly impossible. Running in the dark can be exciting, but also presents a few more safety issues for runners. Not to mention the fact that just getting motivated when it’s dark outside feels a million times more challenging than when the sun is shining and it’s light.
Once we finally do motivate ourselves to head outside, the wind, ice, snow and cold temperatures make us want to head right back inside. Powering through the cold is manageable with the right gear, but what about those days when the entire sidewalk is covered with ice or snow? We find ourselves getting more of a cross training workout than an actual run itself.
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While the challenges of winter are enough to make some people hibernate inside until the spring, most runners find themselves more determined than ever to make the most of this season. When the weather gets chillier and darkness approaches, runners all over the world find the willpower to persevere and make the most of their circumstances.
Runners are a unique group of people. We run through conditions that cancel schools, work and other events. We are outside before even the earliest work day begins, running on un-shoveled sidewalks with reflective clothing. We bundle up in numerous layers just to stay warm for a short evening run.
And to us, all of these winter running measures are worth it.
While we are capable of persevering through even the most difficult of circumstances, that’s not to say that we don’t appreciate it when conditions are a bit easier to manage.
Maintaining a consistent running schedule through the winter looks different for each and every runner, but there are a few strategies we can use to continue running consistently through the winter.
Here are my favorite strategies to continue running through the winter. As unconventional as some of them may seem, I find that a winter running schedule looks different than one throughout the rest of the year. Achieving our spring goals often means lowering mileage or frequency during the winter.
How to Create a Winter Running Schedule
Set a spring goal.
Signing up for a spring race or deciding on a goal for the spring will help you find the extra motivation you need to keep running through the winter. While taking a break and staying inside during the winter may be tempting, you’ll feel a little more accountable knowing that there is something you’re working towards.
Related: 10 Steps to Achieve Any Running Goal
Cut yourself some slack.
If you experience cold temperatures and icy conditions during the winter, it’s probably not the best time to decide to give it your all and really push yourself on the run. Use winter as a time of year to maintain consistency and build an easy running base. Let yourself take a few more breaks, run a little slower, and just head outside to enjoy the run.
Related: How to Build a Solid Running Base
Lower your mileage.
Similarly, winter is probably not the best time to try to run your highest mileage ever. The unpredictable weather makes fitting in long runs each week a bit more challenging. Try maintaining your running frequency (running 4 times a week, for example) but running shorter distances each time. Heading out for a 3 mile run instead of a 6 mile run is still enough to maintain your running fitness – and you may even burn the same amount of calories by trudging through some snow.
If you’re training for a race or have set a goal for yourself to run a certain distance or frequency each week, be flexible with how you will achieve it. Scheduling a long run on Saturday might mean that a snow storm hits and the weather outside is dangerous for runs. Being open to rearranging runs each week, breaking your runs up, or working out indoors will help you achieve your best results.
Related: How to Stay Active in the Winter
Focus on cross and strength training.
Just because your mileage is lower or the snow storm forced you to skip your run doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Take advantage of the time spent indoors this winter by focusing on cross training and strength training. Utilize the extra time you have from running lower mileage to complete some essential bodyweight exercises inside that will strengthen those running muscles. Use this time to get your body in top shape to achieve your spring goals and stay injury free when your mileage increases.
Training through the winter may feel like an insurmountable challenge when the season first arrives, but remember that it actually is possible to use even the lowest mileage running season to stay in shape and improve. Creating a winter running plan that works with your schedule is key to success.
There is no right or wrong way to continue running in the winter. Whether you this season to build your running base or are looking for a challenging winter running plan, use these tips to set yourself up for maximum success this season.
As always, happy running!