Skip to Content

5 Ways to Keep Running When It Gets Cold and Dark

As excited as I am to see summer running coming to an end, this only means that cold weather running is right around the corner. The current fall running season really spoils us, it’s still hard not to notice that it gets dark earlier and earlier each day.

Maintaining running when it’s cold and dark outside is a challenge unlike any others throughout the year. As the sun sets early and rises late in the morning, we find ourselves leaving and returning from work in the dark.

Related: Thoughts Runners Have During a Winter Run

I don’t know about you, but the extra darkness makes me want to relax inside rather than head out in the cold, dark air for a run.

However, despite the challenges, runners are relentless. We find a way to power through those cold, dark months and keep running no matter what. Training continues and races are completed.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Keep Running When It's Cold and Dark Outside

But it’s not without a little struggle.

Finding the motivation to keep running when it’s cold and dark is challenging.

Related: 5 Ways to Overcome Low Running Motivation

There’s no doubt about that. But it’s not impossible.

We’ve seen it done before, and know that we possess the same drive as our fellow runners out there in the dark, cold.

As we approach the final few months of the year, maintaining running motivation becomes extra important. Letting running motivation slip just once may cause us to spiral downward and succumb to the relaxing warmth of our living room, day after day.

These 5 simple strategies will help you maintain motivation and keep running all year – even when it gets cold and dark outside.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Keep Running When It's Cold and Dark Outside

5 Ways to Keep Running When It’s Cold and Dark

Set training goals.

If you don’t know why you’re running, it’s going to be so much easier to lose motivation and quit. Set training goals for yourself throughout every season. This might mean signing up for a race, creating a training plan, wanting to lose weight, or just hoping to stay healthy and avoid the flu.

Take some time to sit down and map out your running season. Determine why you are running, what your purpose is with these next few months, and write down a goal. Every time you notice your motivation start to waver, take out your goal and remind yourself why you started.

Related: Running Goal Setting That Will Make You Proud

Find the right equipment and gear.

Continuing to run through the cold, dark months is challenging enough if you’re prepared. But heading outside in the wrong gear, only to discover that you can’t see, your hands are freezing, and you’re slipping on all the ice is a recipe for failure.

Take the time to invest in proper running gear and equipment. This means buying the right running clothes to keep you warm as the temperature drops, and gear that will help you see and be seen in the dark.

Feeling comfortable and safe outside on the run allows you to take in the moment and enjoy the experience.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Keep Running When It's Cold and Dark Outside

Related: Must Have Fall & Winter Running Gear and Accessories

Decrease the frequency of your runs and increase cross training.

Trying to maintain running 6 days per week might be a little unrealistic as the seasons change. Once it’s dark before dinner and the snow arrives, you will likely find that there are more bad days than good ones.

To avoid this, lower the frequency of your runs. This may mean reducing the number of days you run each week by just one, or cutting them in half. With fewer scheduled runs each week, you have more flexibility when obstacles or bad weather arrive.

This extra flexibility gives you less excuses to skip, since you’ll likely be able to move your run to a better day. On the off days, make sure to fit in some cross training workouts. These workouts will keep your running fitness consistent and allow you to continue to improve, even with less mileage.

Related: How Running Lower Mileage Has Made Running Feel Easier

Prepare your gear and snacks the night before.

The best way to combat low motivation comes in just one word: preparation. Without preparation, you are setting yourself up for excuses and failure.

Take the time to set your running gear, snacks, alarm, extra clothes, hand warmers, and anything else out the night before – even if you won’t run until after work. Having everything out and ready to go takes one step out of the decision making process. Knowing that you’ve already prepared for your run helps you stay accountable and reduces the obstacles in the way of your success.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Keep Running When It's Cold and Dark Outside

Related: 8 Simple Ways to Make Staying Active Easier

Sign up for a virtual race.

A great way to stay motivated is to find a purpose to help you stay accountable. What better purpose than a race?! As the weather gets chillier and fall transitions to winter, races seem to be few and far between. And the ones that are coming up are often expensive or far away.

Lucky for us – there’s a great solution! Virtual races provide all the benefits of an in-person race (having a goal, getting a medal, creating a training plan, etc.) without the extra logistics. Running a virtual race means you are able to sign up for the race of your choosing, complete the distance whenever you’re ready, and get a medal for those miles around your neighborhood.

I am definitely guilty of finding a great deal of motivation in the fact that I’ll receive a medal. Collecting bling is one of my favorite parts about running a race, and I love looking through each and every unique design.

I recently discovered and was so excited to find this resource. This website has a regular list of active virtual runs, all of which are uniquely themed. Each race has a story and a pretty awesome looking medal!

To keep myself motivated and add a little incentive to the shorter runs of marathon training, I signed up for the Pumpkin King 5k. This virtual run‘s theme is based on the Nightmare Before Christmas and can be run at any time. There is no deadline to complete the mileage! Checkout the medal too:

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Keep Running When It's Cold and Dark Outside

To sign up for the race, all you have to do is head to their website and register. Once you sign up, your medal will be shipped to you in about a week, and all you have to do is complete the 3.1 miles!

If you decide to register, make sure to use this discount code for 10% off: PUMPKINKING

You can register here: The Pumpkin King 5k

I am so excited to run my 3.1 next week and see what the medal looks like when it arrives in the mail! There is no shame in adding a little extra incentive to those every day runs – especially when we need some extra motivation.

Continuing to run when it’s cold and dark outside is no doubt a challenge for every single runner at some point. Don’t let the low motivation get to you. Remind yourself that the endorphin benefits from running are especially important during these months – where sunshine is limited and the cold air can feel suffocating.

Remember that the benefits of running are the same year round, no matter the season.

More running motivation:

5 Ways to Stay Motivated and Keep Running When It's Cold and Dark Outside

12 Week Running Base Building Training Plan | Runnin’ for Sweets

Wednesday 15th of July 2020

[…] Related: 5 Ways to Keep Running When It Gets Cold and Dark […]

What Happened When I Worked Out Every Morning | Runnin' for Sweets

Tuesday 2nd of June 2020

[…] the morning. This experience is one I continue to receive questions about, and as we head into the colder months, I wanted to share what I’ve […]

9 Ways to Survive Running in Hot Weather | Runnin’ for Sweets

Saturday 30th of May 2020

[…] weather sounds really appealing when you’re struggling to stay warm in the middle of winter. But for runners, the arrival of summer means more than just enjoying the heat by the pool. Running […]

The Best Winter Running Gear for Cold Weather Runs | Runnin' for Sweets

Monday 27th of April 2020

[…] you’re battling chilly temperatures, harsh winds, and never-ending snow or ice, you’re not alone. Despite their challenges, there […]

How to Make a Running Comeback After Time Off | Runnin' for Sweets

Monday 20th of April 2020

[…] with the transition to winter. As I take some time off from running, the temperature cools down, darkness comes earlier and snow begins to arrive. The length of time off varies depending on the race and weather, but as […]