A great recipe is hard to beat. Recipes, including those to beat the winter blues, can take on many forms. Getting creative in the kitchen has benefits beyond the obvious. It’s good for the mind, body and soul. Similarly, exercise, while good for the body, produces endorphins that are also great for the mind and soul. If you’re a runner, you know it takes lot more motivation to get outside and run in the winter than it does in summer, spring or fall. So what’s the best way to inspire yourself to get out there? Here is my recipe to start and stay motivated for winter running:
INGREDIENTS FOR WARMTH:
Dressing for winter running is extremely important for both your health and enjoyment. Being warm is key. It’s not only more comfortable, but also easier to run when your muscles are warm. Wearing the right gear is essential, but you can do a few other things to help get the blood flowing. It takes at least 15 minutes into your run for your muscles to warm up. You can help that along by taking a hot shower or putting your clothes in the dryer for a little tumble before getting dressed.
Layering is the key to successful winter running. Make sure your core is warm. It makes breathing easier when your lungs are warm. Wear shorts under tights or pants to help keep your thighs warm. That’s the part of your leg most exposed to cold and wind so it’s important to have protection. Wearing fabrics that wick away sweat will keep you warmer longer. Wear a vest that can be easily unzipped or be taken off if you suddenly get too hot or there is a spike in the temp. You can also zip it back up if you feel a chill or the wind picks up. Wind resistance gloves are fantastic especially if you’re running in an open unprotected area because having warm hands makes you feel warmer overall. Don’t forget fantastic products like Body Glide. While it’s usually used to prevent chafing, it’s also great to put on your face to protect yourself from frost bite. Incidentally, you can also rub it on the paw pads of dogs to protect their feet from salt and slush. My dog runs with me on shorter runs so rubbing it on her paws ensures that I’m not stopping to rub her paws along the way. This makes for a more enjoyable run for us both. Lastly, you lose most of your body heat through your head, so do as mother said and always wear a hat.
It’s important to stay hydrated in any weather, so bring your water or sports drinks, but here’s a tip: Cold liquids can freeze easily and will not only be uncomfortable to carry, but will also cool your core. Instead fill your bottle with room temperature fluids.
Run into the wind at the beginning of a run so the wind is at your back on the way home. It may initially feel colder but you’ll be thankful when you’re on your way home. A good stiff wind can help push you to the finish.
MIX FOR MOTIVATION:
Having a goal is a great way to start or maintain motivation. Training for a race will keep you on track. Telling your colleagues at work, family, or friends that you’re training for a race in the spring also helps you in sticking to a running routine. The thought of disappointing your cheering section and fans can be a great motivator on days where you’d rather stay inside watching an Iron Chef marathon on The Food Network while snacking on lime & salt popcorn.
Breaking or setting time goals or distance doesn’t seem as important to me in winter, and it’s better to run safely so slow your pace and keep your feet lower to avoid slipping. Keep in mind it’s better to do a short run than not run at all. Sometimes I commit to myself to only go for a short 30 minute run because shorter goals are easier to complete especially when it’s cold and damp outside. Once I’m outside braving the elements, and the endorphins have kicked in, it’s easier to keep going especially if I’m running my favourite route or listening to my favourite playlist on my ipod.
Run with a group, a friend or a pet. Exercising is always more fun when done with someone. You can encourage each other or compete with each other. Make a friendly wager: winner pays for hot chocolate or brunch at the end.
There are plenty of mental and physical benefits of winter running. Seeing and feeling results, being able to eat and drink whatever you want, that feeling of accomplishment after you’ve managed to run up a snow-covered hill, maintaining strong muscle memory and good cardio are all fantastic reasons to run through winter. For some added incentive, realize that you won’t have to start all the hard work again in the spring. In fact, you’re ahead of the game.
Getting outside, having fun – and abandoning my couch and The Food Network for an hour – is one heck of an achievement when it’s -10 degrees outside, and the perfect recipe for beating the winter blues.