If you are like me and live in an area where the temperatures get in the single digits during the winter, then you know that finding motivation to get outside for a run this time of the year can be a challenge. Each morning, it's easy to convince myself to stay in my warm bed and hit the snooze button instead of lacing up my running shoes. In fact, most years I somewhat take the winter off from running and focus on my yoga practice instead. But this year is different. I made a vow after my November trail marathon that I wasn't going to take this winter off from running. Instead, I'm going to keep my fitness up so that I can run a half marathon distance at any point, plus focus on my yoga practice to help strengthen my core and keep me injury free. Here are some simple winter running motivation tips I have implemented in the past and plan to stick to this winter.
Figure out your minimum running level and don't fall below it. For the average runner, your week consists of 3-4 weekday maintenance runs and a weekend long run. The distance for the maintenance and the long run completely depend on your current abilities. Even if you just run two to three times a week, that is still enough to keep your running fitness level steady for the winter months. You will be glad you kept this base level come spring when you start to ramp up your running again.
Build up your cross-training routine. Taking advantage of the winter months to cross-train is another great way to keep your fitness level up. I have to admit, I get so focused on running in the spring, summer and fall, that I inevitably put my yoga practice on the back burner. That is something that I am going to be very cognizant about NOT doing this year and building a good cross-training foundation during the winter is going to help me with this. Yoga, swimming, rock climbing, hockey, skiing, barre—find something that you have some interest in and that you find enjoyable to help you stick with it.
Spend some money and outfit yourself. Trust me, having the right running gear during the cold months is essential to sticking with it. This includes warm, moisture-wicking clothing to keep you dry. The rule of thumb is to dress 20 degrees cooler than it is when you start your run. The theory behind this is that you will warm up within the first mile and you don't want to over-heat and over-sweat. That being said, always start off with a hat and gloves/mittens. You can always take them off when you heat up. On the bottom half of my body, I prefer tights. The reason is two-fold. First, I don't like a lot of extra material folding, rubbing and flopping around on me—it just annoys me and gets in the way. Second, and most importantly, tights hug your body and don't allow for cold air to flow up your pant legs. Whether you are a man or a woman, find a few pairs of tights with brushed material on the inside and that are specifically made for cold-weather running. On the top half of my body, I always wear layers. The temperature dictates how many layers. You can always take the outer layer off and wrap it around your waist. The most important thing on top is to make sure your inner layers are moisture-wicking. On the coldest mornings, my outermost two layers are a vest and a shell to keep the wind out. Lastly, make sure to outfit yourself with proper fitting running shoes. You will have to wear thicker socks in the cold, so you may need to go up half a size in your shoes. If it's icy outside, make sure you have a separate pair of shoes with screws or a pair of yaktrax to prevent falls.
Sign up for a spring race. For me, there's no greater running motivation than a race on the calendar. And don't just put it on your calendar, actually sign up for it and pay for it. I also like to create my training calendar by working backwards from a race. The days and distance I plan on running are also written on my calendar. Having a schedule that you look at everyday is the best way to stay accountable.
Finally, set rewards and treat yourself. For me, cookies are always a good motivator. Your body exerts more energy to warm up than to cool down. You actually burn more calories running outside in the winter than the rest of the year. Thus, you can eat more cookies. Leave it to me, I can rationalize anything.
A few weeks ago I posted a blog on oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies with a cinnamon raisin optional variation. Having made them again since I posted that blog, I decided that oatmeal raisin cookies deserve a blog of their own.
Go ahead a revisit that post for more information on the base recipe or to get the walnut chocolate chip version print-out. Everything is the same with the exception of adding ground cinnamon and raisins. I used jumbo raisins I got at Trader Joe's. They are huge and so delicious.
As always, I like to use my handy levered ice cream scooper to make uniform sized cookies. Once I scoop them out onto the lined baking sheet, I press them down with clean fingers so they bake evenly.
Bake them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until they are lightly brown.
Cool on a baking rack and they are ready to be indulged in!
Now get out there and go for a run! xoxo
Time: 1 hour
3 c. gluten-free old fashion oats
1 1/2 c. gluten-free all purpose flour mixture
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. flaxseed meal
3 tbsp. warm water
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) Earth Balance vegan stick butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. walnut pieces
3/4 c. raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
In a small cup or bowl, mix the flaxseed meal and water and set aside to thicken.
In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
In your stand up mixer, whip the softened butter. both sugars and the vanilla extract for a minute on a medium setting. Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in half of the dry mixture. Add the flaxseed meal wet mixture and then add the rest of the dry ingredient mixture. Mix until just combined. Remove from your stand and spoon mix in the nuts and raisins.
Using your medium size, levered ice cream scooper, scoop out your cookies, leaving a little room for spreading. With wet fingers, gently press down to slightly flatten the uncooked cookies.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden around the edges.
Makes 35 - 40 cookies
Nutritional Estimations for 1 cookie: Calories 129. Total Fat 5 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 144 mg. Potassium 29 mg. Total Carbs 19 g. Fiber 1 g. Sugars 10 g. Protein 2 g. Vitamin A 0%. Vitamin C 0%. Calcium 2%. Iron 4%.