It's dark, wet and cold outside and quite frankly you'd rather be tucked up with some mulled wine and a mince pie than heading out to complete those nasty miles that have been hanging over your head all day. You are not alone. Winter training is tough but winter miles make summer smiles so here are my tips to get you out the door this festive season.
Do it early
I know some of you won't be morning people so the idea of running before work probably horrifies you but just think of that smug feeling you'll be able to exude knowing that your training is already done. And to top it off you get to see the sunrise, which makes for a pretty special way to start the day.
Have a Goal
Enter a spring/summer race you're really excited about. I love to run, but I really love to race! Looking forward to race somewhere exciting is the driving force behind all my training and it really helps to get me out the door in the winter. It doesn't have to be a race, if that's not what floats your boat. But do find a goal, whether it be an adventure with your mates, a mountain you want to climb, or a fancy-dress fun run. Having something to work towards makes all the difference, and it’s even better if you can get others involved.
When I was living and training in London over the winter I used to get on a train to Lewes and run to Eastbourne on the South Downs Way, reward myself with fish and chips and get the train home. One of the best ways to get ideas about adventurous running routes is to follow race routes, which usually have a GPX file you can download. And use the surroundings you have around you to the full. Having now trained through a proper mountain season out in Chamonix I used all the opportunities winter brings, including skinning (skiing uphill), XC skiing (they are the fittest people in the world!) and snowshoeing. And if all that fails put some banging tunes on and hit the treadmill.
…or ask Santa for something a little more useable then another bottle of perfume/bodywash…although there may be a hint behind that ;)
There are a few pieces of kit that have made winter running a much more enjoyable experience for me:
A GPS watch that with mapping. This is a big investment but as I can't navigate my way out of paper bag and have added two miles onto a marked half marathon before this has been an excellent piece of kit for me. No matter where we are in the world I can head out for a run with a map on my wrist knowing that I can find my way back home.
Gore-Tex running shoes. I love my La Sportiva Crossover Gore-Tex shoes! I mean who knew that having dry warm feet would make such a difference and they have these nifty inbuilt gaiters that keep all the nasties out...mud, snow, stones etc.
A good head torch. I use the Petzl Bindi, and this little gem comes with me on all my runs at this time of year as I often find myself caught out in the dark and being USB chargeable it means not having to fuss with batteries when your hands are cold
Longhaul ultra-fules: Its freezing and you're on a long run/cycle/ski you can't stop because your temperature will plummet (not ideal) your energy bars are frozen solid and take too long to chew and goodness knows the last thing you want is a gel! Well Longhaul to the rescue. Stash it in your pocket, it makes an excellent lunch on the go with protein, carbs and fats your body will be thankful for some real food.
Lie to yourself and break it down
Just like you break down a race into distances from checkpoint to checkpoint (as the whole distance is just too hard to fathom), do the same with your winter sessions. When I really don't want to run in winter I make a deal with myself that all I have to do is get my kit on and stand outside the front door. If I still really don't want to do it I'm allowed to go back to bed (I turn around maybe twice a year). When you're trying to get a session in (speed/tempo/hills etc.) just tell yourself you only have to warm up, once you're warm then tell yourself you only have to run fast for x amount of mins/hill reps etc.... By breaking it up like this it feels more manageable, and before you know it you'll be finished, and that smug factor will be high.
Be kind to yourself
It’s ok to miss a session. It's really important at this time of year to listen to your body, with all the germs and viruses that circulate. If you're not well don't try to push through it. You're going to gain more from having a well-rested body and mind then you will from struggling through another run. At the end of the day we do these sports because we love them and we want to be able to do them for a long time, not just a season.
As well as being a Longhaul Ambassador Sophie is a coach for Centurion Running. To find out more about working with her visit www.centurionrunning.com
You can follow Sophie’s adventures via Twitter: @SophieAmyGrant