Let’s all face a fundamental truth: Training in the winter sucks. It involves layers, reflective gear, icy terrain, indoor tracks, unfriendly traffic, cold, snow, and darkness. Where we live, however, there is no way to avoid it, because winter starts sometime in November and lasts halfway through March. It may not be too difficult to experience that sensation that the Finnish call sisu in the heat of the moment. However, if you took five months off from running because it was cold outside, the roads were snowy, and the sky was dark, you can have all the sisu you want. You won’t run to your potential in the spring unless you prepare in the winter.
I won’t waste your time or insult your intelligence by telling you to bundle up, wear a hat, and find a treadmill if it’s dangerous out there. Instead I will offer five suggestions to keep you motivated enough to run in less than favorable conditions.
1. Sign up for a race. This creates urgency. If you have a race in early June, it’s easy to justify losing four days in January because the weather was cold. If you have a race in early February, those four days in January become a lot more important and a lot less enticing to stay in bed.
2. Have an accountability authority. Misery loves company, so if you have a training partner who is going to be out there anyway, you have more reason to come out from under the blanket. If you make a commitment to someone else to work out on bad weather days, you will be held accountable for upholding your commitment. By running, you will be helping yourself by working out. You will be helping your accountability authority by respecting the commitment instead of flaking out.
3. Pretend you’re tough. Your pickup basketball players are wearing the button-up wind pants and warming up their cars on their way to the heated indoor court. Your skiers have lodges and overpriced hot chocolate at their disposal every fifteen minutes or so. Even your hockey players have lights, 20-degree temperatures at the rinks, and Zambonis manicuring their ice. While you’re no Rocky (he is fictional anyway), going out there makes you reasonably tough.
4. Embrace adversity. This and the last one sort of go together. Just like sometimes you have to fit it around other activities and sometimes you have to skip nights out in pursuit of a running goal, sometimes you have to go out there when conditions are short of ideal. It’s part of the process. The journey is pointless without a little bit of a challenge. So embrace it. Please note: this does NOT make it a requirement to post a weather app screen shot on social media.
5. Manufacture animosity. We have it so easy. Our running counterparts are littering the Internet with their boastful obsequious trash. Find some bulletin board material and use it as fuel. Someone wrote something less than flattering about you on their blog or training log? Someone’s Tweeting about how hard they are because they run X miles or they have X wakeup time? Even if there’s no particular malice, as hard as they may think they are, you can be harder and make them eat their boastful words on race day. While they’re running their mouths, you should be running, period.