We all know how hard it can be to drop everything, change into our workout skivvies, and head out for a run. Add a little rain, wind, ice, and darkness to the mix and the chances of getting out the door become even slimmer. Wouldn't it just be easier to crack a cold one and watch some Biggest Loser? Well, sure. But then the fitness we've worked so hard to gain during the warmer months would go right out the window.
Here's how I'm staying motivated this winter, and how you can, too..
1) Set a Goal for Spring - Decide to do something big by May, and commit to it. Your goal should be concrete and measurable. "Get faster" and "lose some weight" do not count, because they leave too much wiggle room in the training plan you'll create in Step 2. My goal is the Eugene Marathon. But I won't just train to complete the race, I'll train to PR and break 3 hours. See... concrete, measurable. If you can commit to your goal financially, do it. Register for that race, reserve a hotel room, do it now. Make your goal real and impossible to ignore.
2) Create a Plan and Keep a Journal - Now that you've got a goal, it's time to work backward from that date to today. What weekly mileage will you need to be running and how can you build to it safely? Do you need to incorporate track work or cross-training? I like to plan at least one month out using a simple online spreadsheet, which also serves as my log. Check it out. Whether you do it online or on paper, a plan and a journal will map baby steps to your goal, and keep you honest.
3) Reward Yourself for Success - It's important to celebrate small victories. Didn't miss a workout all week? Crack a cold one and watch some Biggest Loser! Reached a new milestone in your weekly long run? Buy yourself some cushy new running socks! And think about how you'll reward yourself in May, too. I'll probably continue my marathon tradition of a bloody mary and a bacon cheeseburger.
4) Allow Yourself Some Missteps - The purpose of a goal, plan, and journal is not to intimidate. It's a system of checks and balances. So don't beat yourself up over a missed workout or a day when you couldn't run as far as you planned. In fact, it can be kind of liberating to write in your log, "Was supposed to do 800-meter repeats, but decided it was a good day to hang out in my pajamas, read the newspaper, and eat pizza rolls" (just don't do that too often).
5) Embrace the Season - Winter is a great time to train! The cooler weather allows us to run farther and faster without overheating. I know some folks move inside at the first sign of rain, but I say get off the treadmill, put on a jacket, and get outside. Stick out your tongue and catch snowflakes. Don't step around puddles, stomp through them. Toughen up, Sally. Embrace the winterness... run like a little kid!