Mastering Winter Long Runs
The best tips to have your best winter long run
The average temperature in NJ in January is a frigid 31 degrees. With temperatures that cold who the heck would want to go outside and do any kind of running? I’ve run in NJ winters for 19 years and I don’t think it gets any easier. Each January and February I always question my sanity: “why do I keep doing this to myself?” is probably the biggest and most often heard question that comes out of my mouth.
Since I’m going to be running a March marathon, the majority (all of it) will be run in the coldest months of the year. It’s something that I’m not really looking forward to, but I’m also a realist and know that this is the best chance I’ll ever have to actually run 26.2 miles.
Most, if not all, of my long runs will be done outside and so I’ll need a solid game plan in place if I want these runs to be mostly enjoyable. Sure, I have access to a treadmill at my gym, but I’m certain that cold and windy miles will be 10x better than treadmill miles! My goal is to make this both a really good learning experience, but also a very positive one. Because of that, I’m going to make a list of all the ways I can make running outside in the winter and hope that I come back to this when I’m struggling to get out for a long run.
7 Tips to Have Productive Long Runs in the Winter
Meet a friend for the majority of the run.
We have to know that someone holding us accountable is one of the best ways to get motivated and get out the door when you’d rather not. RunningUnlimited agrees by saying, “a running group means there are more people who are counting on you to show up, and who you would let down if you do not go for a run with them.” More than anything, having someone you wouldn’t want to let down will help get you out the door.
Do my active warm-up drills inside before the run.
Getting your blood circulating while you still have the chance to be warm is a big key to making the transition to the outside cold a little easier. Feeling looser and more limber will also allow that first mile to be more than a shuffle and you’ll find your pace easier to maintain because you’ve warmed up properly.
Put my running clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes prior to running.
I read that even a quick 5 minutes on a low setting can warm up your clothes just enough to take the sting and bite out of a sub-30 degree day.
Check the forecast and pick the best possible day to go long.
If a Sunday looks snowy, wet, or downright dreadful, it might be a good idea to move the run to Saturday or Monday. As a coach, I think it’s important for runners to be flexible and also have the self-awareness that if a run is way more enjoyable it’s more likely to get done in its entirety.
Split a really long run into 2 medium runs (Example: Friday night, Saturday morning).
This isn’t ideal, but I’m not against it at all. When I have a 20 miler and the weekend is just downright awful, I might do a Friday night 12-mile run and an early Saturday 8 miler. Yes, it’s not a 20-mile run, but in terms of time on your feet, it’s something that can be done if it has to be done.
Warm up on the treadmill, work out outside, cool down on the treadmill.
I really like this idea of getting in the slower running inside on the treadmill, moving outside for the actual workout (remembering to change into dry and warmer clothes), doing the speedier workout outside, and finishing the run with a cool down back on the treadmill.
Schedule time in your calendar specifically for the run AND write what you actually did in your training log.
When time is blocked out in a calendar it’s harder to ignore it. A training log is so important to track your mileage and workouts. When you see progress in the form of weekly mileage or faster times, it’s a huge mental boost. That mental boost is just what you might be looking for to get you out into the cold.
My winter goal every year is to log happy and healthy miles. This year, specifically, I will be training for my first marathon and it’s super important for me to be happy during training. Yes, training for a marathon isn’t fun – tired legs, skipping out on late nights, but I truly like running and so this isn’t something that I’m regretting one bit.
Spring races happen and therefore, so do long runs. Despite it being really cold in NJ in the winter, I’ll need to find the motivation, energy, and willpower to train in the cold. With some extra planning on my part, I’ll still be able to get outside for my longer runs and workouts.
I want to run a good first marathon, so being as prepared as I can be is paramount. The longer runs and some workouts need to be done outside so I acclimate my body to the rigors of running a marathon. I’ll spend time planning and preparing so that I can have a good run even though the outside temps will be really brutal. If I can use some of the 7 tactics above, I’ll get my longer runs and workouts done while staying positive, happy, and most importantly, getting fitter.
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Marc is a middle school Special Education teacher and the distance track and cross country coach who also works with distance runners seeking personal bests. He blogs at TrainwithMarc.com and writes a Friday newsletter. You can find everything Marc is working on here.