How to Motivate Yourself to Run Outside When It’s Cold

As much as I like to brag about what a badass (work with me) winter runner I am, I do kind of hate it.

It’s dark. And cold. There is no sunlight to warm you. There is no light to show you things on the ground that you can trip over. Drivers don’t always see you, even when you’re wearing bright colors and a reflective hat. Everyone else out walking at night wears all black, therefore you can’t see them until they are 5 feet away and they startle you. You can’t run on the trails, so you’re limited to the same boring loops around your neighborhood. Did I mention it’s cold?

Plus you have to dress like a total nerd:

Running fashion blogger, I am not Ready for night running

So it definitely takes some extra motivation to get my butt out the door for a run this time of year. This is what works for me:

Spend money on it. I have a dresser full of running clothes (a dresser – how did that happen???) and it includes a few pairs of running tights, long sleeve base layers, vests, jackets, hats, headbands, gloves, neck warmer, various reflective things … and I can’t let that go to waste, can I?

Bargain with yourself. I tell myself that given the conditions, just getting out there, even if it’s for a short run, is something. If I want to just do 2 miles, that’s fine, I still got out there. Although usually once I’m out there, and warmed up (which usually happens between miles 1 and 2), I keep going and do my usual 4-5 miles.

You can always stop at home. I have yet to do this, but the first couple of miles of any cold, dark run are the worst, because you’re still warming up. I should throw on an extra layer, and plan my run so I stop home after a mile or two, when I can ditch that layer.

What else are you going to do? I don’t have kids. What else am I going to do with me time? (Read? Cook? Nahhhhhh.)

Think about bikini season. Yes, it’s months and months away. Think of what a head start you’ll have! Especially if you never let last season’s bikini body (or your attempts at achieving one) go away.

Think about next year’s races. If you’re doing a spring marathon, then you have to start training now or soon. But if you’re doing a fall marathon? (Or races of other distances?) Think of the awesome base you’re building. Next year will be the year of PR’s for you! And you’ll do much better at races if you keep training in race-like conditions. (I have yet to find a race on a treadmill.)

Stuff your face with Christmas cookies. Then you have to run. That’s how it works, right? You have to earn your treats? (Like a dog?)

Think of it as an up-close-and-personal tour of Christmas lights. Sure, you could drive around in your warm car, with Christmas music playing, and look at the lights. But that’s no fun. OK, it’s fun, but running is … funner.

Keep bragging about running outside in the winter. If you keep bragging about it, you can’t be a hypocrite.

Make it social. If your weekly group run is the only time you see your running friends … what, are you just going to “break up” until spring? Don’t be a fair-weather friend! (Literally.) Bonus: make a date for post-run beers. Then it’s not so much “running outside” but going for a pre-beer run.

There is no bad weather, just bad gear. If you have the right gear, you can safely run in temps down to single digits, maybe even colder (but even I have my limits). However, I’ll be the first to admit that rainy + cold is a crappy combination and unless it’s a race, I would probably take that run indoors, or move it to another day. But snowy and cold is fine.

Read more:  How to Survive Winter Running, Part One – What to Wear and Part Two – Survival Strategies

What else helps get you out the door when it’s dark and below freezing? 

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8 Comments on “How to Motivate Yourself to Run Outside When It’s Cold”

  1. This is such a great post! I need this in my training right now as I have ZERO motivation to run. Im 6 weeks into training for the a half marathon I am doing in January and I am getting lazy. I totally like the christmas cookie logic

  2. You know, sometimes I whine about how hot it gets down here in the summer, but then I read a post like this and I realize how spoiled I am. That said, the few times I’ve run in the serious cold have been an adventure! I probably think it’s more fun than it really is because I don’t have to deal with it all the time.

    1. I don’t mind the cold so much, I just really hate when it’s DARK and cold. If I could do all my winter running during the day, it would actually be kind of nice.

  3. In January – March 2011I had standing twice-weekly running outings in the evenings and it helped me PR at every distance! That base is so helpful!

  4. I love all of these tips. Now that I’m getting back into the swing of things, I am making a point to try and avoid excuses and get into a routine. As tough as it is, spring running is so much more fun with a great base built throughout the winter. 🙂

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