Winter. A time to gather with loved ones round the golden glow of the hearth, to pull on the blanket grandma made and wrap your hands around a steaming mug of hot cocoa, to unwind and reflect upon the hard-earned accomplishments of the year gone by.
Unless, of course, you’re a weathered winter warrior. Then, winter becomes just the newest hurdle. A time to test your mettle, to look out at the dark, cold night and say, the cocoa can wait. To pummel excuses until they can’t get up, stepping over them and out the door to become a stronger runner, and a greater, grittier version of your best self.
Winter runners know that time under the blanket is gonna feel so much cozier cuddled up with the feeling of goal set, goal reached. Just like running in the warmer months, setting goals will help motivate you to work harder. It’s just that, in the wintertime, you need to re-adjust your sights to reflect the conditions you’ll be up against. Because out there in all that snow, slush and rain, and sometimes all three, there are serious benefits to winter running that will help when happy race days are here again.
It's all about the heart. And although it is true that your heart is one muscle that can directly benefit from exercise in the cold, as it revs up to distribute more blood and keep the body warm, that’s not the heart we’re talking about here.
When you shift your goals away from traditional time and pace markers, and towards toughening your mental game, you can make real strides over the winter months that aren’t available to you when it’s easier to get out the door. In fact, there's a big win in that very first step. Overcoming that little voice in your head that feeds you excuses to not run today will benefit you in the last kilometer of a race later, when that little voice pipes up again to suggest maybe you’ve done enough for the day.
Once you’re outside and moving, the winter landscape can offer a place of solitude and quiet reflection that’s harder to come by when you're sweating it out to the clicks of a stopwatch. Most people are huddled indoors, so you might feel like you have the whole world to yourself. And with fresh snow like a blank slate all around you, you’re in a good place to meditate on where you’re at with your training and how to get where you want to go.
It’s well-documented that winter’s decrease in daylight and increase in miserable weather can adversely affect your mood. And in Canada where winter can last seemingly forever, this is something to consider. Running in the cold gets those endorphins working overtime, as your body works harder to keep warm, so that you simply feel better. It’s not hard to draw the line from a confident, positive attitude through the winter to big success in the spring.
Winter running presents its challenges, no doubt. But that’s exactly what makes it a worthwhile addition to your playbook. Consider it practice, of a different sort. A series of shinny games against fear. Because it’s the winter runner’s little victories that pave the road to the big ones. Even when you need a snow plow to see it.