by Tom Mangan, Asheville Marathon Ambassador

A good part of the country experienced some unseasonably cold weather recently.  For many runners, it was a wakeup call that the winter training season is nearly upon us.  Races such as the Asheville Marathon + Half at Biltmore Estate that are held in mid-March mean the standard 18-week training cycle starts as the leaves fall off the trees, the days get shorter, and the temperatures drop.

Rather than let our training fall victim to its own seasonal affective disorder, let’s explore a few ways to stay motivated when training through the winter months.

1. Sign up for fall and winter races.  Whether you run fast or slow, long or far, it doesn’t matter.  The main purpose is simply to get outside. Many communities hold Turkey Trots (such as the Biltmore Park Turkey Trot, and the New Year’s Resolution Run) Ugly Sweater Runs, and other theme races around the holidays.  Not only are they a great excuse to run outdoors, they’re perfect for getting family and friends involved. The cold doesn’t seem so cold when it’s experienced with friends.

2. Mix it up.  Instead of wearing your favorite running clothes all the time, make a point to wear something different on every run.  Many of us have more running shirts than we could ever wear. Grab something from the bottom of the pile and remind yourself of some of the various races you’ve completed over the years.  Another plus is that it may cause us to toss a few items in the donation pile. (You can also buy vintage Asheville Marathon Merchandise to  motivate you on your training runs). 

3. Keep it fun.  There will be days when only the most hard-core runners will be outside.  Don’t force yourself to run outside when the weather isn’t cooperating. Keep your training on track by doing Pilates, spin class, swimming, or another activity.  Your body and mind will appreciate the variety. Two words: hot yoga. 

4. Learn to love…or at least like…the treadmill.  As one who has run 100 miles on a treadmill, I tend to roll my eyes when people say they can’t handle running on a treadmill or that they get too bored after two or three miles.  Place the treadmill by a window rather than a basement wall.

One of the best things I did to make the time go by during the 100 miler was to skip the running playlist. I listened to full albums instead and it made the experience a lot more engaging.  I was reminded of songs I like but haven’t listened to in quite some time. Playlists are quite segmented, whereas album can draw you in for 45 minutes or so. Pro tip: orchestra music is perfect for treadmill running.

5. Think of how you’ll feel when you’re done – and how much worse you may feel if you don’t run.  Your March self will be glad your present-day self put in the effort. Don’t let your future self down.

6. Find a friend as crazy as you.  Peer pressure can really hold us accountable.  It’s easier to climb out from under the warm blankets when you know there is someone who is relying on you.

7. Print your race registration and hang it on the inside of your medicine cabinet.  Every time you go to grab your toothbrush you’ll be reminded of an upcoming great weekend at Biltmore. (Blog: Lady’s Weekend Getaway Ideas)

8. Make it as easy as possible for you to get out of bed and out for a run.  Set a special ringtone for your wakeup alarm. Lay out your running clothes and put them near a heater so they feel great when you put them on (and so you won’t have to waste time thinking about what to wear in the morning).  Do your warmup and stretching indoors where it’s comfy so that as soon as you step outside you can start running immediately.

9. Enjoy the uniqueness of the season.  Take pleasure in hearing the unique crunch under your feet as you run in the leaves.  Leave fun tracks in the snow. Marvel at the way your headlamp reflects off the ice on the trees.  You can be cold and miserable, or you can run and have fun. The distance is the same either way.

10. Be social.  While some may think it’s bragging, posting about completing a run can be beneficial.  The biggest benefit won’t come from the amount of “likes” you get, though that can be a reassurance that making the decision to get out of bed while it was still dark and cold was worth it.  The biggest benefit can actually come from the inspiration it provides to others who need a little bit of a boost to get their miles in.

11. Be realistic.  Race day weather for mid-March races can be unpredictable to say the least.  I’ve run races that have had temperatures in the teens one year and in the 80s another year, training in fall and winter can prepare us for anything that might come our way on race day.  Anyone can run in ideal conditions. Being uncomfortable in the short term can pay off many times over in the long run.

12. Bonus tip:  On the days when you’re running outside in the worst conditions, plan your route so that you’re going in as straight a route from your house as possible.  If you have six miles planned, for example, running a three-mile straight route will mean you can’t cut your route short. Any turns you make will only make your route longer.  The first 20 minutes are the worst for most runners, so running straight away from your house won’t allow you to cut a run short.

13. Remind yourself of why it’s important and what it will feel like to cross the finish line.  Every step you take in training for the race is an investment in an enjoyable finish line experience.  Put yourself in a position to finish the race without any regrets. Give Purpose for your training miles and consider joining a Charity Fundraising Group such as The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Team in Training for the Asheville Marathon and Half. A built in network of training and friends comes along with this purposeful experience! Click here to learn more about raising funds with Team in Training: JOIN TEAM IN TRAINING

14. Bonus tip #2:  Every running playlist I have on my phone has the song “Take the Long Way Home” on it.  It’s not that I particularly like the song – in fact, sometimes I really hate hearing it – I simply appreciate the title.  Any time the song comes up during a run, I automatically add one mile to my run that day. I listen to my playlists on shuffle, so there is no real way to predict when it will pop up.  It usually comes up when I least want it to but when I probably need it most.


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