If you’re a runner, winter can feel like the enemy. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s a miserable time to be outside running. Unless you have a home treadmill — which is its own version of purgatory — you’re looking at three less-than-ideal options: Joining a gym that has one, braving the elements in spite of it all or hitting the couch instead of the track.
No matter what, you’re looking at a recipe for backsliding. It’s a common enough situation, and we’re here to help you get back on track, both literally and figuratively.
Here are five ways to do exactly that:
REMIND YOURSELF WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT RUNNING
“It’s important to remember that getting ‘off the wagon’ is an indication that you didn’t like the wagon you were on in the first place,” says Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, CEO and run coach at iRunTons. “So if you find yourself skipping workouts, eating unhealthy foods or feeling low motivation in general, then you have an opportunity to ask yourself what needs to change so you feel fueled by your workouts, your nutrition and your life.”
We’ll talk about some of those things later on, but as far as running itself is concerned, consider adjusting the following things:
- Where you run. A new trail or track can breathe fresh air into a familiar routine.
- When you run. Switching day for night, thanks to the increase in available sunshine, can liven up the experience.
- How you run. Maybe it’s a new piece of running gear, maybe it’s a new playlist or podcast, maybe it’s a new running partner. Introducing something a little different can stave off boredom.
- Your goals. Maybe you hit yours last fall and need a new challenge. Or maybe yours is perpetually out of reach and you’re frustrated. In any case, re-examine what you’ve accomplished (and what you haven’t), and make new plans for this year — whether it’s running your first half-marathon, accumulating a set number of miles or setting a new PR for your regular distance.
MIX IT UP
Perhaps you’re burned out on your workout routine, tired of eating certain foods or just need a little shakeup — well, spring is the perfect time to explore your options. “If you’re a runner but find you just can’t get out the door, then change it up,” says Gallagher-Mohler. “Take a TRX class, or get on the bike for great cross-training.”
Remember running isn’t just running: Strength exercises for your legs and core help get your body back in shape and introduce variety to your body maintenance. (Ideally, you’ve been doing those when you weren’t running.)
Finally, even if you can’t peel off an easy 5-mile run like you did last fall, you can take advantage of the nicer weather by hitting the track for some high-intensity interval training or speed runs as a way of getting back up to speed.
TRY NEW FOODS
A stretch of bad eating is a great chance to hit reset on your whole plan. “If your healthy foods are lackluster — and the alcohol, cookies and other non-fueling foods are so much more appealing than your salad — then look for new recipes where flavor and quality nutrition unite,” Gallagher-Mohler says. “You don’t have to suffer through every meal, or every workout. Sure, some days may need a little extra grit, but if that’s more days than not, see it as an opportunity to try something new.”
Make a list of the healthy foods you truly enjoy eating and look for new ways to incorporate them into your diet. Research recipes that make those standbys feel almost new. And then seek out a few things you’ve always wanted to try, and introduce them when you can. Variety being the spice of life and all that.
FIND A PARTNER
It’s no secret having someone to hold you accountable — a friend, a coach, a run buddy, a running group in your hometown or even an online community through an app like MapMyRun — can help you hit your goals. This is especially true when you’re looking to get back to where you once were. Even if you’re just reconnecting with someone you used to run with, making this a team effort eases your transition to your healthier, pre-malaise routine.
If you’ve taken a month off, don’t expect to get out there and pick up where you left off — that’s a great way to get injured. Instead, set in-between goals to help you get back to your old self. What those goals are, and how much time you’ll need to hit them, really depends on how you feel when you get back. That said, you might surprise yourself by how quickly you revert to form.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Really, that’s what it’s all about: Remembering that, even after a few weeks of mistreatment, your body is still capable of amazing things. If you need a final piece of motivation, let that be it: Your body is yours to be nourished, challenged and taken care of. Feeding it the good stuff, and challenging it out on the trail, track or streets is still the best way to reconnect with your own awesomeness. Inspiring, isn’t it?