How to keep motivated & continue running through the winter months

How to keep motivated & continue running through the winter months

As the dark mornings and evenings set in and the weather turns colder, it can feel more difficult for us to get outside and complete the running we have planned. Who hasn’t experienced those thoughts of, “just five more minutes in bed,” or at the end of a busy day at work “I’m so tired, I’ll run tomorrow?”

Firstly, you are not alone in feeling this way. Going into the winter months, our bodies are adapting to less daylight, it is getting colder and then we add into the mix, a sprinkle of rain, snow or ice! All these factors can have an impact on our energy levels and mood, but the good news is that by recognising this, we can put some strategies in place that can support us in maintaining our motivation.

So, what is motivation? Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. We can have various factors that drive us to engage in running and these can be beneficial to recognise.

Extrinsic motivation is when external factors influence us working towards our goals. This can be the desire to obtain that Running Woman medal, treating ourselves to a new running item of clothing or the social recognition we can get from others when we smash that 10km.

Intrinsic motivation is associated with inspiration from within and is generally a stronger force as it can provide a sense of fulfilment. Examples of this include the desire to enhance our running, well-being, or enjoyment of hitting the pavement and being at one with nature.

Intrinsic rewards have been found to have a greater impact on performance, but by including extrinsic factors we can supercharge our motivation for running. It can be beneficial to incorporate both factors to have the best results on remaining motivated.

So how can we increase our motivation for running throughout the winter months?

Set yourself realistic and measurable goals.

This could be related to the amount of time you run, numbers of days you will run each week or the distance you wish to cover in a month. Writing this down in a diary for the week ahead and ticking it off can provide a sense of focus and achievement. Factors that can increase your chances of success and increase intrinsic motivation are:

  • Associate your goal with a value that is important to you. This could be supporting a local charity by raising money via sponsorship or modelling a healthy lifestyle to your children.
  • Recognise how far you have come so far, rather than how much you need still need to do. If training for a half marathon, congratulate yourself and recognise when you found it difficult to run to the bottom of the road when smashing your first 8km, rather than reminding yourself of the additional 13 km you will need to run.

Don’t push too hard.

The brain will pair running from our previous experiences. If we push ourselves too hard, the association will be discomfort, tiredness, and a lack of enjoyment. We can increase our motivation by focusing on what makes our runs more enjoyable. This could include slowing things down, finding different routes with new scenery or running with a friend.

Recognise potential obstacles and determine solutions to solve them.

There will be times when other aspects of life make getting out for a run feel more challenging. Try to recognise the excuses that are likely to pop up from past experiences in advance and remind yourself of why you want to run. An example of this could be “I’m so tired and want to watch TV” to “I know that having a 30-minute run will increase my energy levels and I will feel so much better afterwards.”

Group running.

There are numerous benefits of being a member of a running group. This can include running with others to motivate us to show up, having a set time each week put in the diary to increase consistency or that healthy competitive aspect of getting to the front of the pack! Virtual groups can allow us to share our accomplishments, hear about other runners wins and a way of being held accountable.

Consistency is key.

On days where you have limited time and are unable to complete your desired distance, get yourself out for whatever time you have available instead of writing your run-off altogether. It is easier to keep the momentum going if you are consistent and stick to getting out there and remember any run is better than no run!!

I hope these tips will be helpful in lacing up those trainers and hitting the pavement in the coming weeks. If you have any other tips for the group that you have found to be helpful in increasing your motivation, it would be great to hear about them.

This article was written by Dr Sarah Berger, Senior Clinical Psychologist, co-owner of Stressed Out to Feeling Fabulous & long standing member of the Running Woman community

1 comment

  • Marian Ainslie

    I need motivation this time of year I suffer with pneumonia alot so need to keep jogging

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