Motivation: Some Tricks of the Trade

AJWs TaproomIt seems to me that runners often have difficulty staying motivated at this time of year. Many factors seem to be at play here, not the least of which are the end of a long season of racing, lousy weather, and dwindling hours of daylight. Add to this all the distractions of the holiday season and it can be downright challenging for even the most devoted runner to keep getting out the door.

As such, I have created a short, five-item, motivational checklist for these next few months. I am sure readers will have some of their own tricks but here, for now, are a few of mine:

1. Holiday Excesses: Rich food, great sweets, and wonderful holiday brews all combine to make this season rough on the waistline. However, to be able to indulge guilt-free, we need to get out there every day. Those sugar cookies rinsed down with a Gingerbread Stout taste a heck of a lot better after a nice, long run and that second helping of turkey and stuffing is easier to stomach on the heels of a speed workout.

2. Competitive Juices: As much as we’re all struggling to get off the couch these days, I am certain that the best runners are getting out there and if I don’t follow suit, I’ll fall further and further behind them. While a select few are endowed with impeccable genes that allow for slacking off without any ill effects, most mortals need to keep those legs moving even through snow, sleet, and sludge. Knowing that all the other guys are out there, too, sometimes gives me the push I need.

3. Surprise Opportunities: For some reason some of the sweetest sections of trail with some of the nicest views are revealed when we least expect them. With all the leaves off the trees and the air generally clear, winter is a time when we can see the world anew. Sometimes just getting out on a trail at a different time of day can jar my perspective a wee bit and provide reflection and revelation in the midst of the mundane.

4. Testing Ground: With many of us taking a break from racing, winter is a great time to test new gear, experiment with alternative nutrition strategies, and work on running form. While these three things aren’t necessarily motivational, I have found that it can be exciting and give me something to look forward to when I think of trying a new pair of shoes, experimenting with a new gel flavor, or attempting to actually run with a forefoot plant.

5. Group Dynamics: Finding a group to run with is always a good way to stay after it, especially in the winter. For some reason, the old adage “misery loves company” is particularly true for runners at this time of year. Plus, knowing that there are people waiting for you at the trailhead in the dark should be motivation enough to turn off the alarm clock, get the coffee brewing, and lace ’em up.

So get out there and embrace the misery!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week
Hardywood Gingerbread StoutThis week’s Beer of the Week was just released this week from Hardywood Park Brewing in Richmond, Virginia. Their Gingerbread Stout is a spicy blend of holiday flavors that is not too sweet or too subtle. A great beer to sip after a chilly, late-afternoon slog.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Do you ever have trouble getting motivated to run this time of year?
  • If so, how do you go about dealing with it?
  • Are you one of the lucky ones who’s facing some of the best running weather of the year right now?

There are 20 comments

  1. Jeff Faulkner

    Down here in Florida this is actually the best time of year to run! No extra motivation required for me. Happy Holidays to you all.

        1. StumpWater

          Ditto for NC! I'm just back in the door from a two hour run which was superawesomelyfantastic. Love me some Fall/Winter in North Cackelacky!

  2. Stack

    this could fall under your point #2 but it seems to me like one of the best motivators for people tends to be races. there's nothing like having a race on the calendar to encourage you to get your butt out the door and get in a run.

  3. Andy

    A few ideas that work for me:

    (1) Clothes/gear — maybe it's my girlie side, but breaking out (or in) the new long sleeve tops, winter shoes, or even snowshoes, can be a motivator.

    (2) Some of our usually gnarly trails turn blissfully smooth with a layer of white packed on top. The downhills can be a total blast. Who needs skis?

    (3) Most trail/ultrarunners are not afraid of a little challenge; it's one of the inherent appeals. So testing ourselves against the elements, the frozen terrain, or the canting late day sunlight should be viewed as a chance to test our mettle, not hibernate. Happy (winter) trails!

  4. Pete

    Beyond running there are many great cross training opportunities in the off season as well. By limiting running and hitting a gym it can allow your body to recover and strengthen the components that running has broken down. By doing this it will keep one healthy and still in good shape. All though some running specific shape may be lost it will come back quick and you will better off in the long run investing in 4-6 weeks of cross training. Surprised this wasn't presented as one of the options.

  5. Elliot

    All great ideas. I run rather early and sometimes I've had trouble sucking it up and getting out there. This is a nicely timed post. Thanks!! Number 2 is a major motivator to me.

  6. Patrick

    I agree with Pete. I have recently taken up biking 9 miles one way to work. The dark and cold greet me each morning but I know I'll feel great when I get there. Good form of crosstraining. I also agree with the off-season weights.

    1. Pete

      I basically use a variety of crossfit type workouts with some running splattered in. I focus on building up all the parts i have broken down running. In hopes that it will help my body hold up during running season. Crossfit includes many forms of weights. I go very light on the weight though as the goal isnt to build mass just strength

  7. J.Xander

    This year I decided to take on two winter events:

    Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    I am training for these two days of excess as if they were races. I plan on showing up to each event in good shape and giving it my best effort. Ultimate goal is three fold: maintain a good pace and enjoy the scenery (rich foods, rich drinks and good company) and have a quick recovery.

    After these two events I'll need a little break before I start gearing up for XC ski season.

  8. George

    Great advice Pete, I was waiting to hear this to have some support what I am currently doing. Throwing in 4 days a week of 'Insanity' workouts has made me stronger and faster during trail races for sure and what a perfect time to do it, when the trails are dark and the risk of injury is higher from tripping hazards. Good to get in a couple night runs a week though just to keep your brain in shape for those long 60-100 mile races where you're sure to be running in the dark.

  9. Tommy

    I love this time of year. My problem is finding time with hunting season. At least I get to hike countless miles through the hills with hunters. Does that count? Say…it IS no shave November. Can we start a beard thread (sorry about that being off topic).

  10. Wonderswede

    Here in Singapore it is 32 C (90 F) all year around so no change in environmental conditions. But the excess eating and drinking is a familiar problem and it will drag on as Chinese New Year is in early February…ho ho ho happy hols

  11. Cody S

    Aside from it being much better running weather in central Arkansas, I find signing up for a race in January (Bandera 100k) helps with the motivation! Looming only 6 weeks away, it's pretty good motivation to keep the training going in early December.

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