5 Tips for Winter Running Motivation

5 Tips for Winter Running Motivation

Got the Winter Running Blues? 5 Tips for Staying Motivated When the Cold Moves In

The rewards that come with winter running far outweigh the challenges, but sometimes getting outside takes a little extra motivation.

Given the all-too-obvious obstacles, it’s no surprise that indoor running tracks, treadmills and gyms lure many of us inside during the winter months with the promise of ease and comfort. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

What if we started to look at winter from a different perspective: beautiful, refreshing, and transformative? A challenge worthy of the extra effort and inspiring in its own right. The Swedish have a term for something very close to this mindset: friluftsliv. It’s an idea ingrained in Swedish culture and describes, “a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast.”*

For some, this hopeful perspective is enough to get out the door, no matter what’s waiting on the other side. For most, it’s just a start—a little extra motivation may be required. Luckily, there are endless ways to help you make winter your time to shine. Here are a few that have kept us running outside winter after winter:


1. Find your winter running community

Friends at a group run
Photo: Amanda Cortese

Although winter running isn’t for everyone, there are hearty souls out there for you to team up with. Countless clubs and organizations are active year-round and—while fewer in number than during the summer months—winter events like fun runs and races do exist! 

As a member of a running club, it’s easier to brave the winter weather when other humans are counting on you to show up. And taking on challenging conditions together is a great way to bond with others and meet new friends.

Signing up for events is another way to stay social and use your local running community for motivation. Races or fun runs will give you something to work toward, provide an opportunity to learn some new winter running hacks, and doing them regularly can double as mini-fitness tests as your season progresses. 


2. Give yourself something to train for

Runner at sunset in race
Photo: Austin Corbett

Participating in winter events—while rewarding—isn’t always practical. We all have time constraints, and many of us live where events aren’t easily accessible. Fortunately, signing up for a larger summer event can provide the extra push needed to stay consistent throughout the winter.

Like joining a running club or participating in winter events, these larger once-yearly gatherings encourage accountability and consistency. When we sign up for an event that only happens once a year, requires some travel, and may even be on our bucket list, we want to put our best foot forward, which means putting in the work—no matter what conditions look like outside!


3. Don’t be afraid to hit the road

Photo: Corey McMullen

Slippery surfaces that are part of winter running are a safety concern to be taken seriously, but with the right gear, running on ice and snow can be safe and comfortable. And running on the road can provide surprisingly effective winter training for trail runners.

If safety concerns are keeping you off of roads and sidewalks during the winter, we recommend trying footwear traction like NANOspikes™ or EXOspikes™. These slippery surface essentials will help you traverse ice and snow-covered terrain with confidence and are designed to be barely noticeable underfoot. If your runs take you on a mix of road and trail, EXOspikes™ are the way to go as they specialize in mixed terrain. If you plan to stick to roads and sidewalks, NANOspikes™ are your best bet; their ultra-low profile won’t impact your stride. Pair one of these with our ultra-light INSTAgaiter™ to keep your feet and ankles fully protected from wind, snow and cold. 

For the trail runners out there, road running can be a quick and easy alternative when days are short and time is limited. Getting out on a nearby road or sidewalk is quicker and easier than driving to a trailhead, and road running in the winter is often more like trail running than you think: Snow—both soft and packed—and ice on roads and sidewalks can make otherwise hard uniform surfaces uneven, requiring more dynamic movement.


4. Try cross-training

Skiiers going uphill at ski resort
Photo: Amanda Cortese

As the saying goes, “Sometimes a change is as good as a rest.” So, if you find yourself burnt out or otherwise lacking motivation, maybe it’s time to try something different. Cross-training is a great way to stay fit while giving your mind something new to focus on. 

Snowshoeing, hiking, cross-country skiing and ski touring are just a few activities that can keep your running (aerobic) engine strong while providing a mental and physical break during the off-season. 

If you’re in the Flagstaff area, why not give an event like our Kahtoola Uphill a try? Hiking, running or skinning up the slopes of the Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort for a great cause is certainly a unique experience that is sure to get the blood pumping!


5. Embark on a new adventure

Women running and smiling in the snow
Photo: Corey McMullen

Winter has the power to transform landscapes, and with fewer people venturing out, it’s the opportune time for new adventures.

Not everyone finds the motivation they need to keep running outside all winter long, which means sidewalks, pathways and trails rarely see the same amount of traffic they do in the summer. That can be a good thing for those of us who do get out because we’re free to explore places we might avoid during the busier summer months. 

In the same way that winter can transform busy summer trails, it has the power to make old running routes feel new again. Many things that make winter running challenging—ice, snow, the crisp cold air—can profoundly change landscapes and experiences. No matter how often we run a particular trail or stretch of road in the summer, the fallen leaves, unique terrain, frost, changing light, darkness and even Christmas lights can turn them into a distinctly new world waiting to be explored.


A change in perspective

We’ve made helping people embrace the outdoors a key part of our mission here at Kahtoola. The truth is, during the winter months, that’s often easier said than done. But it can be done—and to great effect—with a little bit of motivation and the right mindset. Finding community, setting goals and welcoming the positive changes winter brings are practical ways to keep your running consistent and will help make winter a time to look forward to. Choose friluftsliv!


 *Jen Rose Smith, “What is ‘friluftsliv’? How an idea of outdoor living could help us this winter,” National Geographic, September 11, 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/how-norways-friluftsliv-could-help-us-through-a-coronavirus-winter