Running in the snow

Running Through Winter

When you’re training for a spring marathon, running through the winter can be a challenge, but your race-day success depends on your dedication and commitment at the start of the year. Dr Josephine Perry, a Sports Psychology Consultant who has run the Virgin Money London Marathon twice, has put together some top tips to get you through the cold, dark days of your marathon training…

  1. Use winter training time as an opportunity to find some new and inspiring running routes. Research at Barry University in the USA asked long distance runners to record their thoughts as they were running. They found that the environment the runners were in made a big difference to how much they enjoyed each run. Researcher Duncan Simpson found that positive thoughts about the environment would lessen the pain or discomfort some were feeling so, to make your runs feel easier, pick visually appealing places to run.
  2. Find an additional purpose for some of your runs. This could be commuting to work, running with GoodGym, networking with others from work on a regular lunchtime run or even indulging your Eastenders habit on the treadmill. This will keep you on track to complete the session and help you to feeling like marathon training is fitting into your life, rather than taking it over.
  3. If you can, run first thing in the morning. This is hard if you have the body clock of an owl but it is the best way to ensure your training in not derailed by a busy day at work or unexpected events. It means your training is out of the way and you can feel smug all day, rather than anxious about still having to go out and complete a session.
  4. If you do save your training for the evening then get changed as soon as you get home; do not sit down for a cup of tea first. It will be so much harder to get out of the door if you are warm and cosy.
  5. If conditions are bad (but not dangerous) remember that the conditions during the  marathon could also be bad, so going out now will be great practice. Knowing you’ve already triumphed over bad conditions will massively increase your confidence come race day and reduce any anxieties you may have.
  6. If it is safe to do so, or if you are on a treadmill, then pump up the volume. Research by Dr Costas Karageorghis at Brunel University has found that running while listening to music that you find motivational can improve your performance by up to 20 per cent. He found music puts runners in better moods, lowers oxygen consumption and improves running economy.
  7. If you are running 30 miles a week over a 16-week marathon programme, you are going to be running around 500 miles as you prepare for your 26.2-mile challenge, which means some variation of running surfaces you choose will be good for both your body and your mind. Consider different types of running, such as trail, treadmill, track, orienteering or cross country to take your mind off some of the monotony, strengthen your legs and improve your running technique.
  8. Set yourself a running challenge. Some runners find signing up to online challenges like Advent running (running at least 5K a day in December) can keep them on track, others like to do some fun races (Santa Run anyone?) or get creative by using their run to create some Strava Art (google it – you’ll find some great creations).
  9. If you need some company on cold winter runs and have no local running buddies then download some running podcasts. These will entertain, educate and distract you. Some to try include: Marathon Talk, Tough Girl, Talk Ultra, Babbittville Radio or WISP Sports Radio. There is a fantastic list here
  10. Finally, take solace in the fact that running in the winter is good for you. Recent research from Professor John Brewer at St Mary’s University has found that running in winter weather lowers your heart rate and your dehydration levels, reducing the cardiovascular strain on your body. Enjoy!