Let’s be honest, training this time of year is always hard. When your alarm goes off and it’s still dark (and wet) outside, the last thing you want to do is get out of your warm cosy bed and go out into the cold. Evening sessions aren’t any easier. It’s dark by 4pm and the early sunset always makes it seem so much later than it actually is. So how do you find motivation? Here’s what I do…
Seven Ways To Stay Motivated Throughout The Winter
1. Get Rid Of All Excuses
‘It’s too cold’, ‘it’s too dark’, ‘it’s too tired’ – any of these sound familiar? That’s because it’s easy to come up with reasons to avoid training this time of year. The worst thing is that often they’re actually legitimate reasons. So here’s what I’d do:
- If it’s ‘too cold’, set your heating to come on 30 minutes before your alarm goes off. It will make getting out of bed so much easier. You should also invest in some good quality and warm winter gear.
- If it’s ‘too dark’, make sure you have reflective clothing and lights.
- Are you feeling ‘too tired’? This is a tricky one because you need to find that balance between listening to your body and knowing when you should rest. However, if you learn to just power through, you’ll actually feel so much more energised afterwards. I also find that taking vitamin D supplements really helps.
2. Find A Training Partner
Have you ever heard the expression ‘misery loves company’? As it turns out, it’s accurate. I always find it so much easier to keep up a fast pace or push myself harder if I’ve got someone doing the session with me. Plus, if you commit to doing something with someone else, you’re more likely to stick to it.
3. Find A Coach Or Community To Share Your Progress With
I’ve recently started training with a coach and it has really changed the level of motivation I feel during a session. It’s like getting that childhood ‘I want a gold star’ kind of feeling back.
If you’re happier self-training though, then being part of a supportive team really helps. I love going to my local running club and hearing everyone cheer each other across the finish line.
Alternatively, social media (i.e. Strava, Facebook or Instagram) is a great way of sharing your results with your friends and creating a sense of achievement.
4. Track Your Progress
My favourite thing about winter training is seeing and feeling myself getting better, stronger and faster. While apps like Strava or Training Peaks are great ways of tracking your progress, I like the old school paper and pen approach. I keep a meticulous account of every one of my sessions, tracking time and pace. I can then look back and see what I was achieving then versus what I’m doing now.
Progress often feels slow, but tracking it will allow you to see that you’re improving (even if it doesn’t always feel like it).
5. Set Benchmarks
Realistically, your winter self won’t be as fast as your summer self – but it’s important to remember that that is perfectly normal. Instead of comparing yourself to what you could do two months ago, look ahead and mark progress through benchmarks.
- Short term: By the end of November, I want to be able to deadlift 50kg.
- Quarterly: By the end of December, I’d like my 1km swim time to be 15’15 in a pool.
- Longer term: By March, I’d like to be running 5km in under 21 minutes.
Set your own, then re-evaluate them as you improve. You don’t want to feel bad if you aren’t progressing as fast as you thought or, oppositely, not push yourself because you’re ahead of where you thought you’d be.
6. Remember That Having An Off Day Is Normal
Finding motivation when you don’t feel your best is always hard, particularly in winter when you’re coming back after off-season and had previously reached your peak level. So, you should always remind yourself that training is a process.
If you feel low, try talking to someone about it. I think that athletes (myself included) often put too much pressure on themselves. Having someone put things back into perspective for you can be really helpful.
7. When All Else Fails, Turn To Discipline
No one is 100% motivated all year round. There will always be days when you just aren’t feeling it and it would be so easy to snooze that alarm or skip that end of day session. That’s when discipline comes in.
Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing
Whether you set it yourself or have a coach do it for your, creating a training plan at the weekend is a great way to practice discipline. You’re actively committing to doing specific sessions on specific days.
You can then organise your week around those sessions and create an optimum environment that will allow you to stick to that commitment. It not only helps you feel psychologically prepared but gives you the time to plan your meals to ensure you have the energy and fuel you need to get through those sessions.
Put simply, committing to something in advance will make you more disciplined. Then, it’s no longer about motivation, it’s about training because you promised yourself you would. (That said, don’t push yourself so often that you lose all sense of enjoyment).
And there you have it, seven ways to stay motivated throughout the winter. Drop me a message or comment below if you have any motivational tips to share!