By: Daniel Cooper

With the holidays here, it drudgingly brings along poor weather, busy schedules, horrendous eating choices, and low motivation to keep up with training plans. These are problems that face all endurance athletes this time of the year. There are options and ways to get around these issues and come out of the holidays and this winter faster, stronger, and fitter than ever before in time for spring races.  You have signed up for some spring races, haven’t you? If you haven’t. Go do that now! Then come back, and finish reading this. Your base of fitness from this summer and fall will all be for naught if you take the winter off and don’t get off of your keister and work out. As if you didn’t already eat enough at Thanksgiving, the holidays bring sweet goodness into our lives in for form of a never-ending parade of Christmas cookies, candy canes, and desserts.  As delicious as all of these things are, they are loaded with sugar, calories, fat and are guaranteed to drag down your fitness.  If you plan on racing in the spring, it is in your best interest to work hard, follow your training and stick to your normal routine, even if nothing else in your life is routine this part of the year.

The hardest part of winter training is staying motivated. There are runners out there that simply need no extrinsic motivation. They are almost machines who can’t function without their run as much as a druggie needs his fix. I know a lot of runners, including myself, are not this brand of individual. I personally get my motivation from my coaches, teammates, and supportive family and friends who help motivate and push me to the best of my abilities by asking about my runs, and kind of pushing me out the door. I know a lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am, and need other ways to stay motivated. Following are a couple methods that may help you find and keep up your motivation. The first thing is to write down your goals as a runner. Time goals, finish distances, weight, and whatever other outcomes you experience that keep you motivated to run. Put it somewhere you will see everyday, the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, inside your car, etc. Seeing this reminder of why you run, helps to keep you motivated and lace up on those days where you do not want to run merely because you’re not in the mood to. The second is to share your running goals and give someone your training plan. They can keep tabs on you and help by asking you about your run, and if you favored sloth and tell them you failed to drag your buns out for a run, then they can be your cheerleader urging you to get out the door. For instance, I text Laura, the formulator of Island Boost, each day to ask what her run plan each day is (we have crafted a training regimen that allows some fluidity, so she expects me to ask about her daily training). She may text me that for some reason, she’s not in the mood and I encourage her, “At this moment you’re not – get out there and push for 20 minutes, see if the legs wake up, your head clears and see how it goes.” Inevitably, she will let me know that her 20 minutes turned into 45 minutes of running bliss. It’s an incredible motivator to have your friends and family urge you along.

Running in winter weather can be absolutely brutal. Snow, rain, sleet, wind, cold, whichever it is and depending on the severity, it’s no fun. However, we are runners, we are tough resilient creatures who don’t fund suffering. I mean, our sport is running, we are obviously already gluttons for punishment, right? Well, this isn’t always the case, it is much harder to get out and do your training on a cold rainy day than a 65-degree crisp morning. The importance of the runs you do in the winter months and the suffering you do in December and January will pay off hugely in your spring races. Realize that although you might be sweet you are definitely not made of sugar and getting wet for a while will not wash you away into the gutter. Throw on a jacket and the tights and hit the pavement. The notion of getting sick while playing in the rain is a myth. Running in the rain will not get you sick. Catching a cold can only occur if you’ve come in contact with a microbe. If after a run you have the chills, a hot shower or a warm bed is the proper remedy. Running in the snow is a difficult task, trail closures, sidewalks may be covered for a while making running impossible. So working out can be tough, but it is important to stay motivated and get on a “dreadmill” if you have to. Cross training is wonderful, and most running training regimens call for cross training days. Check outYouTube for a strength-training workout you can do on your living room floor. If you want to be successful this spring, it is crucial to get your training done despite the conditions. In short: NO EXCUSES!

All of the holiday parties, dinners, festive foods, neighbors bringing over Christmas treats, awesome cooks all can really put a damper on your diet, waistline and hinder your training. Every ounce of added weight on your body is equal to caring more than 50 pounds over a mile! This really stresses the importance of weight and its relation with running. Staying at or as near as possible to your race weight is very important and will make your training easier when your body doesn’t have to shed down to its natural running weight. When you inevitably go to situations where holiday goodness is being served, do your best to exhibit portion control, make the healthier choices and remember to have small frequent meals so you don’t end up at a holiday function eating a massive amount of empty calories. Making it out of the holidays putting on weight just simply isn’t an option.  There is no time to add weight and then lose it in time to get to your optimal race weight for the spring races. If you are indeed highly motivated and running each day, then obviously you may indulge a little. The goal is to stay fit, eat well and control the amount of treats you consume which is what you do the rest of the year.

Winter training is important even though the races you’ve signed up for feel like they are so far away. They are sure to creep up on you faster than you expect. To be successful and reach your goals, it is so important to not let the holidays hinder your training. Unhealthy food, weather and motivation are all things that really can your training efforts. Keep up the hard work, training and being aware of what you eat this season, and you will be rewarded with that amazing feeling you get when you cross the finish line for a personal best. Happy holidays, and happy running!


Daniel Cooper is a collegiate runner and has spent the last eight years running cross-country and track and field. Send him your training questions and advice