Wednesday, December 8, 2010

running through the winter.

Even though winter isn't officially here yet, it might as well be.  Maine is snow-covered.  The fire in the pellet stove is our best friend.  There are hats and mittens and boots lined up by the door. 

For me, winter is a tricky time for running because Sam coaches the swim team at his school, so from November through February, our schedule gets a lot more complicated. Also, I don't live in an area that has runner-friendly roads in the winter.  There are few sidewalks, and when the shoulder is covered in snow, my options are limited for running outside on roads.  Add to that the cold temps and the fact that it is dark by 4 or 5:00, it seems like I'll never get to run.  But actually... I might be the only person you know who feels this way, but.... I love the treadmill.

I mostly run on the treadmill during the winter because, like I said, it's hard to run outside, but there are a lot of reasons why I enjoy it, and if running on a treadmill is your only option during the winter months, you might as well learn to love it too.

Why I love the treadmill:
1.  It's easier.  Obviously, the treadmill does some of the work for you by giving you momentum.  Also it's flat, unless you choose an incline.  I rarely put the treadmill up on an incline even though I know I should.  Apparently you are supposed to incline your treadmill by 1 degree to mimic the conditions of the road.  I turn the fan on my treadmill and call it wind and figure we're even.

2.  The buffer zone:  I like the drive to and from the gym.  It takes about 10 minutes, but my car is warm and quiet and there is no one in the back seat who needs anything.

3.  My gym has a bank of TVs so I can watch the History Channel, The Food Network, CNN, TLC and the local news simultaneously.  I can also people watch, and because I am a teacher in the town where my gym is, I almost always see colleagues or a former students who give me a friendly wave.  

4.  I like knowing exactly how fast or slow I'm running, which is why I like my Garmin, but the treadmill is more exact and gives you constant feedback and info.

Tips to help yourself love the "dreadmill":
1.  It's all about good music.  I can't run on a treadmill without music, and music sounds extra good to me when I'm running inside for some reason.

2.  If you get stuck staring at the monitor and watching your mileage crawl by in tenths, then cover up the display with a shirt or a towel.  Marathon Mama's personal rule is that she can only look to see how far she has run after 3 songs on her ipod have passed.

3.  Do silly things like look around at other people running near you and try to run at the fastest pace of all the people you can see.  I love it when a runner gets on next to me and starts turning up the speed.  I try to turn it up faster.  Whatever works.

4.  The only way I run on a treadmill now is with one of the following speed workouts.  Getting on and just trying to hammer out five miles is so boring and it will drive you crazy.  Instead, try one of these.

First one:  If I'm running 4 miles, let's say.  (I'll give you my speeds and you can adjust accordingly).  I made this one up.

Mile 1:  first 3/4 of the mile at 5.8, last 1/4 at 6.5
Mile 2:  first 3/4 of the mile at 6.1, last 1/4 at 7.0
Mile 3.  first 3/4 of the mile at 6.3, last 1/4 at 7.5
Mile 4.  first 1/2 mile at 6.5, last 1/2 at 7.8 or 8.0 or even 8.5 even I'm feeling crazy.

Second one:  (which I got from Runner's World)  This is a great way to distract your mind, because you are only focused on small chunks at a time, and then all of a sudden, you have 4.5 miles done.

Run 1 mile at comfortable pace... 6.0
     Jog 1/4 mile at 5.5
Run 3/4 mile at 6.5
     Jog 1/4 mile at 5.5
Run 1/2 mile at 7
     Jog 1/4 mile at 5.5
Run 1/4 mile at 8
     Jog 1/4 mile at 5.5
Run 1/4 mile at 8.5
     Cool down at 5.5 (or even walk) 1/2 mile

Other ideas to stay motivated:
1.  Promise yourself a reward if you get your run/ workout in.  A coffee, some chocolate, or a hot shower are all easy motivators for me.

2.  Sometimes when I don't feel like going running, I just put my running clothes on.  Then a little while later, I figure:  Well, I'm already dressed for a run....  I'm a very simple being, turns out.

with Steph at the Mid-Winter Classic 10 miler, Feb 2010.

3.  Sign up for a winter race.  Registering and paying for a race might keep you on track so you don't lose all of the ground you covered during the rest of the year.

 4.  Sign up for a spring race.  I think you already know this by now, but I am a huge believer in goal setting for running.  Having a training plan on my fridge is the single best motivator to get me out the door.

5.  Skip the treadmill altogether and get outside in that cold, fresh air.  Even though I'm mostly running at the gym, I do totally appreciate the winter sunshine and it feels great to run outside in the cold.  My personal threshold is about 20 degrees.  I'm fine with anything over 20, but colder than that just seems to hurt.
6.  If you do run outside, be prepared so you are comfortable:  I wear these Yaktrax on my shoes so I don't slip (they are $14) and bundle up!  I like to cover my face almost completely for the first mile or so, and then when I warm up, I might take off the neckwarmer.

On top, I wear a long-sleeve base layer (wicking material) and then a mid-layer, like a fleece or thicker technical shirt, with a wind-breaking layer on top (that's 3 layers).  You definitely need gloves or mittens. 

On the bottom, I wear my trusty patagonia running tights that are lined with a micro-fleecy material to be extra warm. (the patagonia ones are expensive, but then again, I've worn them for 10 years.  Other good brands are in the 50-60 dollar range.)

Having a good pair of winter running socks is also key.  I have two pairs of Bridgedale winter socks and they keep my feet toasty and warm.  Putting duct tape over your shoes is another trick runners use b/c it keeps the warm air from floating away through the mesh of your shoes and keeps your feet warmer. 

My favorite place for buying running gear is Running Warehouse.  They have good prices AND free shipping AND free return shipping. 

7.  The last, most important reason why you should go for a run this winter is that you will feel much better.  You will think more clearly, feel more happy,  and sleep better.

What are your tips for staying motivated during the winter?


FrauB said...

Can you say a little bit about your winter running layers for outside--need to know how much bundling is occurring.

Brooke said...

Live in Arizona!! Sorry.

Marisa said...

My tip to get motivated to run in the winter-- an April marathon! You have to get your tail out the door and on the roads.
I live in NH so I get the whole freezing weather/ nasty road conditions thing. Love Yankz, a bright headlamp and flashlight, duct tape over the tops of my shoes, and the 180-brand gloves with the little mitten-flaps that tuck into the top of the hand when I warm up. Oh, and I go through lots of HotHands hand warmers.
Another tip- leave the Garmin and watch at home. With messy roads and tons of clothing speed is not an option.
Nothing tastes better than cocoa after a winter run.

Jodi said...

Thank you for posting this! These treadmill tips are great. As far as running in the winter goes (living in New England myself), I have saved my running days for the weekend when I can do it during the day and have spent most of my nights after work at the gym doing various classes, yoga and treadmill. the variety has really helped with boredom and has kept me active so far!

Cat said...

Hiya'! Yes, I wonder the same as FrauB. I am new, as you know, and am not sure how much to layer. It isn't as cold in Kyoto, but Lisa said she went the other day and was cold for most of her run. That seems unimaginable to me, but with the biting wind tonight, I think I am getting it. ANy advice would be great! Also, where is a good place to shop/order from. Better brands for better prices?

Emilie said...

Laura and Cat: I just edited the blog to add a section about what to wear (at the bottom). Cat, I don't know if Running Warehouse ships internationally?

Kim Oldenburgh said...

Thanks for the great post. Unfortunately, I don't have a local gym and I don't have a treadmill, but I do have a great gym in my basement with some wonderful cardio/weight DVD's I love. On the days I don't lift weights, I spend most of my winter outside on our snowshoe trails and boy am I already getting a workout! We have 4 miles broken so far and I forget what a great workout it is!
I also loved all the suggestions for places to buy "stuff". I'm checking those out tonight!

Paige said...

Em, I have long loved running on the treadmill for reasons you haven't even hinted at along with ones you have!! I am not good at running outside, my best runs have been on the treadmill! In fact, I often have wished for a marathon on the treadmill--I know I'm the only one, so it would never happen. Music is the key though you are so right. Happy running.

Nitsirk said...

I run outside all winter long. My husband and take turns being outside or on the treadmill in the basement since we run while the baby is asleep. I run at 5am so I get decked out with a headlamp, reflective vest and a red blinky light for my backside :) It's dark and cold but the stars are often amazing and there is just something about being out there in the dark by yourself (or with our dog in my case).

Michelle said...

I love, love, love my treadmill!! I love not having to drive to the gym. I love not having a gym membership fee each month. I love not being at the mercy of the weather. I love that if our schedules get too crazy I can just pop a movie in for the kids and hop on the TM and not be mad that there is noone to watch the kids so I can go out for a run.

Thankfully my Ipod seems to be working again because I agree that music is so necessary!! AND just this morning I started using the incline so I can practice hills!!
I hear Big Sur is hilly!

Erin said...

I think I love the treadmill too much!! Even though I love cold weather, when it comes to running, I find it so much easier to enjoy on a treadmill. Probably because it IS easier, and I'm more able to get into a rhythm and keep it. My running partner has a knee injury that's "forcing" us to be at the gym, and I'm loving it. I'm a beginner who has just worked my way up to three miles, three times a week, and running outside is still really hard for me. I just ran a Thanksgiving Day 5K and felt like I was dying by the end, but I feel energized after a 5K run on the treadmill.

Cat said...

THanks very much, Emilie! I am heading to PA for Christmas and will seek a R.W. soon after I arrive! My first race is a winter one and I intend to be prepared!

Nancy said...

Once again your timeliness is uncanny. I haven't run since the Turkey Trek and have basically resigned myself to bad habits through Christmas. But you and Marathon Mama have me wondering what antics are going on at the gym that I'm I'm totally drooling over the Patagonia tights and (more to the point) I've been a total slug and (surprise) feel gross. Duh.

Aileen said...

I've never enjoyed running, but following your blog has really made me begin itching to give it a try. It's pretty cold here in DC, but perhaps when it warms up I'll give it a go!

Kaili Phillips said...


I, too CANNOT look at time on the treadmill or it seems as though my run takes forever...but I find that shirts, towels, etc, fall off of the type of treadmill at my gym.

So, I tell myself that every time I look down to check the time, I have to put the speed up by 3 increments. Works every time.