Winter running maintenance: keep your mojo during the off-season

winter running
Find your mojo for winter running (Image credit: Getty Images)

It can be hard to find the motivation to run during the winter but there are many benefits - some surprising – to winter running. In addition, if you maintain your winter running, when the warmer and brighter weather of spring arrives you will be able to enjoy the advantages of your continued fitness. But how can you keep your mojo for running during the off-season?

winter running

It can be hard to motivate yourself for running in poor winter weather (Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Just go outside

Sometimes the hardest part of winter running is stepping out the front door. So, tell yourself that if you start running and you really don’t feel like it that you can turn back and head indoors again. 

The chances are that once you start running, you’ll discover your mojo is better than you imagined and you will end up running more miles than fewer.

The key is to find a way to take the steps to get outdoors in the first place – and then start running.

2. Dress for the weather

Legendary British fell walker Alfred Wainwright was fond of saying: “There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” We like his mantra! 

Instead of saying you can’t go outdoors because it is raining, windy, too cold or snowy, you should think about what you can wear to stay dry and warm in the current conditions.

If you are properly dressed for the weather then it’s much easier to enjoy a run. Think about a waterproof jacket for running to beat the weather, running tights, running gloves or mitts and also suitable footwear. You might need to use Yaktrax or microspikes if the ground is icy or snowy.

winter running

Choose your weather window wisely (Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Keep an eye on the forecast

Taking your opportunities when the weather is brighter or drier makes it easier to keep your mojo during the off-season.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast for the week ahead and aim to go for a run when conditions are more attractive.

4. Get out in daylight

There is plenty of evidence to show that spending time in daylight – even weak winter sunshine - is a mood enhancer. In the winter, when many people suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or the so-called “winter blues”,  time outdoors each day outdoors is vital.

You could tell yourself you are going to go for a walk and then see if you might find the energy to turn it into a jog or a run. Think of the time spent outdoors as mental health maintenance.

winter running

Make a date to run with a friend (Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Make a date

If you make a date with a fellow runner you are far more likely to go for a run. Likewise, joining a run with a local group or club is great for winter motivation for runners. Winter running maintenance is always easier when you are running with other people.

6. Go for quality not quantity

Running longer distances can be tricky when the weather is poor in the off-season. Instead, you could focus on shorter, higher quality running sessions that focus on speed or improving running technique or pace. 

You could head to a local running track and try some interval sessions. Knowing that the session will be shorter might be enough to keep your mojo during the off-season.

Make sure you warm up sufficiently before launching into a speed session, however. 

man doing yoga

Try adding in some other forms of exercise to your winter running programme (Image credit: Getty Images)

7. Focus on strength 

The off season is a good time for building strength, perhaps with body weight exercises,  and working on your conditioning, including core strength and flexibility, for running. When the weather is poor, you can simply head to the gym or join a class, such as a circuits, weightlifting, yoga or Pilates. 

Sometimes, a change of focus away from running and towards a different form of exercise, or cross training, can help with your mojo doing the off-season. In this way, you are doing the right things for winter running maintenance.

8. Try a bit of retail therapy

If you have some spare cash, or maybe you received a voucher for a sports shop at Christmas, then now is the time to enjoy some retail therapy. A new pair of running shoes or an item of kit, such as a hydration vest or comfortable running tights, could give you a mood boost and encourage you to go out for a run. 

treadmill running

A treadmill running session is sometimes a great solution  (Image credit: Getty Images)

9. Stay indoors – and exercise 

While there are many benefits to outdoors exercise in winter, there are times when the elements are truly unpleasant. In this situation, there are advantages of staying indoors to exercise.

Maintaining your physical fitness is important, as is the mental health bonus of working out. You could head to the gym to use a treadmill, or  find an on-line exercise session to do at home. 

10. Enter a running event

Having a running goal is important for many runners. Why not browse the running race calendars for  5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon or ultra distance events in 2024? Once you have entered, you can start your plan for arriving at the race in the best shape you can be. Winter is a good time for making plans.

11. Plan a running holiday

Talking of plans... why not plan a holiday, especially a holiday that includes your favourite exercise, during the off-season?  If you know you have a running holiday to look forward to it will be very likely to improve your  mojo. Where will you go?

12. Think of the spring to come

It can be helpful to remind yourself of the better spring weather to come as a way to keep your mojo during the off-season. Look at photos of you running last spring and summer and  tell yourself that if you put the effort in with winter running maintenance then you will be in great shape to make the most of the spring conditions when they arrive. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.