Winter weather training tips from Matthew Frazier of No Meat Athlete

by JL Fields on February 11, 2011

As many of you know, I’ve had a hard time getting motivated to train this winter.   I’ve played some treadmill games here and there, but, overall, I just don’t have the drive — and I’m scheduled to run a half-marathon the first week of April!

This led me to reach out to Matt Frazier, the force behind No Meat Athlete. I invited him to write a guest post sharing winter training strategies.  Meet Matt!

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Matt Frazier is a vegetarian marathoner and ultrarunner who is currently training for his first 100-mile ultramarathon.  Matt writes the blog No Meat Athlete, where his latest project, Marathon Roadmap, is helping first-time marathoners train and fuel for the distance on a plant-based diet.

If dragging yourself out the door to run can sometimes be tough, then doing the same when it’s 25 degrees outside and the sun hasn’t yet come up is nothing short of heroic. Let’s not mince words — winter running just isn’t much fun. There are exceptions: If you’re lucky enough to catch the first flakes of a snowstorm, for example, that can be sort of cool. So can trail running in the snow, if you’re properly equipped. But for the most part, no fun. Getting yourself out of bed to run in the cold takes serious discipline, and even if you do find it in you, there are times when snow on the ground makes it just about impossible to get your run in. With that in mind, here are few tips to help keep your training on track through the winter.

*Have a reason to get out the door. It’s no surprise many people have trouble exercising consistently (especially in the winter). Most of them don’t have an exciting goal! Find a race that absolutely juices you, and then sign up for it. This way, when the alarm goes off and all you want to do is roll over and snooze, you’ve got a little more incentive to get out there and hit the roads.

*Get yourself some fancy cold-weather running gear. Once you start, staying warm during your run isn’t much of a problem anymore, thanks to technology. With a few layers, a nice pair of gloves, and a hat, it’s actually easy to get too hot once you start moving and your body heats up.

*Plan to swing by your house or car after two miles or so. You’ve probably experienced it: You’re freezing for the first few minutes of your run, then 15 minutes later it feels like you’re in a sweat lodge. Looping back to your car or home gives you a chance to drop off a few layers and keep going.

*Try the trails. Without a doubt, running in snow-covered nature is a heck of a lot nicer than being squeezed into the road when a dirty snow bank is taking up the precious shoulder. Trail running is a different sport than road running, and snow makes it even more so. Check out a guest post I wrote for Zen Habits for some trail running basics.

*Consider ice cleats for your shoes. Even if you can run on ice or packed snow without falling, it’s still likely that you’re altering your stride, which puts you at risk for injury. Ice cleats can help you run naturally — they strap onto your normal shoes to provide greater traction (and as a result, safety).

*There’s always the treadmill. I know, I know… that’s why it’s called the “dreadmill,” right? But there are times when it’s your friend, and winter is one of them. To prevent boredom, use the opportunity to work on your cadence (shoot for 180 steps per minute) by lining yours step up with the clock on the treadmill.

So now you have no excuses. Bundle up and get out there! And when in doubt, just remember…only six weeks until spring!

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Thank you, Matt, for this truly motivational push!

Readers, are you ready for an ironic twist?  At the same time that Matt emailed me with his guest post, I was in the ER with my husband —who had been out running that morning and hit a patch of ice.  His left fibula and left ankle are fractured.

He wasn’t wearing ice cleats.

Be careful out there!

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