Training Through the Winter Blahs

By Katie McMahon

It’s winter. You wake up, nice and early, ready to set out on your morning run. You look outside and ouff…it’s sleeting. What was once excitement to start your workout swiftly turns into apprehension and thoughts of shortening your run or even crawling back into bed begin to surface.

Love it or hate it, one of the realities of living in our wonderful city of Ottawa is that at least five months of the year, we have snow on the ground and temperatures like to hang out below zero. For a runner, these blistery circumstances can cause quite a few challenges. From running on slippery roads, to training in the dark, to simply being unmotivated to get out the door, winter in Ottawa can be an interesting test to say the least. However, with the first events and races starting up in the spring, letting the winter blahs get the upper hand when it comes to your training is a negative spiral to be avoided!

Here are some tips and tricks from the psychological side of running that will help motivate you to get out the door and regain your sense of control when it comes to your training:

Run with others. One of the greatest motivators is knowing that you have friends waiting and ready to go running with you. It is much harder to let a group of people down by not showing up than it is to just not go yourself. As well, going through a shared experience with people who have common interests can help you to feel accomplished and part of a greater community. Not to mention, running with friends is always a whole lot of fun!

  • Switch it up. Running the same route every day can get pretty boring. Of course there are times when doing the neighbourhood loop is the only option, but when you get the chance, running somewhere new always helps to spice up a dreary day. Try a trail run or even a snowshoe workout. Try running a point-to-point workout instead of a loop. I guarantee, adding some variety to your routine is a fun way to increase your motivation any time of year.
  • Make an appointment with yourself. Sometimes, when the weather isn’t ideal, it can be the last excuse we needed to put off the workout to another day. Often times, when you have so much going on in your life, your work, your kids, your significant other, that your own fitness and training gets pushed to last on the agenda. In order to avoid missed runs or training sessions, try scheduling them in. Physically write them down in your planner, just as you would a meeting with a client. This way, you have the time booked off and the workout doesn’t get pushed off of the schedule.
  • Do a workout you are good at. A large contributing factor to a person’s motivation is whether or not they feel competent at the activity they are doing. Although not every single run will make you feel like a superstar, it is important to have at least one training a week that you consider to be one of your favorites. Especially if your motivation is not particularly high, switching to a type of run that always makes you feel good about yourself is way better than not going out at all!


I encourage you to go out and give the above suggestions a try! Winter can be tough, but it can also be a beautiful time of year to add some variety to your training. Pay attention to the times when you feel unmotivated compared to the times you don’t. What are the differences? How can you change your routine to increase your motivation and decrease those winter blahs? Experiment, train with friends and make yourself a priority!

Katie McMahon – Mental Performance Consultant – MHK-Intervention and Consultation – CSPA-Student Member