7 Surefire Ways to Jumpstart Your Mojo

As the mercury drops and the nights close in, runners, here’s how to beat the winter blues


1 Have a lie-in

One of the best ways to ensure your winter workouts don’t fall off the agenda is to schedule it later in the day. A study published in the journal Chronobiology International found that subjects given a set exercise workload at 5am, 11am, 5pm and 11pm rated their perception of effort highest at 5am. This coincides with the time when the body’s thermoregulation is least efficient. Other physiological variables that are at rock bottom in the morning include minute ventilation (meaning more breaths are required to get the same amount of oxygen in to the body) and cardiac output (the amount of oxygen-rich blood pumped around the body by the heart per minute). But if you can’t reschedule an early-bird run, ensure you warm up thoroughly – Tunisian research found that a longer warm up could mitigate the physiological disadvantages of morning exercise.


2 Take your time

If you are running on slippery footpaths, splashing though puddles or running under cover of darkness (even though it’s only 6pm) there’s little point in stressing over target paces. Instead, switch your focus to perceived effort level (how hard you think you are working, rated on a scale of 1 to 10) and record time rather than distance.


3 Don’t chill out

After a run in cold conditions, get indoors quickly to warm up. “Problems with chilling can arise because of wet skin from perspiration, because the blood vessels in the skin continue to dilate to dissipate heat,” says Tina Vindum, outdoor specialist and author of Outdoor Fitness. Get into warm, dry clothes – or a hot shower – as soon as possible. Warm up and kickstart your recovery with a hot chocolate drink.


4 Hit the shops

If you don’t want inclement weather affecting your performance, your seasonal gear should keep you not just warm but dry. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that running in cold, wet conditions was more demanding than just in the cold – with higher oxygen consumption and lactate levels recorded. Start with a lightweight, breathable base layer next to the skin and layer up according to your needs.


5 Try something completely different

A change is as good as a rest – sometimes, even better. So why not test out your running prowess in a brand new context? Enter an offroad running event or flex a little mental muscle by trying orienteering – racing against the clock between set checkpoints using navigational skills. Alternatively, inject some fun into a regular group run by organising a handicap race based on everyone’s recent 5K or 10K time.


6 Fuel up first

Exercise performed on an empty stomach – particularly prolonged exercise – increases the post-exercise immunosuppression response, according to a report by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science. A protein-based breakfast, such as scrambled egg, will keep you satisfied longer than a carb-only breakfast like jam on toast, says research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


7 Live in the moment

It’s so easy to get caught up in negative thoughts when it’s cold, dark or wet. “But stepping out of our thoughts and being more present in our environment can really make a difference,” says Lucinda Puddicombe from Headspace, a project that aims to demystify meditation and herself a keen runner. She suggests focussing on the trees or the colour of the sky, listening to the sounds of your footsteps and breath, smelling what’s around you and noticing the sensation of the wind against you. In short, engage the physical sense. “When defeatist thoughts pop into your head, notice their presence but refocus on the sensations in the body and your breathing,” says Puddicombe.


For more ways to tackle the motivational minefield of winter, purchase the August 2014 issue of Runner’s World

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