Winter_RunningPunxsutawney Phil might have predicted an early Spring, but for those of us fighting the coldest temperatures of the year, Spring seems as far away as ever.

When the air is frigid and the sun sets just after you leave work, it is easy to get the blues.  For many of us, the initial change can be a fun, even welcome change of the seasons, but we all know that never lasts very long.

The past few weeks have been particularly difficult for me.  Unfortunately timed in the midst of the height of my training for the Mt. Mitchell Challenge on February 22nd, the early morning chill and winds have been all but inviting for pre-dawn runs.

In order to keep the streak alive and not get behind on training, I’ve had to make a few adjustments and cash out on a few tricks I keep on reserve for just this type of situation.

If you are feeling the mid-winter running blues, try one of these 8 tricks to help you get out the door with that gusto we all strive for.

1)   Run New Routes – When you don’t feel like running, there is nothing worse than trying to map out a creative route.  Unfortunately, that just starts a downward spiral, where the same-ol same-ol route we’ve been running every day for the last 13 days just isn’t getting us motivated.  Try mixing it up by creating new routes or routes you don’t typically run.  Getting out of the monotony of your everyday run can do wonders to improve your motivation.

2)    Get New Gear – What is more fun than playing with a new gadget or looking good in new running threads?  Right now is the perfect time to buy new winter running clothes because all of the stores and brands are running great sales on cold weather gear.  Sure, you might only need that new jacket for another month, but you might as well enjoy using it while you can!

3)   Find a New Buddy – Even though it can feel like you are the only one stupid enough to run when it is 20 degrees out, you aren’t.  People all over your community are suffering through the same wind gusts you are.  You just need to find them!  Seek out a new running group or call up that friend you keep meaning to ask to join you.

4)   Register for a Spring Race – Nothing puts pep in your running kick than fear.  Or a goal, whatever you want to call it.  Most people focus on late summer or fall races when planning our their race calendar, but races of all lengths are run nearly every weekend in the spring.  It is a great way to prime your racing legs and get a kick-start on your year.  For those of you in the DC area, the RnR USA marathon/half is a perfect choice.

5)   Don’t Run at All – Alright, you are just one of those people who aren’t going to run when it is cold, wet, or snowy outside.  That’s cool, I totally get it.  Next time, instead of just skipping the run just to hit the bar, why don’t you try doing something else?  Find a local, typically free, pool to swim some laps.  Roll out the yoga mat for a little downdog.  Or maybe pull out that old racquetball racquet you haven’t used since in college.  Even for those of us who label ourselves as just runners, skipping a run isn’t an excuse to skip exercise.

6)   Mix up your workouts – Similar to mixing up your routes, mixing up your workout can be a great way to get out of the daily run monotony.  Plus, if you decide to add in some speed work, you will often get the added bonus of spending less time outside!  Try running fartleks, adding in some tempo runs, Yasso 800s, or just pounding the hill repeats.  Adding specific workouts will not only bring variety to your runs, but it is a great way to make sure you are in great shape going in to the spring.

7)   Listen to Something New – What has probably saved me more than anything else this winter is my iPhone.  I’m a big believer of running without music.  I like to lose myself in thought, focus on moving forward, and embrace the run instead of trying to drown it out.  But during a recent long run, when I was at a particularly low, low-point, I decided to listen to a podcast.  Ever since then, I haven’t been able to leave the iPhone behind during long runs.  For me, listening to podcasts has become enough of a distraction to keep my interest, while not totally drowning out the effort I’m putting into my run.  If you need some suggestions, try the Rich Roll Podcast, Trail Runner Nation, UltraRunnerPodcast, or (my favorite, or course), No Meat Athlete Radio, which I co-host with Matt Frazier of

8)   Embrace the Winter – When all else fails, just flip the attitude and embrace it!  Get pumped by the thought of kicking that cold front’s ass, seek out the snowiest trails up the steepest mountains you can find, and see just what you are capable of when conditions really get tough.  A simple switch in your perspective can go a really long way.

If you are like me, a few simple tricks can be all that is needed to kick the blues and get excited again.  What tricks do you use when the motivation just isn’t there during the winter months?

 Photo Credit


Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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2 thoughts on “8 Tricks to Beat the Mid-Winter Running Blues

  1. Great post Doug! I have the same views about running with music but yes— long winter runs can be bleak. What has saved me is audiobooks, you may want to give them a try. When I have an exciting page-turner waiting for me, I actually look forward to running every day.

    Also agree 100% on the attitude-shift. I use this technique for hills too, e.g. “Hi hill! Wow, you are no joke, hill. Hey, I really appreciate you helping me out with my training today. My legs are going to be so much stronger and ready for my race thanks to you. You rock, hill.” It sounds ridiculous, but it works.

    1. Hey Meg! I actually started listening to an audiobook last week! It is a great option. Thanks for bringing that up.

      I had a nice laugh at the thought of you thanking the big hill you are about to run up. So great.

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