Races are in shorter supply at this time of year – and even if there are some near you, you might just want a break from the discipline of training towards a goal. If the thought of running whenever and however you like for a few weeks is a terrifying prospect for you, try these expert tips to help you stay focused… without a focus.
Don’t panic! Supplement wellbeing, rather than races, as your main goal, and run to achieve a clear mind, better sleep and elevated moods. “Also be conscious of your surroundings,” says Laura Bradshaw, a high-performance consultant at Athlete Evolution (athlete-evolution.com). “Nature is beautiful in all seasons.”
Maintain your motivation by keeping your running fresh; mix up your training schedule and set smaller targets over the winter. Introduce some interval training, work on increasing stamina or concentrate on working those hills!
“I recommend all runners, and especially beginners, read What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami,” says Bradsaw. “It’s all about taking a seat in your mind and letting your running do its job.” Allowing yourself to enter this type of meditative ‘flow state’ can be incredibly powerful, quieting the mind and relaxing the body.
“Small goals also really help with winter training,” she says. “I’ve taken part in the Hyde Park 5K at 9am on New Year’s Day. Instead of starting the New Year tired and hung-over with unrealistic New Year’s Resolutions, I was able to start the year feeling healthy.” These small lifestyle changes make all the difference in keeping on track and having different types of goals to aim for.
Dr Rhonda Cohen, a sport and exercise physiologist at Middlesex University (mdx.ac.uk) suggests visualising your winter running with a stacking, or building, exercise. “Take a stack of DVDs or CDs and get one to represent each run you would like to accomplish each week,” she says. Every time you do a run, take one off the stack. Come spring they will be gone. Alternatively build a stack of behaviors, like a 5K run, and create a pile adding one DVD or CD case each time you achieve this distance.”