Finding motivation to exercise through winter

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Danielle Wright discovers that running training is about learning to work with the seasons.

Give yourself a head-start for summer by training through winter. Photo / Thinkstock
Give yourself a head-start for summer by training through winter. Photo / Thinkstock

Winter training is off-peak training, a time for slowing down and changing your routines, but it doesn't have to mean going backwards in your fitness levels, or ditching the running shoes for the couch the minute it rains.

"Your body does need a little bit more love and care over winter and doing a bit less isn't a bad idea," says ultra-marathon runner Lisa Tamati, "but, you still need to have regular training all year and a big motivator for me is not wanting to waste all my hard work over summer."

Tamati recommends goal-setting and training for off-peak events, as well as simple tricks to keep you motivated, such as buying a new running watch or becoming part of online running forums.

"The more you get into the culture of running, the more you feel part of the scene," says Tamati, who sees being fit and running as an elixir of health and sociability: "It gets rid of aggression and keeps you focused.

You can't make excuses for yourself."

However, the experts agree on giving your body a break if you're sick.

"If you have a flu or a cold, do not run," says Tamati. "Most things you can train through, but never train with a flu or a cold because it puts extra stress on your heart. I've seen people die doing this. Have a break from running and do yoga or aqua aerobics, they're easier on the heart."

Director and founder of GetRunning, Gaz Brown, agrees with Tamati: "The rule of thumb is never train if you're getting sick, or during the illness, but it's okay to train when you're coming out of being sick, light exercise to start with. Give your body one pressure at a time."

Brown has developed a group training session to get people through the winter: "We mentally prepare our runners that off-season training through winter is a way to get a head-start for summer. There's no pressure to walk around on the beach in a swimsuit so it's quite rewarding to just get in the flow. I see the summer months as the prettier side of exercise with events and outdoor activities, whereas winter is the working end of training for a lot of people."

During winter, GetRunning varies its sessions with some off-road training as well as more indoor activities, such as strength and wind training classes.

"Off-road training keeps the interest up during the winter months but you need to adapt to your environment. A light wind jacket, not necessarily that expensive, will keep out the chilling bite from the wind. You don't need a waterproof jacket, it doesn't breathe," says Brown.

"Also, make sure you have two pairs of shoes, one for wet weather (an older pair) and the newer ones for dry training conditions. Keep one in the hot water cupboard and never put them in the dryer," says Brown. "Once you've got the gear, there's something quite enjoyable about training in the wet, it's quite revitalising for the body and the soul."

Greg Thompson, owner of Ponsonby Rd's Shoe Clinic, says the most important thing is to keep your body warm. Layering with clothing specially created for runners is key.

"Icebreaker does awesome layers for winter running that are good at regulating your temperature. Aim to keep warm rather than super-dry," says Thompson. "Gloves are a good idea and lightweight; wear a merino beanie over your ears."

Thompson says a tip for drying wet shoes is to take out the inner sole and stuff them with newspaper to draw out moisture. He advises never to put them on a radiator, which will morph the rubber.

Auckland conditions are good for all-season training, and as Tamati suggests: "Look at training as part of your daily hygiene. You shouldn't go a week without moving your body. Running, or any fitness, has to be a lifelong commitment, through every season."

Brown says: "I always thought winter training was a great time to get ahead of my competition, because I knew they were sitting in bed. It's a time to keep under the radar and get as much done as you can, so when summer arrives, you'll be ahead of the pack."

Do you struggle to exercise in winter? What tips do you have to find the enthusiasm?

- Herald on Sunday

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