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Winter Motivation: Logging Miles

After a slow start, I think it’s pretty safe to say that winter has finally come to Vermont.

winter pond

Overnight temperatures have dipped below zero. The world is covered in a thick blanket of snow. Instead of looking dead and desolate, the land around us now looks fresh and clean. The best part about it is that our distance from the city means that the snow actually stays white — instead of turning a gross black from all the cars the day after it falls.

I think it’s absolutely beautiful.

winter sun

But that doesn’t mean I love to run in it.

Running during the winter has always been tough for me, but this year I find myself struggling more than usual. Every single day I can think of one million excuses why I need to stay inside my {sometimes} warm house instead of getting outside for a run. It’s cold, damp, and often icy. The rural roads have no street lights which means that if I don’t get a run in while it’s light out, I’m kind of out of luck (I didn’t mind running in the dark when I lived in Providence, but I haven’t quite yet worked up the courage to run along remote streets in the pitch black). Dirt roads + snow means that I either need to be content with running very slowly, or confine myself to two basic out and back routes.

And to top it all off, I’m out of shape. The months of limited running were good for my body and my soul, but they sure didn’t do much for my motivation. As with anything, getting back into the habit of regular runs is the hardest part. Once I’ve gotten myself back onto a schedule, the momentum of a training cycle is usually enough to keep me going. But at the beginning — most of the battle is simply getting out the door.

Have I bored you all with my excuses yet?

I know I’m not unique in my struggles. Obviously these are barriers that every runner faces. But the successful runners — the ones that manage to make this sport into a lifelong habit or get out and grab that new PR — those are the ones that don’t succumb to excuses. That do whatever it takes to stay motivated no matter the conditions.

It’s never going to be easy. Running is hard. Training to run a fast marathon — even harder. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t implement different strategies during this cold season to keep myself motivated day after day.

None of this is new or earth-shattering. In fact, most of what I’m trying to do are things you all are probably doing on a regular basis already. But since I have this free place to ramble blog, I figured I would periodically share my winter running strategies with you over the course of the next month or so anyway. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.

First up…

Tracking Workouts & Logging Miles

Most runners that I talk to are obsessed with stats. Race PRs. Mileage. Time. Average Pace. Precise number of miles run in each pair of shoes. Ideal number of peanut butter pretzels needed to fuel each run (just me??).

I record none of these things.

Sure, my Garmin automatically keeps track of a lot of this information for me. Only…I don’t always wear my watch and I definitely don’t upload/check the data often enough to get any useful information out of it.

I used to be very good about logging my workouts. I’d make a training plan and stick to it, making notes when I changed my runs during the week. But as time went by and I started finding plans more restrictive and stressful than helpful, I kind of gave up the entire practice. I already knew the basic things I’d have to do to prepare myself for a marathon, so I just sort assessed how I was feeling every day and went by that. A strategy that got me to starting lines — but not to any PRs.

Exhibit A: My Dailymile training log.

empty dailymile account

When I first signed up for Dailymile I was all about it. I logged my runs every day and found the statistics helpful and motivating. I don’t really know why, but somewhere along the line I just got tired of it. The last workout I logged was in February 2012…and even at the time, I was only recording a fraction of what I was doing. (Yet I’m still getting friend requests…something I don’t quite understand. To anyone who has requested to add me – it’s not you, I swear. I just hadn’t logged into the site for almost a year. Plus, there’s nothing to see there anyway.)

I was fine with this lackadaisical approach to training for awhile. But then the end of the year came and runners all around me were adding up their mileage. Seeing the yearly totals was really cool and I suddenly found myself wishing I could do the same. After all, quantitative running data is the best way to track improvement over time. Not to mention the fact that without data showing what you were doing, how do you know what to change in order to get faster?

So my goal for 2013 is to actually log my mileage. Regardless of whether or not I run a ton of races or gain a bunch of new PRs, I want to know how many miles I ran in the process.

Plus, telling myself that I need to record what I did every day provides extra motivation to actually get my workout in. I don’t want to look back at my training log after a week and see a bunch of unplanned 0s.

For now I’m keeping it simple and recording everything into a Google Doc. Each day there’s a row for the number of miles planned, one for the actual number I ran, and one for my time/pace. Totals will automatically add up each week.


VCM_base buildingCurrent plan for slowly building a base for VCM training

There’s really not much to it. I’m fairly certain that many of you use much better systems. But I think the simplicity is just what I need to get into the habit. And I’m hoping that once I’ve done this for a few weeks, the knowledge will be addicting enough to motivate me to stick with it….all while it’s sitting there motivating me to get out and run.

To add to the motivation, I will even let you all check up on me here. The link will take you to the Google spreadsheet where you’ll be able to see whether or not I really am getting my runs in.

I’ll let you know how it works.

And with that – I need to get to the gym. It’s lifting day! (Something else I’ve been trying to do regularly for the past couple of weeks. So far I’ve been sticking to that 2x/week goal. But since I’m only on week 3, I suppose it’s a little too early to pat myself on the back for consistency.)

21 Responses to Winter Motivation: Logging Miles

  1. You got this!! I love tracking my stuff, but sometimes it becomes a source for stress because I am slightly OCD with tracking it and if I don’t hit the goal for whatever reason, I feel stressed. Like last week, I was not feeling well and I tweaked my knee a little bit in soccer which forced me to take most days off last week and I ended up with 6 miles for the week. I just recently started tracking my lifting and it has been a MAJOR help!

    Question not related: Yesterday, I ran an easy 4 and felt all sorts out of whack. I finished the run but it wasn’t great and my body just felt stiff. This morning, I was doing a tempo run and was running on the slower side of tempo and it felt HARD like I had no energy. I managed .80 miles at tempo pace. I took a short walk break, then got back to tempo pace for a mile, had to take yet another walk break and went another mile. I’m motivated to run everyday, but once I’m there and actually running I’m not feeling it because I feel like crap. IS THIS NORMAL? Should I adjust my schedule?

    • That’s why I stopped tracking too. It went from a source of motivation to a source of constant stress.

      I owe you an email already so I’ll write more then! I wouldn’t necessarily say that how you’re feeling is normal but I can say that I’ve been there! Sorry it’s been tough lately. Basically, there could be a multitude of things that are affecting how you feel on your runs and it may be worth changing your schedule a little bit if you find that you have no energy. But I’ll write more soon!

  2. I live right outside NYC and if not for the fact that I am running the Miami Marathon in a couple of weeks I would NOT be logging the mileage I am. Its the best/worst decision I could have made to keep me training. I cannot imagine the cold by you though!

    And I would just like to say…peanut butter pretzels are perhaps the best running fuel ever. The more you eat the better your run will be :)
    Gianna´s last post ..Here Comes the Taper

    • Haha glad you agree!! :)

      And yes – there’s nothing like an upcoming race to motivate you to get your butt out the door in the winter.

  3. I ran in VT over the holidays and I will be continuing to do so on most weekends. I feel your pain on the icy, snowy roads. It is hard to really push yourself and still see a slower pace. But, when you do get on dry pavement it is amazing and totally worth it. Stick with it. Your resolution to follow a plan and track you runs will definitely help! Good luck. :)

  4. Running in winter outside can definitely be tough. I live in Ottawa, Ontario and we got a ton of snow over the Christmas holidays. I attempted a few runs outside where I was forced to slow down due to the snow – I even ran a Resolution Run on Dec 31st where the course was covered in a a foot of snow in some places –> http://wp.me/p2NOoY-8B Definitely not what I call ideal race conditions, but there was nothing I could do, so I enjoyed the (slow) race and accepted there would be better winter running days to come!
    Mary´s last post ..2012 Running Year in Review

  5. I love google docs. I have all my training plans there from when I began running. It is so convenient to have everything easily accessible. Numbers are fun :)
    Celia´s last post ..a review of 2012 and dreams for 2013

    • So impressed! I really wish I had something like that. I’ve been running for so many years, it’d be kind of cool to know how many miles I’ve covered over that time.

  6. This sounds like a simple and logical plan to hold yourself accountable. I am in the routine of using DM, but I use google docs for other things.
    Good luck building your base — my favorite part of training!
    Rebecca´s last post ..I bet you look good out on your run

  7. For me, the hard part about winter running is that footing conditions can be so different from day to day based on time since last snowfall, time since plowing if you’re on a road, the actual route, the temperature, the humidity… the uncertainty of what kind of surface you’ll find that day is always the toughest thing for me to adapt to. Other than that, give me a headlamp and some ice studs for my shoes, and I’m all set. Good luck with the training… and be careful on those icy road shoulders!

    • Yes to all of this. I have a hard time regulating my temperature in the winter – partially because conditions change so much day to day.

      Question about the ice studs: do you have actual ice spikes/screws for your shoes? Or do you mean something like Yaktrax (which is something I really need to get!)?

      • I’ve heard of people straight up screwing studs into their shoes, but that wouldn’t work for me because often I’m running on routes that are a mix of dry, snowy, and icy… so I like having a set of “pullover” studs that I can whip off if I find out that there is a lot less ice than I anticipated (that way I’m not out smacking along on dry pavement in my ice studs).

        I don’t find yaktrax to be much help for ice, but they’re nice for a thin layer of snow. If I’m running through a thick layer of snow (shin-deep+), I don’t bother wearing anything at all. To be honest, I haven’t used my yaktrax in years… but I rely pretty heavily on some simple stud pullovers from DueNorth (kind of the same “shoe pullover” concept as yaktrax, except they’re little microspikes). Great for ice or snow that has basically turned into crunchity ice, and also easy to remove mid-run if you find out you don’t need them after all. I usually just carry them in my hands on most winter runs when it’s been icy lately, and put them on if I detect that there’s enough iciness to warrant it. If that makes any sense.

        Camille Herron has a cool post on putting screws into your shoes, if you’re so inclined (I haven’t tried it!): http://camilleherron.com/2011/12/24/how-to-make-screw-shoes/
        Cathleen´s last post ..Chiropractic to the rescue… again.

        • Thanks so much for the info! I hadn’t heard of the DueNorth pullovers before but will definitely look into these. They sound way more useful than yaktrax – especially for running in rural areas (read: lots of dirt roads/ice).

  8. I’m also going to attempt to keep track of my miles (for the first time ever) this year. Hopefully it’s a source of motivation to keep running when the training gets tough!
    Emma Harris´s last post ..2012: A Year in Review & 2013 “Resolutions”

  9. This is a great plan. I do think it will be a great source of help and provide motivation during these months. I have a hard time somedays running in Portland winters, I can’t even imagine what it’s like there!
    Shannon @ moveeatcreate.wordpress.com´s last post ..Holiday Gift-Giving is What Drives Knitters Completely Mad, Right??

  10. The REAL question is: Are those miles you’re logging in SHORTS?! 😀 Mine are 75% of the time…I lost my gusto on a 31 degree feels like 22 degree run along the East river at night…but I’m back in my shorts and LOVING IT! (Perhaps I got an awkward stare from my principal as I left work for my runmute home today…)

    • Ugh…no. I wish I could say that I was, but I’m too much of a wimp to run in shorts when it’s 20-something and damp. It would be different if I was only out there for a few miles, but after a half hour my legs were getting too numb to function.

      So proud to hear that you are back in shorts though! It’s supposed to warm up a little here starting tomorrow, so my plan is to lose the tights again for as long as I can.

  11. Hey Lauren, sounds like a good plan. I’ve recently started tracking my running and workouts too – except I went old school and bought a bright yellow Moleskine diary to plan and track and record everything on paper (including my weights workouts since I tend to go in and make up my routine at the time I’m doing it and then I can’t remember what weights I used next time).

    Do you do other lifting exercises apart from The Core? I’d love to hear about your weights routine at some stage!

  12. i was going to ask the same question as kristin :) like your plan! i am also over daily mile. the only reason i finished out 2012 is because i had started it-but i would actually take the time to go back and just log all the miles several days/weeks later because i was over the comments. i’m sticking with my believe i am journal. excited to follow your plan!

  13. I use dailymile because I can easily sync it with my Garmin. I rarely remember too add in the treadmill miles or any other workouts I do. It helps me keep track of my shoes and my monthly miles, which I like. I know a lot of people are anti dailymile, which I understand too. I think if you actually want to track, whatever method works is the one you need to use.
    Steph @ Steph Runs On´s last post ..2012, The Year I Learned To Love Running

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