Seasonal De-Motivation

>> Sunday, July 25, 2010

Michelle writes: "This question is related to your post about becoming bored with running. I am in good shape and typically run every other day, 2-5 miles (whatever I feel like, have time for, etc...) I also take pilates, yoga, and Zumba, which keep me very active and entertained throughout the week."

"But recently, I've become bored with it all! I don't know what to do! I'm very busy and these activities always fit into my schedule so nicely. I just wish I could feel as enthusiastic about them as I did a few weeks ago. What do you do to get through things like this? Does the excitement come back? My theory is that it's the hot weather that's dragging me down (I loved running at either 10am or 5pm, but now it's too hot for me at those times). Does the heat and humidity affect you and how do you deal?"

Michelle's situation is not at all uncommon. But what makes me particularly identify with her is her theory that the heat and humidity might have something to do with her lack of motivation. So, if you're looking for basic motivation tips and tricks, head over to the Race Burnout and Marathon Training post, where readers from all fitness levels weighed in on their best strategies to get back in the game.

But if you're interested in how to beat the heat (or cold, depending on the season), keep reading. Whenever the season changes, I go through this period of two weeks to three weeks where I feel like almost every run is a struggle. Naturally, I imagine it's temperature-related. But I also bet that it has to do with where the sun is in the sky when I run. Since I work full time, I usually end up running in the evenings (despite how much I try to get up and go before work), so in the summer months, that means it's super hot with lots of sun. In the winter, it's dark and frigid.

Essentially, I get the worst of whatever extreme is happening at the time. Here are some ways that I cope with what we could call Seasonal De-Motivation.

1.) Be prepared. Even if you can't control the weather, you can empower yourself by knowing what to expect. Become a regular at You can find us on that site pretty much every day -- even a couple times -- checking out the highs, lows, and forecasted precipitation. You can even get an hour-by-hour forecast, which certainly comes in handy on those days where the first half is dry and beautiful and the second half is sleety or stormy.

If you know what to expect, you can plan and dress accordingly. You can mentally prepare, too. If it's going to be particularly hot and humid, for example, you can see at what time of day the temperature is best for you. You can also get lots of information about sunrise, sunset, etc.

2.) Change your method. I recently ran a 7-miler in intense heat and humidity. And it was only 6AM. Yeah. Sometimes that first step doesn't work because the weather is seriously too crazy hot or cold . . . and waiting until the magic hour is not going to change anything. What I did for my run was simple. I threw out all my expectation for distance and speed and just ran. What I think often works best is the walk-run approach. I ran for 9 minutes (just about a mile, little more), then walked for 1. Repeat. I did this until I reached my goal distance for the day. However, other times, I've stopped at half my slotted miles.

It all goes back to the No Workout is Too Short or Slow philosophy. Part of feeling motivated is continuing a feeling of accomplishment. Finishing a workout creates a feeling of accomplishment. You do the math.

3.) Consider cross training. Sometimes when it's just too uncomfortable, it's best not to run at all. That day I ran the 7-miler in the heat, I groaned on my Facebook page that it was simply too hot and humid to run. My friend Randy quickly replied "Bike instead! You get the benefit of some cross training and a self generated breeze!" And he's so right!

Don't forget that there are other ways to work up a sweat -- even if you don't actually sweat. Yeah, swimming is a great way to beat the heat. Biking. Even a nice walk can suffice (you can wear a hat and carry a huge bottle of water). Even do a hybrid workout (like this Tri Training for Runners one).

In the winter months, you may want to head indoors to the gym. Hit up the elliptical or stair machine. Join a group fitness class. Lift or do some Zero Dollar Strength Training. Going inside may delay the inevitable (getting used to the new weather at hand), but keeping that feeling of accomplishment may be all you need to stay motivated.

4.) Pick function over fashion. You may just need some of the right clothing to keep yourself going in the heat or cold. If you're not dressed properly, you may be cheating yourself. If it's cold, check out our post on How to Suit Up to Set Out. That post was inspired in January after Stephen and I participated in a series of races where the temps stayed below 0 degrees F (with brutal wind chills). This past winter was cold, for sure. But it was the first time I didn't retreat to the gym, which helped me maintain better training (for running, at least). Layers are KEY.

In the warm months, you need to go with smart fabrics (CoolMax or Dri-Fit). I purchased two amazing running shirts (Under Armor) at the beginning of the summer, they wick away sweat and are extremely lightweight. It feels like I'm wearing nothing at all. In those months where the weather is in-between, layers, again, are your friend. It may take a couple workouts to find what works best for you, so I recommend running a loop that goes by your house so you can change, if necessary.

However, sometimes you really can get the best of both worlds (fashion AND function). For example, Lululemon makes some fantastic, great quality clothing. Check out Fit Style: Lululemon for more of my thoughts on that topic.

5.) Keep your spirits high. Remember that a week of missed or lousy running doesn't define your training. Nor does two weeks. When the weather is just ridiculous (and, I mean, c'mon -- 100+ degrees with 80 percent humidity is pretty funny, right? Same with negative temps and blinding snow), keep telling yourself that this setback is only temporary. Get out there and do what you can, but your fitness doesn't start to fade immediately.

If you're training for a race, look it up online. Browse the webpage. Look for Facebook or Twitter groups -- people who are training for the same event. Last year, when I was having trouble training for the Philly Marathon, I googled "Philadelphia Marathon running blog" and found Elizathon. Not only was it cool to find someone else out there training for the same race -- but she was also using my exact plan! It was great reading her progress and sharing in her successes (and vice versa). Reach out, and you won't be disappointed.

What are your hot or cold weather running tips? Have you ever experienced the whole seasonal de-motivation phenomenon? Tell us all about it! Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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