Setting Goals To Keep Up Winter Running

Cold weather can really get you down and kill the mood to exercise. I personally struggle with early morning exercise. Even more so when it is cold and dark in Winter. Maintaining a regular exercise routine can be very challenging when the cold weather sets in and the daylight hours diminish. I find that setting goals and employing the use of a few other tactics allows me to keep my trail running and exercise up, even when the going gets tough outside.

It’s not always this bad!

Setting Goals

Setting goals is the best trick in the book for me personally. I find that having a number to strive toward each month helps massively in motivating me to get out and move toward it.

I use Strava for recording my runs, setting personal goals, and signing up for challenges each month.

Strava Goals

The first thing I did to help out with motivation was to set a weekly and yearly running goal. You can also do this for other activities.

setting goals for running in strava

Every month I also sign up for the monthly running related challenges, and use those to motivate myself to get out there.

The main challenges I sign up for are:

  • Monthly 5K/10K/Half Marathon (badge for achieving at least one of each)
  • Monthly Running Challenge (100KM for badge)
  • Monthly Running Distance Challenge (200KM for badge)
  • Monthly Run Climbing Challenge (2000m elevation for badge)

The progress bars that you can track in your challenges section help motivate you to get out and do more, especially as you see them progressing along to completion over the month.

Even though they’re only digital badges, seeing your achievement badges pile up in the Trophy Case certainly helps too!

setting goals and achieving badges for the trophy case
Strava Trophy Case

Finding The Right Time to Run

Another important tactic I employ is to find the right time to run. We all lead busy lives and fitting exercise in often takes a back seat. It also varies wildly from person to person as to which time is best. Finding a suitable time certainly comes down to your personal schedule and way you operate.

Here are what my constraints look like, and what seems to work for me.

Early Mornings

Early mornings are almost always off for me. I am not an early riser, even more so when its cold and dark outside in Winter. I also have two young children who will either already be up from about 6am, or certain awaken once I’m up and start moving around to get out for a run. Besides that, they often need to be prepped for school/nursery school which pretty much cancels out running if I’m on kids duty in the morning.


Afternoons work well for me. I work full-time, but will often use my lunch break to get out and run. Sometimes I’ll spend a little more than an hour out running and make up the time by working a bit longer into the evening, or starting a little earlier the following day. I’m lucky to have a flexible style of working right now that allows for this.


Evening times work occasionally for me. Mostly in Summer though. I can sometimes run in the evening after work, but it gets difficult. The kids energy levels are usually off the charts and they’re bouncing around inside like the innards of a pinball machine! I can’t easily leave my wife to deal with them like this in good conscience.

When it gets to late Autumn and early Winter, evening runs get more difficult because its usually pitch dark by the time I can clock off work. A headtorch and warm winter running gear help though.


On weekends my wife and I tend to each take lead on looking after the kids for each day (Saturday and Sunday). On my weekend ‘day off’ I will often get out for a longer run in the afternoon when the light is good and the temperatures are as good as they’ll get (in the colder months!)

Just Do it!

setting goals and getting out to run in the bad weather

Lastly, even though it is tough, try to push through the thought of cold weather, rain, or snow outside. Just start running! Once you’re out there and going you’ll be glad you pushed through and did that run. If not for the digital badges and trophies, for yourself.

There is nothing better than arriving home, drying off and enjoying those endorphins.

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