How to stay fired up when it’s Freezing

One of the toughest things about winter is staying motivated. Short dark days, freezing temperatures, and snow and ice can make it tough to stick to a training plan. We recently caught up with Eric Caravella, who is one of the race directors of the XTERRA Northeast Trail Run Series. The series will kick off this March with distances from 10K to 50 miles. Eric loves winter, but he also has some great advice if you can’t wait for the snow to melt.

Q. What’s the best advice you can give to runners who are dealing with winter?
A. Training through the winter is crucial. It is said about many summer sports that those athletes are “made in the winter.” Don’t train during race season. Get fit by training hard in the winter and then simply maintain that fitness through race season. And do your best to avoid injury all year round. 

Often people ask me, “What’s the best type of exercise?” And I always tell them, “It’s whatever exercise you will actually do.” You’ve got to like doing it if you have any hope of continuing it for a meaningful amount of time. And even a little bit is better than nothing. 

Mix it up. Some days I go to the gym, some days I watch TV while spinning the bike trainer, some days I run outside with a headlamp, some days snow sports are in order. But winter can be dark and cold and monotonous enough without forcing yourself into a workout routine that makes you miserable. 

Q. Do you run through the snow and ice all winter or do you cross train? 
A. Personally, I love winter sports. I ski and climb, and even do a little cross-country skiing and snowshoeing here and there. Alpine ski touring and ski mountaineering are terrific ways to stay in shape, and I do them as frequently as conditions allow. Sadly, in New Jersey, it’s not as often as I’d like. So I have to travel to the Adirondacks or the Whites. But a ski-mo trip on the schedule will work wonders as an interim objective to keep me training. 

Q. How do you stay motivated?
A. For me, interim objectives are key. I get really down in the dumps when the days are so short that I go to work in the dark and drive home in the dark. To think about training for next year’s race season is just too abstract. I need something on the schedule to work towards, ideally no more than a few months distant. The scarier, the better! I’m currently training for a 6-day, non-stop adventure race in Tasmania in March. A race like that keeps me motivated to stay fit no matter what the weather is doing outside. 

Q. Yikes. What about for those of us who aren’t going to Tasmania?
A. It doesn’t have to be anything that crazy. Everyone has a personal challenge and something that they would need to work for. But accountability is key. For me, taking the plunge and signing up for something difficult is all the accountability I need. Taking that substantial step forces me to train for it. Whatever it is. Maybe it’s  committing to a training plan with a friend and keeping one another motivated. Or maybe it’s joining a local ski team or running group. Either way, I find that a little extra bit of outside encouragement is extremely helpful. 

Q. What kind of resources are available for XTERRA trail runners in the Northeast?
A. You can go to to see all of our events from February through August. We also have a Facebook page which lists all of our winter activities. As a matter of fact, I published two new events on our Facebook page this week: a “fun run” in February and a navigation clinic in March. Two separate people immediately thanked me because one needed a run in February to keep her motivated, and the other was getting so down in the dumps about the cold that she just needed something active to look forward to. True story.

I also held a free group training session on New Year’s Eve and spread the word through social media. It was a trail run in the snow, and it ended up being single-digit temperatures. Still, about 20 people showed up, simply because they were looking for something new and interesting with a new group of people. Plus running in snow is super fun, and easy on your joints! 

The first race of the XTERRA Northeast Trail Series is the Shepaug Run Raiser. It will be held on March 24th in Bridgewater Connecticut. You can learn more at

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