How to motivate yourself to run in the winter, according to a marathon champion

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By Julie Compton

Snow. Ice. Freezing wind. The winter months can be the bane of anyone with a regular running routine. Even with the warmest winter gear, getting outside in freezing temperatures often comes down to one thing: motivation, according to four-time Olympian and marathoner Meb Keflezighi.

Whether you’re an elite, intermediate or novice runner, your biggest motivation to get out and exercise should be your health, says Keflezighi, winner of the 2009 New York City and 2014 Boston marathons. Runners tend to lose their conditioning and gain weight when they shut themselves indoors, he says.

“When you’re not running, you’re not going to have a good diet. It goes hand in hand,” Keflezighi tells NBC News BETTER.

Keflezighi, who resides in San Diego, lived periodically in the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, California for nearly a decade, where he trained regularly in the cold and snow. Here’s his advice on how to stick to your running routine through the cold months.

Warm up and stretch in the morning

A simple way to motivate yourself to get out and run in the cold is to wake up early, have a light snack with a cup of hot tea or coffee, and stretch or use a foam roller, says Keflezighi. This will warm up your body and get you in the mood to run.

“Those are good things to wake up the muscles,” says Keflezighi. “Just give it a half hour, or set the alarm a half hour before you think you’re going to go out.”

Join a local running group

If you need extra motivation, Keflezighi says planning regular runs with friends or joining a local running group will push you to get outside.

“That can be your accountability and give you a routine,” he says.

Keflezighi says many running shops organize meet ups for runners in their areas. Social media is also a great way to find local running groups in your community.

If you’re new to running, don’t be shy about reaching out to these groups, says Keflezighi.

“Runners are typically very friendly,” he says.

Sign up for a race

Another great way for runners to keep up their training in the cold months is to sign up for races throughout the winter and spring, says Keflezighi. He says having a race to train for will give you extra motivation to get out the door.

“You want to do the best that you can, and you’re not going to wait until the last week before [the race], so that kind of keeps you a goal-oriented person,” he says.

Whether your goal is to complete a 5K, 10K, half marathon or even a marathon, you can find plenty of upcoming races in your community by searching online. You can even download apps on your phone like the New York Road Runners Virtual Racing series where you can participate in virtual races.

If you’re new to running, Keflezighi says to avoid longer races like half marathons, which can lead to muscle strains and other injuries for novices.