Winter training isn’t fun or easy. Everyone needs to run in the snow at least once a year, after that the fun and excitement diminish in favor of worry about falling and concern for missed workouts. But the winter is also a great time for a running re-birth, a chance to leave the hectic race schedule behind for some quality training that can really help separate you from the competition when the season heats up again in the Spring. Here are three distinct things to work on that can help you breakthrough this winter.
Find the Hills
The best part about adding hills to your running routine is that you don’t need to run the fast to recieve thier full benefits. Snow and similar winter terrain challenges only serve to make even the average hill into something to that will truly challenge your limits and build your fitness.
To be clear, I am not talking about hill repeats or similar speed-related efforts here. Your goal in the winter should be to run outside as much as you can. Of those runs your two key outdoor runs should involve hills in some shape or form. You can break them down as:
Hilly Long Run: Easy/Steady pace out as a warm up, then over to the hills where, now that you are warmed up, you can pick up the pace to Moderately Hard. Push the hills and roll down the descents as recovery. Use the uphill section to work on your form and drive; use the downhills to work on your cadence and remaining smooth. Be sure to include some recovery time, as the hills will put additional stress on your body that will require some additional care.
Hilly Tempo Run: A much shorter version than the longer run, and definitely less challenging to plan. You are looking for a moderate hill here that takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3 minutes to climb. After a warm up, you’ll do loops of this hill with some additional running on flatter terrain as the actual work portion. The hill is run at a steady effort; the “work” you do is on the flats. So a sinlge repeat would look like this:
- 2-minute hill climb
- 1- to 2-minute recovery descent
- 4- to 6-minutes of tempo running (approximately 10k pace);
Get Some Core Strength
Running technique and overall durability are constantly “hot” topics in the running world. Everyone want to run to the best of their ability, and no one wants to get injured (again). But both of these are outcomes, end states achieved through work in the form of developing core strength.
Core strength exercises, particularly ones done in a functional manner (i.e. _not_ with the ab blaster 9000) not only improve your posture and positioning when running, then actually help you activate and establish a strong connection with the rest of your body. You can tell someone to roll their hips forward all day, but you might as well be speaking a foreign language if they can’t actually activate the right muscles.
This won’t require significant time or a gym membership; typically ten to maybe fifteen minutes is all that’s required to get in a great workout that will go a long way towards stabilizing your running form and putting you in the driver’s seat of your running. There are tons of programs available on the web; inside Marathon Nation we have multiple Core and Maintenance workouts designed to keep our members running faster for longer.
A Need for (Treadmill) Speed
Even if the weather outside is awful, and your next A race isn’t for months, you can’t simply neglect speedwork if your winter goal is to improve your fitness. This is especially true for runners who frequent the marathon or half marathon distances, as the better part of your season is spent running at a generally “endurance” oriented pace. Not changing your program in the winter could result in fitness stagnation, not to mention mental burnout. Besides, you might earn an extra gear that could come in handy at the end of your next big race.
Speedwork on the treadmill is the perfect antidote for the winter running blues, as you can dress as if it’s spring and run at some really fast paces to recruit some new muscles. I suggest you limit your speed sessions to just once per week; you don’t need much more to challenge your body especially if you are following the hill guidance as written above. Here’s a sample session you can do:
- Warm Up for 10 minutes, building from very easy to about marathon pace. Be sure to set the treadmill to 1.5% here.
- Do three repeats of thirty seconds each (3 x 30″) all at 5k pace. To take a break, simply hold onto the handrails and jump your feet to the outside panels. When ready, hold the handles and jump right back in.
- Do 2 to 3 x 1 mile repeats at your current 10k or 5k pace. Rest as long as is needed between the intervals by jogging at a very casual pace.
- Cool Down with a mile of jogging and walking, then take a moment to stretch out your trouble areas.
Those our our tips…what do you do each winter to make sure you are ready to go when the race start!? Tell us in the comment please!