Winter Training and Conditioning
Rain, snow, sleet, ice, mud — for many runners, these conditions signal time for a winter break. Trail shoes are traded for a hot cup of peppermint tea and a captivating novel in front of a crackling fire. But wait just a second. Put that tea down. What about that humongous aerobic base you worked so hard to achieve all last season? A winter wonderland provides the perfect opportunity to hone your running economy, to get stronger by combining cross-training and strength, and to smash those pesky muscle imbalances into an oblivion. The book can wait.
Winter training doesn’t require slogging crazy volume in heinous conditions. It’s all about intuitive freedom to pick and choose the types of workouts based on the weather forecast, your own mood, or what big adventure your friends are planning. It’s a time for loose structure, but structure that allows for choice. It’s a time for mental recharge in the long, dark winter months.
Winter running is a great way to keep those running muscles honed with just enough adaptation to maintain a solid aerobic base, while simultaneously giving you a mental break from serious training. Back off on the number of times you run per week. Mix it up between easy terrain and hills, while letting weather conditions dictate where you run. Particularly rough conditions may make the treadmill your only option. For marathon and ultrarunners, keep these workouts at 30-90 minutes. Strive to get one weekly run of 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on weather, schedule, and upcoming goals. For most runs, effort level should be under your aerobic ceiling (Z1/Z2 Heart Rate) at an easy, conversational pace. You should be able to speak in full sentences.
Bonus: Add one or two sessions per week of faster running to help improve your running economy. When you kick-off a phase like this, build incrementally by starting with shorter intervals and build each week in time and volume at faster paces. Be sure to bookend 15-20 minutes at easy pace as a warm-up and cooldown with these harder sessions.