How to Train During the Cold Months of the Year
Training becomes difficult for runners during the winter. Our trails through the woods become covered with snow. Ice and snow also make running on the roads tricky. Cold weather forces us to bundle up, slowing our stride. Add to that, the narrow window of daylight that forces many runners to train, at least during the week, in darkness. For that reason alone, winter is no fun even for those who live in warmer climates.
But winter also can be an advantage, since it forces us to change training patterns. If we can't do fartlek in the woods or repeat 200s on the track, we can at least run long and build our base mileage and aerobic fitness. The mere difficulty of running when the temperature dips below freezing makes us tougher. Peter Snell, a pupil of the famed New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard and the 800 and 1,500 gold medalist in the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games, claimed he enjoyed running outdoors in bad weather, because he figured all his rivals were indoors doing nothing, pampering themselves.
Don't pamper yourself. Keep running this winter Here is a Winter Training Program to motivate yourself to not only stay fit, but to improve your fitness. It lasts 13 weeks and features five running workouts a week with one day of rest and one day of cross-training. Most significantly, It is a time-based training program, meaning that workouts are prescribed in minutes rather than miles. That recognizes the variability of running conditions due to weather. When it's cold and slippery, it's hard to maintain the same fast pace you might in the spring or fall with equal effort.
On days featuring bad weather, simply run at a comfortable pace without glancing at your watch to check pace. Let your instincts tell you how slow or fast to run. On days when the weather improves and the weather has warmed and the roads are clear, pick up the pace.
The Winter Training Program consists of the following workouts on various days of the week:
Monday: Run Easy. In my Winter Training Program, Mondays are easy days with short runs alternating between 15, 20 and 25 minutes at a pace between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you have access to a fitness center, you might want to do this workout on a treadmill, then do some strength training afterwards.
Tuesday: Run Long. If you have used one of my 18-week marathon training programs, you know that I usually prescribe what I call "sorta-long" runs for the middle of the week. About the best way to describe them is that they are runs not as long as the long runs on the weekends. Tuesdays in this program are set aside for sorta-long runs between 45 and 60 minutes. Run between 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Wednesday: Run Easy. Similar to Monday, do a short and easy run today, coupling this run (outdoors or indoors) with some stretching and strength training. Stay in the 65 to 75 percent comfort zone.
Thursday: Run Fast. Weather permitting, do a Tempo Run. I define a Tempo Run as one where you start easy at a jogging warm-up pace (60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate), then after a mile or two, begin to gradually accelerate to just slower than your 10-K pace (between 80 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate). Then, after holding that fast pace for 3 to 5 minutes, gradually decelerate and finish the run at the same jogging pace at which you started. While I suggest Thursdays for Tempo Runs, be aware of weather conditions. Feel free to shift your Tempo Run--or any other prescribed workout--to the day of the week most convenient for you.
Friday: Rest. Fridays are rest days in all my programs. You need to be well rested to obtain maximum benefit from the tougher workouts on the weekends.
Saturday: Run Long. In this program, you will alternate runs of 60, 75 or 90 minutes, the time difference mainly to provide a bit of variety from week to week. I don't care how far or fast you run in your allotted time; I simply want you out running. Even runners with access to a treadmill in a gym probably need to get outdoors at least once a week to run long. Stay in the 65 to 75 percent comfort zone. Please note that, unlike my marathon programs, the mileage (or time) does not build over the length of the program. I'm not training you for a marathon or any other race. My interest is in having you maintain a high level of fitness during the winter, so that you can move into a race-focused training program once the weather warms. If you are training for a spring marathon at the end of this Winter Training Program, feel free to modify upward the length of time or distance for these long runs.
Sunday: Cross Train. An hour's walk between 50 and 60 percent of your maximum heart rate would be one winter cross-training option for Sundays, or if you have access to a fitness center you could move your cross-training indoors. My favorite winter cross-training activities, however, are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, which might take you out of your heart rate comfort zone if you push the pace. Naturally, you do need snow for both activates. Janis Klecker, winner of the 1992 Olympic Marathon Trials, trained through a Minnesota winter to get ready for that race, spending a lot of her training time on snowshoes designed by her husband Barney Klecker, the US 50-mile record holder. Deena Drossin Kastor, bronze medalist in the 2004 Olympic marathon, uses snowshoes while training winters at Mammoth Lake, California.
To provide a light at the end of the tunnel, I suggest you run a race in the 13th and final week of the program. For Chicagoans, who start right after New Year's Day, this would take them up to The LaSalle Bank Shamrock Shuffle, an 8-K race. When the weather and race calendar permits, you might want to plug in one or two other races to provide motivation.
The chart below describes my Winter Training Program. However, it is only a bare-bones outline of the much more detailed InterActive program available through Training Peaks. Sign up for the Interactive program, and I will send you a daily e-mail message telling you not only how to run your outdoor workouts, but also how to run those same workouts indoors if you have access to a treadmill or track. In addition, there are other tips on stretching, strength training, nutrition and various cross-training exercises to keep you in shape while the cold winds blow. To preview the program and sign up, go to the menu for Hal Higdon Training Programs on TrainingPeaks and follow the links into the Winter Training Program.
|1||Run 15 min easy||Run 45 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 60 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|2||Run 20 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||40 min tempo||Rest||Run 75 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|3||Run 25 min easy||Run 45 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 90 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|4||Run 20 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||3 m run||Run 60 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|5||Run 15 min easy||Run 45 min easy||Run 30 min easy||40 min tempo||Rest||Run 75 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|6||Run 20 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 90 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|7||Run 25 min easy||Run 45 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 60 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|8||Run 20 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||40 min tempo||3 m run||Run 75 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|9||Run 15 min easy||Run 45 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 90 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|10||Run 20 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 60 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|11||Run 25 min easy||Run 45 min easy||Run 30 min easy||40 min tempo||Rest||Run 75 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|12||Run 20 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||3 m run||Run 90 min easy||Cross train 60 min|
|13||Run 15 min easy||Run 60 min easy||Run 30 min easy||30 min tempo||Rest||Run 90 min easy||Race|