How to Train Through the Winter Weather

I’m training for a marathon. My long runs have been sabotaged twice by winter weather! Are there other options when extreme weather hits? I want to stay on track, but I haven’t been successful in running long in the cold. Thanks so much. ~Marybeth

You’re wise to think twice about running in the cold weather, especially for your longer runs. Although training through windy and rainy conditions can be exciting, it can also require a lot more post-workout recovery, setting your training back for days. Sometimes it’s better to be conservative. That said, there are myriad options for endurance training when the cold weather hits your neck of the woods. Here are just a few.

Divide and conquer. If you have time, break the total distance into smaller parts and run them 6-8 hours apart. For instance, if you have a 22 kilometre run planned, you can run 11 kilometres in the morning and 11 kilometres 6-8 hours later. This option makes running long on a treadmill more bearable.

Hit the treadmill. Put on your favourite movie, and think in terms of 15-minute increments rather than kilometres. The time will fly by, you’ll have your fluids and fuel right there where you need them, and you’ll get in the kilometres safely.

Modify and intensify. Your marathon plan isn’t etched in stone. You can modify the dates and distances to ebb and flow with your life. When the cold strikes, shorten the distance and run it at a more challenging effort. For instance, instead of running 22 kilometres, you can substitute a 13 kilometre race-simulation run, where you run 6 kilometres at an easy effort, 5 kilometres at a moderate effort, and the final kilometre hard. This is a great plan for the treadmill or indoor track; it’s not only shorter but also safer because you’ll be warmed up and won’t risk a muscle strain when pushing harder towards the end.

Train like a triathlete and diversify. Mixing up the modes can be an effective way to train for a long stretch of time inside without losing your mind. This is especially effective for those that cross-train, don’t like the treadmill, or are struggling with aches and pains. For example, let’s say it takes you 2.5 hours to run 22 kilometres. You could break it up in 20-30 minute legs and alternate between the modes — running for 30 minutes and cycling for 30 minutes, or running for an hour, riding for 30 minutes, and running for another hour.

Go with the flow. If none of these options appeal to you, go with the flow, hit the trails for a much shorter, but higher-intensity hike or run. The winter air will keep your spirits as high as your heart rate. It’s an effective running workout for strength and stamina, and you won’t miss a beat when you run your long run the following week.

Cold weather, like hot, provides opportunities for growth. Sometimes the detours taken along the way lead to better training strategies down the road.

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