Winter run training

Winter run training

“Miles to go before I sleep”

Just like Robert Frost’s famous poem, the woods are lovely, dark, and deep this time of year — and they will soon be filling up with snow. But we have promises to keep. We have miles to go before we sleep.

Why? How?

That is the topic of this week’s newsletter. Before you get my opinion, you may be interested to hear what keeps Meb Keflezighi motivated over the winter (Olympic medalist and top American marathoner, even at 43 years old). While I’m overwhelmingly in awe of Meb’s running capabilities, the fact that he lives in San Diego causes me to lack some sympathy for his winter blues.

For those of us brave enough to train through the winter in the Mid-Atlantic states, I offer some advice for not just making it through the winter but emerging stronger, fitter, and happier than you began.

If my advice doesn’t work you can always fall back on Robert Frost: You have promises to keep. You have miles to go before you sleep.

Keep it interesting

The weather may not be ideal for running outside, but that doesn’t mean you are stuck doing boring workouts all winter. Find a way to liven it up and become a better athlete in the process. Here are some ideas:

  1. Outdoor cross-training: Have you ever tried cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in the snow? Don’t let a fresh blanket of snow hold you back. Hiking through snow is a great workout, and you can take it to the next level with snowshoes or cross-country skis. Snowshoes are available to rent at many REI stores in the area. No excuses!
  2. Run in the snow Yaktrax: It is amazing how easy it is to run in packed snow with these cleats strapped around your running shoes.
  3. Gym cross training: Mix it up with indoor cycling, elliptical, stair steppers, and any other fitness equipment that allows you to get your heart rate up. You can even sign up for a group fitness class if you need extra motivation.
  4. Treadmills: Running indoors on a treadmill gets a bad rap, but it can be an incredibly effective tool for training. Especially over the winter. Use the opportunity to work on both form and fitness with this video I recently posted at The Runner’s Toolkit.
    • Warmup with drills — marching, bounding, skipping, and shuffling is all possible on a treadmill. Just be extremely careful because falling on a treadmill is very dangerous. Always be safe. Watch from minute 1:09 of the video for examples.
    • Focus on form — Work on posture, high hips, quick feet, separated legs, and other cues that will help you run better. Watch from minute 5:15 of the video to see how I work on form while running on the treadmill.
    • Incorporate hills — Hill intervals will make workouts seem quicker, and the variation is great for your body. David Roche provided six specific treadmill hill workouts in his Trail Runner magazine article last year. You can also start at minute 10:25 in my video to get even more ideas.
    • End with strides — Just like we often end a run with strides (short, fast accelerations followed by long recovery), it is a great idea to end your treadmill sessions with a few accelerations. Just stay safe! Here I am doing strides at minute 13:00 of the treadmill running video.
  5. Zwift indoor running and cycling: If you need to spice up your indoor running and cycling with interactive visualizations, a community of athletes, and some gamification, then Zwift could be a good option for you.

Do you have a good way to train over the winter? Share your ideas with the Run Xpress group on Facebook. Please join if you haven’t done so already!

Fine-tune your movement

The winter is a great time to work on tuning up your running body. It’s all about creating a great foundation that will keep you healthy and fast all year.

Here is a workout that I like to do at home a couple times per week. It only takes 15 minutes.

Throw in some speed

You may be working on building an aerobic base for the year ahead, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect speed. Check out the speed of Shalane Flanagan last January in this 3000m race. This was 2 months after winning the New York Marathon and 3 months before running Boston Marathon. It’s clear she wasn’t just doing long distance runs over the winter!

If you are up for a track race then check out Chuck Shield’s Indoor Track & Field online calendar. Many of us on this newsletter are running track races this winter, so reach out to us on the Run Xpress group on Facebook if you want to join.

Even if you are not planning any track races there are plenty of other ways to incorporate some speed this winter:

  • When in doubt, do strides. Build up to a pace that is just above what you could hold for one mile (these are not sprinting). Take plenty of rest in between. Focus on good form and technique.
  • Short hill sprints are an excellent way to safely incorporate sprinting. Find a hill that is steep (15% to 20%) and at least 60 meters long. After a thorough warmup and dynamic stretching exercises, you can perform 6-to-10 hill sprints. From a standing start, accelerate as fast as possible up the hill for 10-15 seconds. Walk down and completely recovery before continuing with the next sprint.
  • Hit the track. A great starting workout is to run 10-to-12 200 meter intervals at your current mile pace (the fastest pace you can sustain for 1 mile). Recover for 100 meters at a speed that makes the rest interval the same as the work interval. For example, if your max mile time is 6 minutes then you would run the 200 meters in 45 seconds and the 100 meters (recovery) in 45 seconds. This is a great way to get some faster running in without beating yourself up too much.

Workout with other people!

The best way to motivate yourself to get out and train in cold, windy, dark, damp weather is to train with other people.

If you need help finding people to run with then talk to the folks at your local running store.

We also post group workouts at the Run Xpress group on Facebook. You are welcome to post your own as well!

There is also this little running and cycling social network called Strava. Myself and many other athletes in the area use it. I completely endorse using it as long as it is for the right reasons:

  • Finding and interacting with local athletes
  • Sharing positive vibes, both with your workout posts and comments made to others
  • Locating new running routes, group runs, and interesting events

Strava also has a dark side. Like the other social networks out there, it is tempting to use for vanity purposes. “Showing off” for your followers will have negative impacts on your overall performance. Chasing segments and PRs during training is generally not a great training strategy. You’ll get more satisfaction by being present in your environment while running — not thinking about what people are going to think when they see your workout on Strava.

All that said, we do have a Run Xpress club setup on Strava. Please join if you want to stay in touch with others in this community.

Work on your mindset

It is always a great time to work on your inner game. Your mental mindset has a big impact on the level of enjoyment and performance you achieve as an athlete. Since the beginning of the year is such a great time to think about goals and aspirations, I suggest doubling-down on the mental aspects of being a runner.


First, sign up for the Expressive Athlete Mini-Course I announced last week

Second, check out the live video on mindset from Dr. Arianne’s new Movement Paradigm facility in Downingtown. We’ll go live around 7:30am and you can view the recorded video on the Run Expression Facebook page or Runner’s Toolkit YouTube channel.

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