Your training season is over. You ran your last race a month ago, and winter is here. We all know the temptations of the Christmas season: food, parties, and alcohol. On top of that, you have snow. It is so much easier to look out at the cold and pull your blanket up over your head. Here are five tips to help you avoid the slump & stay in shape this winter:
It’s Not The Off Season
If you want to improve as an endurance athlete, you need to stop calling it the “off season.” In off season, we sit on the couch a lot. We binge-watch whatever we can find on Netflix while eating mounds of chocolate.
Instead, divide the winter into post-season and pre-season. Post-season is all about recovery, especially if you raced long distances like a marathon or Ironman. Recovery doesn’t mean sitting on the couch, though. Keep running, but run fewer miles and a little less frequently. To maintain your fitness, most coaches recommend doing a minimum of three runs per week. In pre-season, you work on base training. You slowly increase your mileage so you are ready to go when training season comes again.
Do Form Drills
It’s always a good idea to improve your running form, but Winter is an ideal time to fully evaluate your form, to make major improvements, and to start doing those form drills you know you should be doing. The better your running form is, the faster you will go with less effort. Incorporating running form drills will help you get faster in race season without interfering with your races.
Add Strength Training
We all know we should be doing strength training. It’s on every training plan you read on the internet. Remember when you started lifting two weeks before your big race? Your muscles hurt so much that your time suffered. Winter is the perfect time to add in some strength training with enough room to let your muscles get used to it before training season.
You can also use strength training to address any imbalances in your body. If your left leg isn’t as strong as your right, you can work on balancing things out without worrying about it affecting your racing form. Try out these strength evaluations to see what you need to work on. Stronger runners get fewer injuries.
Try Cross Training
During the training season, we spend so much time running that we can’t do other things. Instead of going to your gym to do the same old workout, try signing up for a class that piques your interest. Play some basketball or squash with your friends. Try out yoga or spin. It will help your training, too. Our bodies get used to the same old workouts, so new motions and activities will shock them into better fitness gains. Plus, you might find something you really love.
Just Keep Running
A lot of people stop running completely once the temperature gets below 40 degrees. It might seem obvious, but running through the winter is a great way to stay in shape, and you miss out on some of the best running of the year. Many runners prefer winter running to summer running. You can always add more clothes, but there’s a limit to how much you can take off. When you learn how to dress for the weather, you can stay comfortable no matter the temperature. Plus, there is nothing like a crisp day after a snowfall with a running path all to yourself.
It can be hard to motivate yourself to stay in shape over the winter, but the winter season is an important part of an athlete’s preparation for next year. Take advantage of these tips, and you may not only stay in shape all winter long, you might get performance improvements next year.