5 Fitness Tips for Runners During Winter

If you want to handle the long runs that are part of sound half marathon and marathon training, your body has to be strong enough to handle those miles. You need the muscular strength and structural integrity to handle running more miles when the weather warms. So, what should you do during winter?

More: How Runners Can Begin a Strength-Training Program

All of my athletes do a 5-minute warm-up routine, which includes the Lunge Matrix, as well as a 10-minute cooldown with General Strength and Mobility (GSM) exercises. It's 15 minutes of work that is non-negotiable in my coaching. My athletes complete 15 minutes total of ancillary work before and after every run, workout, and long run.

More: A Better Pre-Run Warm-Up

If you have 60 minutes to complete your workout, you have a choice: You can either run for 45 minutes, allowing for 5 minutes before the run and 10 minutes after the run—for a total of 60 minutes. Or, you can find 15 more minutes in your day to get in 60 minutes of running plus 5 minutes before the run and 10 minutes after the run, for a total of 75 minutes. 

The 5-minute Lunge Matrix gets you moving in all three planes of motion, so if you've been sitting all day before you can run, this is a great way to get your body ready for a run. If you're an early morning runner, you need to get your body ready to run to prevent injury and the shock of getting out of bed and hitting the pavement soon after.

After the run, aim to get an anabolic, or "muscle-building" effect since the run has a slight anabolic effect, meaning it tears your muscles down. In simple terms, this will giving you a bit of the type of work you would get in a CrossFit workout. Anabolic work is great for runners, especially when you pass the age of 35.

More: 10 Exercises to Build Strength

Winter is a great time to establish these habits. If you're sick of the cold and the snow, do your 5 minutes before the run inside, run for 45 minutes outside, then come back inside for 10 minutes of solid GSM. You'll feel great about doing 60 minutes of work, yet you'll only brave the elements for 45 minutes. Or, you can commit to 75 minutes of work, but still only run 60 minutes outside. Either way you are making an important change in your training that will keep you healthy. A healthy runner is able to string together week after week of solid training, which will lead to a PR when the weather warms.

More: How to Become a Consistent Runner and Nail New PRs

Cross-training on the stationary bike, elliptical or rowing machine and swimming in an indoor pool are all great ways to get an aerobic stimulus in the winter. If you have someone who can take you through a CrossFit program or a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) program, the winter can be a good time to switch up your training.

Finally, winter sports are a wonderful way to keep up your general fitness levels outdoors. The lower body strength you get from a day of downhill skiing or the aerobic fitness you get from a day of Nordic skate skiing fit very well in an annual training plan for a serious runner.

Staying motivated in the winter is tough, but if you're smart about your choices, you can continue to gain fitness in the winter and set yourself up for a great spring and summer of racing.

More: Want to Become a Better Runner? Try Something New

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