Winter training isn't fun or easy. Everyone needs to run in the snow at least once a year, after that the fun and excitement diminish in favor of worry about falling and concern for missed workouts. But the winter is also a great time for a running rebirth, a chance to leave the hectic race schedule behind for some quality training that can really help separate you from the competition when the season heats up again in the spring. Here are three distinct things to work on that can help you breakthrough this winter.
Find the Hills
The best part about adding hills to your running routine is that you don't need to run them fast to receive their full benefits. Snow and similar winter terrain challenges make even the average hill into something to that will truly challenge your limits and build your fitness.
To be clear, I am not talking about hill repeats or similar speed-related efforts here. Your goal in the winter should be to run outside as much as you can. Of those runs, your two key outdoor runs should involve hills in some shape or form. You can break them down as:
Hilly Long Run: Easy/steady pace out as a warm-up, then over to the hills where (now that you are warmed up) you can pick up the pace to moderately hard. Push the hills and roll down the descents as recovery. Use the uphill section to work on your form and drive; use the downhills to work on your cadence and remaining smooth. Be sure to include some recovery time, as the hills will put additional stress on your body that will require some additional care.
Hilly Tempo Run: A much shorter version than the longer run, and definitely less challenging to plan. You are looking for a moderate hill here that takes anywhere from one and a half to three minutes to climb. After a warm up, you'll do loops of this hill with some additional running on flatter terrain as the actual work portion. The hill is run at a steady effort; the "work" you do is on the flats. So a single repeat would look like this:
- Two-minute hill climb
- One to two-minute recovery descent
- Four to six minutes of tempo running (approximately 10K pace)
Get Some Core Strength
Running technique and overall durability are constantly hot topics in the running world. Everyone wants to run to the best of their ability, and no one wants to get injured (again). But both of these are outcomes, end states achieved through work in the form of developing core strength.
Core strength exercises, particularly ones done in a functional manner (i.e. not with the ab blaster 9000) not only improve your posture and positioning when running, then actually help you activate and establish a strong connection with the rest of your body. You can tell someone to roll their hips forward all day, but you might as well be speaking a foreign language if they can't actually activate the right muscles.