When road conditions are sloppy and the temperature is frigid, it's normal to feel a dip in running motivation. It can be so tempting to hibernate until the tulips bloom, but winter is a great time to build a foundation for spring running and racing. Depending on your region's climate and your own personal preferences, choose a few (or all) of these tips and set yourself up for a solid racing season. You can thank us at the finish line!
Work on Weak Spots
If you have any niggling aches or recurring injuries, the offseason is a good time to strengthen your Achilles heel (literally and figuratively!). Make an appointment with a trusted physical therapist or chiropractor to address areas that need some special attention. Now is also a good time to map out an effective foam rolling and mobility routine that you can continue when training ramps up.
If you enjoy snow sports, the winter is the perfect time to do what you love. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing will help build aerobic endurance, and downhill skiing is a good strength workout. Don't live near snow? Try hopping on an exercise bike or rowing machine for a change of pace.
Focus on Nutrition
With more time to meal prep, the offseason is a good opportunity to experiment in the kitchen. Try a new recipe or use an unusual ingredient, without worrying how it will affect tomorrow's long run. If you want to work on your body composition, some runners find it easier to lose weight when they're not in the middle of serious training. A registered dietician can help guide the way if that's your goal.
Get Into a Strength Training Routine
We all know we should be strength training regularly, but how many of us actually do it? If you've been lax in the past, aim for two 20-minute sessions per week with an emphasis on functional strength. Remember: A strong runner is one that's less likely to get injured!
Plan Your Next Race
Even if it's months away, getting a race on the calendar and paying the registration fee is a sure-fire way to increase motivation. Now might also be a good time to consider investing in a running coach (they aren't just for elites or super-fast runners) or practicing your on-the-run nutrition. Taking care of these things now will free up some mental space when/if training becomes more demanding.
Set a Mini Goal
Maybe you're not quite ready for speed workouts, but can you commit to a mileage goal every week or to a certain number of cross-training workouts? If you're itching to test your fitness, consider a 5K-time trial (even the treadmill will work for this!) or sign up for a low-key winter race if you can find one.
Work on Your Mental Game
The physical side of running is important, but your ability to focus, concentrate and stick it out when things get uncomfortable can make a huge difference in your race performance. Less than ideal conditions (weather or surface) or even a monotonous treadmill run can help build some of that mental toughness. If nothing else, these "character-building miles" will make spring running feel like heaven!
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