There are two ways to approach winter from a training perspective: Stay tucked under warm blankets and sleep the winter away, or toughen up, get out of bed and set your body up for a few early spring PBs. – BY RAY ORCHISON, REGISTERED COACH
There’s nothing quite like hitting that snooze button on a cold or wet winter morning – and given that we’re now out of the recognised SA running season, you could be forgiven for doing so now and then, but when the snooze button becomes the norm, you will have a problem. Within seven to 10 days, you will lose your sharpness or racing edge when you stop training, but when you stop for two to three weeks and longer, you begin to lose base fitness. This means that your endurance systems, which have been built over months of hard work, together with your muscles, begin to atrophy or waste away.
So, if you go into full hibernation during winter, you will come back into spring requiring lots of hard work to get your systems back to where they were before. The best approach to winter is therefore to allow yourself a few easy weeks with one or two extra lie-ins, but keep the body ticking over at a maintenance level. Yes, you won’t be firing on all cylinders, but you should maintain a level where, given a few weeks of focused training, you’ll be race-ready or pretty close to it.
The type of sessions will depend on what you’ve built over the months, and the areas you want to work on. If you’ve improved your speed, strength and endurance, then at this point you could reduce your speed and endurance and work a little more at maintaining or even building your strength. If you’ve greatly enhanced your endurance, then this is a great opportunity to maintain a certain level of endurance while working on building your speed. Basically, winter is a great opportunity to work on your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths.
This all sounds great… until that alarm goes off in the cold dark hours and suddenly all motivation goes out the window. It is extremely difficult to get out of a warm bed when you have no purpose for doing so, which means that one of the best ways to get motivated is to have a goal in place, such as your first half marathon, or a PB at a specific distance. Winter also gives us a great opportunity to spend a little more time at the gym and to eliminate any muscle weaknesses or imbalances.
The worst possible thing you can do when the alarm goes off is to start thinking about it. Just turn it off and get up! The other alternative is to put the alarm far away from the bed, so you have no option but to get up to turn it off. Once you’re up and out the door, it’s usually not as cold or as bad as you thought it would be, and before you know it, you’re back from your session, standing under a warm shower, feeling good about yourself and glad that you got out there.