— by Karsten Madsen

Before I got the opportunity to train in Arizona all winter, I suffered in the Canadian tundra. To avoid the windchill and black ice, I spent a lot of my time finding ways to get long aerobic days done without going crazy on the treadmill or trainer.

I am not saying you should shy away from putting in the hard work on the trainer, but you should consider doing something else for those zone 1/2 sessions. By doing a variety of activities, you will keep your body and mind strong. Even as a coach, I challenge my athletes to break the triathlon routine and add in cross training. 

Related: Six activities for the off-season

December to March are the months to get strong, but also stay mentally fresh. 

So, what are the activities? In the past, when we have gotten lots of snow, I have done a bunch of cross country skiing. It got me outside and my heart rate up.

Related: Mix it up with cross-country skiing

If there was a lack of snow, I would ride my mountain bike on the frozen trails – that may not come as a surprise since I race Xterra ( also known as cross triathlons). Note of caution, don’t be that person that rides on the mud and destroys the trails – it’s not cool.

Related: Outdoor winter training: Snowshoe running

For the road triathletes, riding mountain bike trials will increase your handling skills and power on the bike. This point is applicable for the entire season.

For the Canadians lucky enough to be living near the mountains – use them. When I was training in Whistler, BC, I dreamed of taking the necessary courses to get into ski touring. Spending three hours hiking up a mountain and earning your turns was an appealing thought to me.

Think outside the box and ask yourself, does this activity get me to zone 1/2? Does it challenge me? Will it make me stronger? Does it get me outside? Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

If you have a coach, make sure you have a conversation about how you can include outdoor activities in your plan.

Doing your high-intensity sessions in a controlled environment is important, but I don’t buy into doing long aerobic indoor sessions. I promise you, by subbing in a few winter activities for those long aerobic sessions, you will feel fresh and ready to go for the hard workouts.

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