Canadian triathletes shouldn’t let cold, snow or ice stop them from keeping up their running fitness in the winter. Even if there’s a howling wind and poor footing, some outdoor speed sessions will keep that zip in your legs. Without pressure to hit certain splits on the track or worry about pace, you can concentrate purely on effort level – a liberating feeling. Dodging slush piles other winter obstacles also helps improve co-ordination.
Here are some fun winter workouts – from short to long – that you can run even in the worst conditions, to maintain your fitness in the off-season:
Winter Wind Sprints
After (or during!) a nice big snowstorm, do a warm-up jog to a field, a park or the infield of your local track. Now you’re ready for the real fun. Taking small, quick steps, and raising your knees higher than normal, run for 50-100 m at as fast as you can manage without your feet slipping too much on the push-off. Walk or jog back to your start point and repeat 15-20 times. For an extra challenge, perform this workout as a true wind sprint – straight into a fierce headwind.
Put Your Best Footing Forward
Pick a route on side streets that has a mixture of good and poor footing, maybe some unploughed roads with some recently ploughed sections, or a mix of shovelled and snow-covered sidewalks. Run quickly on the sections with good footing and slow down to an easy pace for the rough parts. This way you can take advantage of the traction to sneak in some quality speed training with risking injury.
Find a one-block route with minimal traffic that’s clear of snow and ice. To warm up, run one or two easy laps of the square. Think of the block as a square track. Start at one corner and run hard for three-quarters of the loop at a fast pace (three block lengths) – about 85 per cent effort level – and jog the final straightaway back to your start point. Repeat about eight to 10 intervals of the square and follow that up with a two-lap cool-down.
Treat this medium-length run like a tempo effort, but don’t think about pace. You can do this run in the freezing cold, sleet, hail, freezing rain or deep snow. Just make sure you dress appropriately for the conditions. Start out with a 10-minute very easy warm up and begin a harder effort, concentrating on steady breathing and good running form. Depending on the terrain and the weather conditions, your pace will likely vary considerably. Focus on keeping an even effort for about 20 minutes. Finish off with a 5-10 minute easy cool-down jog.
The Home Long Run
Try this long run to maximize your comfort and security in the winter by running multiple repeats of a route near your house. Find a loop of about 5 km of roads or paths that runs past your front door. As you pass by your house after each 5 km section, you can add or remove a layer of clothing if you’re hot or cold, grab some water or sports drink from home, or end the run early if the weather turns nasty. You can also time each loop and try to keep a consistent pace.
Michal Kapral is the editor of Canadian Running.