Winter is when many of us hibernate inside to watch Netflix and make sweet treats in the kitchen. But if you are someone looking to build your endurance for later in the year – such as for a race or general fitness – you do not want to take these winter months off before resuming activity in the spring. If you are usually active in the other three seasons of the year, it would greatly behoove you to maintain regular activity in the winter months. Winter is the perfect time for endurance athletes to take it a little easier and focus on building and maintaining their base for a more efficient aerobic system. Here are some tips to consider during the cold months:
It is recommended to avoid cotton, as this material retains moisture and can keep your body cold and wet.2 Synthetic materials are preferred in colder weather. Everybody has different tolerances to cold, but many endurance athletes believe it is still okay to run outside with temperatures above zero and wind chills above -20 degrees Fahrenheit, with the proper gear and no ice on the roads.2
If cold weather running isn’t your thing, or the temperatures are far too cold to be outside safely, then the treadmill may be the way to go.
And if the treadmill isn’t your thing either; some may prefer a spin bike or other indoor cardio (e.g., rower, bike trainer, stair climber, elliptical, swimming, etc.). In particular, a spin bike may be beneficial for those who want to try a lower-impact workout that is easier on the joints.
A dynamic warmup is crucial any time of the year, but especially in colder temperatures.
Endurance athletes in the middle of a training plan may struggle to lose weight. The constant refueling and focus on nourishing the body to achieve peak performance for any endurance athlete usually do not constitute the same eating plan as someone trying to lose weight. Calories need to be replenished. Therefore, now may be the best time to focus more on weight loss before a formalized training plan begins.
Core strength is important for runners and all endurance athletes. Simply put, increased core strength allows for more torso stability during running and other activities. Ultimately, this allows for less energy expenditure and an increase in recovery from missteps during workouts.3
Sometimes, just having something on the calendar gives you a goal to work towards during these winter months. Usually, the Spring races are shorter and easier to train for than their Fall counterparts. A short Spring race might just be the little extra motivation you need to keep moving in the winter.
If running outside is simply not an option, and you’ve had enough of the treadmill for now, maybe it is time to focus on weight training! While cross-training should be a part of any endurance or running training plan, the winter might be the most optimal time to focus a little extra on strength, and heavy weights, according to Runners World.4 Runners and endurance athletes “in-season” will usually cross-train with a focus on slow-twitch (Type I) muscle fibers to help boost their endurance (and to allow them to run more during the season). Runners and endurance athletes in the off-season (usually winter) with races further out in the year may benefit from lifting heavier to focus on fast-twitch (Type II) muscle fibers, as this may not be an optimal option later in the year.
You should not neglect strength training. A review in the journal Sports Medicine revealed that resistance training could help boost a trained runner’s economy (amount of energy a runner uses) by eight percent.5 Moreover, the Journal of Sports & Orthopaedic Physical Therapy concluded via a systematic review with meta-analysis (one of the highest levels of research evidence) that both hip and knee strengthening can help reduce pain and increase activity in those with knee pain.6
Simply put, time put in the weight room now can pay dividends when you start hitting the trails and pavement later in the year.
If you are new to running or returning after an extended break, a Video Gait Analysis by one of our clinicians may help ensure you are taking the correct steps (pun intended) to begin or resume your running hobby. And of course, if you have pain, you want to address before you start logging miles – or develop pain as you start running or training for any endurance event – our many clinicians are here to help! It all starts with Athletico. To schedule your Video Gait Analysis today, click the button below.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.