A blog by runners. For runners.

Make winter your fittest season yet

get-and-stay-fit-this-winterIt’s happened: the first snowfall of the season. Yesterday my outdoor thermometer didn’t rise into 30 degree territory. It now starts getting dark before 5 p.m. The holiday decorations are up, the ovens are preheated for baking cookies, and people all around me have gone into hibernation-mode. I don’t necessarily mind outdoor running this time of year, but it can get tiresome day after day dealing with the low light and elements.

We hadn’t used our membership in months, but the combination of all of these factors made it the perfect time to head back to the gym. Strangely enough, I usually lose weight and gain muscle tone this time of year. I think it’s a mix of trying new things and being more accountable with my workouts. If I take the time to drive to the gym or dress in (many) layers, I’d better do something. At least it feels that way, which is a good type of motivation to have.

Instead of a time for rest and recovery, winter can be your secret weapon — but you have to approach it with vigor. Here are some ideas to take your training in the cold months to a new level.

  • Stop slogging: We all get into the same old routine with our weekly mileage. Sometimes it’s just hard to mix up pace on the roads, but on the treadmill — it’s a mental necessity (at least for me). Challenge your body with intervals — long or short — and you’ll get faster and perhaps lighter. You can even power-pack your workouts to make them short, but intense — here are some ideas.
  •  Venture into new territory: Since I’m not a regular gym-goer, my strength training routine leaves much to be desired. By heading over to that somewhat foreign side of the gym, even if I do very little (think a few squats, some bicep curls, etc.), it’s better than what I’m used to. If you’re new to free weights or haven’t used them in a long while, start with the lighter end of the spectrum and work your way up.
  • Sign up for a class: A lot of gyms have group fitness classes. Anything from Zumba to yoga to Barre to cardio kickboxing. Winter is a great time to try something new. And your mind isn’t the only thing that benefits from kicking the routine — using new muscles can improve your overall fitness and even your running. You might even make a few fit friends.
  • Lap it up: For me, swimming laps in the warm pool is an amazing treat — especially when it’s absolutely freezing outside. Swimming is one heck of a workout. In the past, I’ve seen some major improvements with my running through swimming and building better cardiovascular endurance in a different way. You could also try out aqua jogging.
  • Use what you’ve got. Even if you don’t have a gym membership, you can use your own body weight to your advantage for indoor workouts to supplement running. Pushups, situps, squats, and even pullups can get you in amazing shape — as well as revealed a more toned physique. Here’s the skinny on zero dollar strength training.

How do you approach winter training?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.

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