A blog by runners. For runners.

How to run less without sacrificing your speed in the winter

Additional-considerations-for-winter-runningWe’re in a new year! And, unfortunately for us fair weather runners, we’re also in the two darkest, coldest months of the year.

I find this season the most challenging when it comes to running. There are no birds chirping like in spring, no 5:30 a.m. sunrises as in summer, and no colorful leaves crunching under my feet like fall. Instead there’s just black ice, blistering wind, and air that’s so cold I feel like my lungs are collapsing.

Dramatic? Extremely. Still, even though I dislike winter running, I refuse to hang up my running shoes until March. I just dial back my mileage.

However, with fewer miles often comes slower speeds – and a slowed average pace is another one of those things on my list of dislikes. Luckily, it’s possible to log fewer miles without sacrificing your speed. Here’s how:

Forget the junk miles. During marathon training, I run 5 times per week for total of 40 miles or so. But here’s the thing – I only speed up to an uncomfortable pace on two of those runs. The other three runs include one long run and two easy runs. While easy workouts are vital for recovery, they’re also considered “junk miles”. As in, they don’t do anything to boost your running fitness.

This winter, aim to run outside a couple of times per week, but forgo those junk miles. Instead, pick up the pace and make those outdoor runs count. This doesn’t mean you have to sprint. You can add in speed intervals or try to gradually increase your speed throughout the workout and run a negative split. If you follow this approach, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your average pace when you’re ready to up your mileage again.

Cross-train hard. If you’re going to be logging fewer miles, you’ll need to make up for those missed workouts. Or else you’ll likely lose fitness and possibly pack on some pounds.

Winter is the perfect time to try out other forms of exercise. There’s a catch, though. If you want to substitute other forms of physical activity for your runs, you need to make sure you’re cross-training intensely. Zoning out on the stationary bike won’t do. Try an indoor cycling, bootcamp, or power yoga class. Or simply do a body weight workout at home.

Give this one a go:

Do three rounds of the following sequence. Do as many repetitions of each move as you can for 30 seconds the first round, 40 seconds the second round, and 50 seconds the final round. Rest and hydrate for one minute in between each round.

Note: We know we just told you to run hard and cross-train hard. That’s intense! However, it’s crucial to listen to your body and go easy on days you’re especially tired or sore. And back off at the first sign of injury. You should also make sure you take at least one full day off from exercise each week.

Written by Jen Matz.