You may have missed this post back in 2013 when I first trained for Hawaii Ironman. Here it is with some new and improved updates. We have all experienced those cold mornings where we struggle to wake up, hit snooze one too many times and put off that session that we had originally planned to do, now that cold has taken its grip on us, how do you handle training through winter?
Coming from the UK I was profoundly use to training in the dark and cold, but I'm ashamed to admit that I've got a bit soft since moving to Australia. The days I use to be out running and cycling in the snow, with temperatures below zero are long behind me now and the cold, dark 10 degree mornings of Australia have me reaching for my beanie and gloves. With so many others in the same situation as me, here are some of My Top Tips for making it through winter (again)!
- Train with others!
Its much easier for me to get motivated if I am meeting other people to train, not only does the social context of the session excite me more, but the quality will often be better and meeting someone holds you accountable. It also provides a safer environment if you are not alone on those cold, dark days. *I've been doing some group rides with Square One Physio each week which has helped bring along my cycling and I've had a lot of fun out there on the rides.
- Dress to impress?
For me, in winter function definitely comes before fashion. You will achieve more and feel better during training if you are appropriately dressed for the conditions. Over dress rather than under, you can always shed layers but do not get stuck 60km's from home while you are cold - I have been there and it is not pretty, or healthy. Also, male runners, choose tights or shorts.......not both!
There is nothing that keeps you more motivated or provides relief from training blocks like a good bit of competition. This could be in the form of a variety of disciplines or distances, just to keep you on your toes and keep your eyes on the bigger picture ahead of you.
- Vary your goals
Winter is definitely the time to try alternating methods of training or spend time working on other aspects of your fitness. Experiment with new environments like the gym, take additional time to work on weaknesses like your swim or try something completely new that still has specific development like yoga or circuit training.
*I've been using Vision PT in Mosman on a weekly base for some functional strength gains.
- Safety first
Be sensible about the environments and conditions with which you choose to train. In winter the dark and the cold can be hazardous! Be prepared by wearing bright clothing and lights in the dark and exercising in well lit areas. Don't risk injury by going out on the roads in the wet and cold when you have a perfectly good wind trainer. Don't be a hero in bad conditions, alter your plans and don't be afraid to take a rest and juggle your schedule to fit the winter conditions.
*I've recently been utilising my lunchtimes more for easier recovery sessions.
- Get a good start to the day
If your anything like me you will have favourite sessions through the week, if you struggle for motivation in some areas prioritise these in your day and get them done and out of the way in the morning or when your motivation will be highest. This means that when you are less motivated in the day you have the knowledge that you get to go and do a more favoured session.
- Keep the doctor away
From experience I can say that in the past I have got sick more often in the winter than the summer. With the cold and wet sometimes immunity can be affected by training in worse conditions along with our ability to not prepare for sessions in the correct way. With this in mind it is important to work a schedule in the winter to allow you achieve you goals while remaining healthy. You could try to shorten sessions in the morning before work when the day is at its coldest, or if you see the weather will be poorer in certain times of the day adjust your schedule to combat this. Take the extra time in winter to recover when needed and make sure you dress appropriately, keep your fluid intake up even when you don't feel like drinking in the cold, and always have a change of clothes ready for when you get soaked through.
- Embrace your surroundings
Use the natural terrain and facilities that you have at your disposal to get the best out of training that you can safely. Don't necessarily stick to your original training plan if you have a feeling that the conditions aren't right. Hill work is often good in the winter as it takes place at a slower and safer pace. Running on well lit grass areas can achieve better results than trying to dodge puddles, cars, people and uneven surfaces in the dark. Don't swim in the ocean after a big downpour if the water conditions are bad when you can go to a pool.
- Less IS more
If your a fan of volume in your training and feel secretly guilty when the conditions in winter prevent you from achieving the desired duration of training, think of innovative ways around this. Speak your coach about ways to achieve the same goal with a different session, focus on quality of what you are doing rather then result oriented goals like time or speed. *I've taken the opportunity to spend some more quality time this winter on my Wahoo Kickr , to get some good work achieved in a safe and time efficient environment.
Happy Winter Training