Winter Running-Do I have to?

It is no mystery what we are in store for here in Ontario as far as the upcoming change in weather.  It has started already.  We were all in shorts and t-shirts last week enjoying the last tidbit of a warm fall, but this week the mercury has plummeted and we are frantically looking for matching mitts that we shoved into the closet last spring.  For those of us who enjoy outdoor fitness like running, hiking or biking, searching for the right gear to get us through a cold winter can be challenging as well.

There was a time when I used the Around the Bay race as motivation to get me through a course of winter training.  The 30 km road race is held at the end of March so winter training is a must.  In fact, most of the time it is very much still winter when running on race day.  After 9 Bay races, I have to say the glamour has worn off for me.  I still love to go down and feel the electricity of the race day and I watch and cheer as we watch thousands of people of all shapes, sizes and ages cross over that finish line. For a brief moment in time, when I am watching, I yearn to be in their spot, but that passes because I know what they did to get there.

Running through the winter can not only be challenging because of the cold but also because of the ice covered sidewalks and roads that may inhibit our footing.  There were a few close calls I can remember where I have saved myself for tumbling onto the frozen ground.

The last couple of years I have changed things up in my running routine, which I think is something we should all do every few years.  Instead of focusing on the spring long race, I decided that the fall race was more fitting as to when I wanted to spend as much time as possible outside anyhow.  By running a fall race, the training can be done through the summer and early fall, which is my favourite time of year for running anyhow.  Shorts, t-shirts, shoes and I’m off.  The last few winters I have chosen to bring the majority of my training inside, to the gym.  I still get out on the weekends to run with my running partner, mostly for the social aspect of it and it gives us time to catch up.  Through the week, I take it to the gym and come spring, I haven’t lost much as far as fitness level goes.  In fact, I would argue that I am more stretched out, and also stronger from incorporating weights into my routine.

I find that running on a treadmill can be quite boring, most people do, but if you play around with it, the time goes by fast and you can get a good work out in too.  I don’t usually run for any more than 40 minutes as I find I stomp too hard on a treadmill and my joints don’t like it after a while, plus the boredom sets in after that long anyhow.  I like to play the interval game while on the treadmill.  I found a great workout a long time ago and still do it to this day.

  1. Run 1/4 mile slow…or a fast walk even
  2. Run 1/4 mile at regular pace (nothing too crazy but enough that you feel challenged)  This will be different for everyone.
  3. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  4. Run 1/2 mile at regular pace.
  5. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  6. Run 3/4 mile at regular pace.
  7. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  8. Run full mile at regular pace.
  9. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  10. Run 3/4 mile at regular pace.
  11. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.
  12. Run 1/2 mile at regular pace.
  13. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile
  14. Run 1/4 mile at regular pace.
  15. Repeat your slow 1/4 mile.

So basically, you are building up to a mile then coming back down.  You can play around with your speed as well to give yourself an extra challenge if you want to make it more like speed work.

I also love the elliptical trainer.  I find it much easier on my joints and they can recover quicker from a workout on it.  I usually do anywhere from 40-60 minutes on it and I chose a pre-programmed interval training.  The intervals aren’t so much on speed but on incline.  You’ll get a great workout on this and your body will thank you for the fact that it isn’t high impact either.

Finally, one other thing I like to mix in every couple of weeks is a Spin class.  What I like about the Spin class is that it is very much your own even though you are in a group setting.  I am not much for group fitness, except for Yoga, but that too is very individual.  By changing the tension on your bike, you can determine how difficult your ride will be that day.  The music is usually pumping and I find I love this type of workout in the mornings as it really gets you going for the day.

I still enjoy getting outside on a sunny, cold, crisp day for a run down to the lake and along the waterfront, but the gym really extends my fitness for me over the winter.  I think it keeps me sane over the dark, cold months too!  Stay tuned for some gym tips for working out with weights as well.  You don’t have to be scared of them!

We will also be bringing you some other winter activities that will keep you fit but also get you outside to enjoy the winter.  When you can get out and enjoy this change in season, it just makes it a little easier to make it through until spring!

In the mean time, if you have some good weather where you are, hope you are getting out to enjoy yourself and explore the world around you!

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