Marathon Training in Winter

Motivation can often be our biggest challenge to overcome, especially in winter when it’s cold, damp, icy, windy…even dare i say, slightly dangerous underfoot. So should this stop us from training and logging the miles during these ‘challenging’ months – Of course not!

More often than not, the winter months usually is a lull in the racing calendar, especially for the longer distances. Therefore, this is an excellent time to recover from injuries, overtraining symptoms, correct mechanical issues and strengthen the jinks in our armour. It is also a great time to build a solid mileage base from which your endurance will thank you later in the year.

I you have several months until your planned spring half or full marathon, you should now be logging the long, easy miles. There is less of a need at this stage to be focusing on speed work and high tempo runs, but steady ‘easy’ runs are the preferred ‘norm’. Of course, your planned upcoming race date will largely determine how your planned training should develop and over what period, but typically, you will all benefit from having a solid mileage base from which to start your marathon training programme in earnest.

So it’s cold! – Wrap up warm and wear layers. Consider wearing gloves and long running pants. Just because the sun’s not beating down on you and the temps are minus 5c, this doesn’t mean that we should be considering our hydration needs, especially on runs of over 45 mins or longer.

winter runner

If you live in a wintry environment, consider investing in some ‘yak trax’ or some similar traction device that will allow you confidently run across snow and ice without fear of slipping and causing yourself damage. If things are too bad outside, consider using a treadmill. I log many a mile on the treadmill, especially when it’s raw ice around me or particularly when doing some repetitive speed training. Not all treadmill running has to be boring or painful, but it can certainly help keep you running when things get bad!

Of course, if you are lucky enough to live in a wintry environment, use this time as a great opportunity to cross train. Go snow shoe running once in a while or try your hand at cross country skiing. I know having done a fair bit of this myself this year that I’ve actually benefited from it – great cardio workout and works many of the same or similar muscles, but still gives the body a rest from all the impact!

Apart from anything else, who wants to miss the beauty that’s outside anyway?

There may be plenty of cross country skiing or snow shoe races close by. Like competition and the buzz it brings, try something different instead. Winter needn’t bring everything to a halt, unless you want it to!


The year’s hardwork doesn’t have to end with a holiday blowout..!

You’ve worked hard all year to improve your fitness, drop a few pounds, run your first half marathon and you’re on track to reach that end goal of completing the upcoming marathon you entered a few months back. Trouble is, the marathon is only 4-5 weeks away, you’ve got big plans made for your festive holidays, the family is coming for a few days, friends are in town and will want to meet up for a few drinks, not to mention the two or three Xmas parties you’ll be in attendance for.

Chances are you’ll probably drink more than you should, have too many late nights, eat far too much rich and generally ‘wrong’ food and set yourself back a week or two in your training and all your dedication and hard work. Why not though? You’ve worked damn hard for months and months, so why shouldn’t you?

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy the festive season and indulge a little, just don’t do it to excess or too often. It does us good to let of steam from time to time. It keeps us balanced and bizarrely, often ‘on track’ as it allows us a brief escape from watching our food and drink intake and perhaps missing out on the ‘odd’ celebratory indulgence you may otherwise have enjoyed with  a little more vigour. So long as it is a brief ‘escape’ of course and it’s not  a slow and general decline into ‘bad’ habits, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to carry on training toward your end goal.

So consider some of these suggestions and tips as the festivities approach:

Staff party – Should i drink and be merry? Sure, why not. However, if you do have a few of these functions to attend, perhaps consider volunteering to be the designated driver for one. Try and alternate one alcoholic beverage with another soft drink (ideally water) to keep yourself hydrated and allay the impending sore head and malaise of the next morning.

Don’t give up on your running just because you’re busy. Yes, you have the family coming round and you have other duties to oversee, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still manage to get out for a run, even if it’s just a half hour run wherever you can fit it in, perhaps whilst everyone’s still in bed. This isn’t an opportunity to for an easy excuse! Think – If you don’t exercise, it’ll just take longer to get back into shape later! – I remember Xmas day morning runs along a seafront each year with everyone  (obviously very keen!) getting up early in the brisk, crisp air and donning a ‘Santa’ hat and occasionally some tinsel. This used to be one of the more social and fun morning runs, but kudos to all those who saw fit to do so before carrying on with their day’s plans!

Christmas, joggers wearing santa hats, bikinis, and swimsuits running in wintry Boston Common park, 4152

Unfortunately this wasn’t a scene from my Xmas morning runs, but one I wish I had been around for instead. Look out Boston 2010 !

While everyone is feeling bloated and stuffed after their Xmas day blowout and the temptation is to have that little afternoon nap, suggest going for a walk. Drag a few other ‘willing’ members of the household party with you for some fresh air and open your lungs. Offer to walk the ‘visitors’ dogs. So long as you have sufficient time to digest your meal (s), if everyone is snoozing, you could always go for a run then, although I recognise that this a bit extreme for many!! If you have another house party to go to in the evening or even if the general consensus is to go to a bar that may be open, walk there (and walk back – not forgetting the dog if he came with someone!)!

Just because everyone associates the festive period with over-indulgence, this doesn’t mean you have to! There’s plenty of good, healthy food around for everyone usually. Fruit (full of fibre, vitamins, anti-oxidants, etc), nuts (rich in many nutrients including omega 3 fats – just don’t have too many), vegetables galore, turkey (a great source of lean meat and protein). Consider, if you haven’t exercised much the last day or so, you won’t need to consume as much as usual when in full training or logging many a mile, so don’t overfill your plate. As for any cake…just don’t go back for third and fourth helpings!

Perhaps you could be extra diligent and avoid  the ‘fatty’ mayonnaise and the double whipped cream all over desert. Perhaps have your Xmas cake (fruit cake) without all the icing and marzipan. Limit your alcohol intake where possible and try to keep hydrated at all times with water, this will also help prevent you from overeating at meal times if you have a glass before eating.

Whatever you choose to do this festive period – enjoy yourselves! Remember your goals  though. There is no reason not to keep up your exercise. Sure, a day or two off may actually do you some good for the body’s muscle tissue and sinews to heal and repair, but this season doesn’t mean you simply have to stop altogether. Remember all the hard work and toil involved in getting you to this point!

Why make the upcoming marathon or event any harder than it needs to be? Just don’t over indulge too often, but enjoy yourself and precious time with friends and families.