Beginner and expert runners alike can benefit from winter marathon training. Since the conditions can be increasingly hazardous, training must ensue with even greater diligence. Many athletes train year-round and cannot afford to take time off from their respective regimens. Training during the winter requires special attention to all of the factors involved. Proper planning for winter training is centered on injury prevention and performance improvement. Here are eight essential items for long-distance training during the colder months.
Most people are not concerned with becoming dehydrated during the winter. The common misconception is that you sweat less when it is colder outside. Despite the lower temperatures, your body still has to sweat in order to dissipate the heat that it produces. Camelbacks or water bottles are convenient when running outside and should always be kept on hand.
If there has been any precipitation, you should be careful to notice changes in the environment. Patches of ice and other weather-related hazards can cause serious harm if they go unnoticed or if you are not prepared. Pay close attention when running alongside roads. Changes in the integrity of the road or low visibility could spell trouble if you are not cautious.
You should always ensure that you are dressed for the elements. Loose fitting clothes are ideal for management of body temperature. Dark-colored clothing allows for better absorption of heat from the sun. Keep your head covered because the highest percentage of heat is lost there. Also, be sure that you protect your extremities (hands and feet) as these areas are more susceptible to frostbite than other parts of your body.
Changes in weather conditions can impose serious strain on your training program. You should always check the forecast prior to exercising so that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Temperatures, wind speeds and sun exposure are all factors that should be considered when planning an outdoor run.
If you plan on training five or more days per week, it is recommended that you schedule at least two or three of your runs to be completed outside. Furthermore, it is suggested that the longer runs of the week be performed outdoors and the shorter to mid-distance runs be done inside on a treadmill.
It makes perfect sense that the time for warming up in cold weather should be longer. Instead of your typical five- to 10-minute warm-up, it is more beneficial to extend that time to at least 15 minutes. Warming up allows for you to better optimize performance by elevating your heart rate and increasing blood flow to the working muscles.
Even though the focus of your training is distance running, it is still important to maintain strength. Resistance training should be done on at least two days each week and should consist of at least eight to 10 exercises for the major muscle groups. If done on the same day, strength exercises should be done after aerobic exercise since running is your ultimate goal and requires most of your energy.
Cold weather can make your muscles less pliable and puts you at a higher risk for an overuse injury. When we shiver, our muscles contract to produce heat even when we are not moving. Winter marathon training imposes more stress on our muscles, which makes it especially important to maintain flexibility. Static stretching on at least two to three days every week can decrease the likelihood of an injury, which would be a major setback to your training.
Winter marathon training is not to be taken lightly. To be successful, you must work vigorously and be capable of adapting to specific environmental changes. Through careful and consistent training, a marathon runner can effectively train during the winter months. Competitors who challenge themselves the most will have the advantage over other runners who have been less active. Get out, stay warm and train wisely.
Carson Crandall is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer. In May 2015, he will be graduating with a B.S. in Exercise Science from Georgia State University. He currently works as a personal trainer, where he helps clients achieve their fitness-related goals. Outside of work, Carson enjoys strength training, sprinting, traveling and writing.