Friday, December 12, 2008

Thoughts on Winter

I remarked on my website about the fact that winter is well upon us. I think it useful to talk a bit about how this affects our running.

The thinks about running in the winter are first the shortened daylight available and second the weather. Unless you don't work or have a job that allows you time during the daylight hours, you have to contend with running in the dark.

There are several strategies that come to mind when I think of this.

1. Move indoors. The availability of a club with a decent indoor track or treadmills is one way to tackle this issue. The upside of this strategy is that you have light, warmth, and peer pressure.
The downside is you get bored going in circles or nowhere on the treadmill, and peer pressure can overwhelm common sense. I have been there and can say that one year where I had a good training partner and we trained on a small indoor track during the weekdays in the winter, I had my best marathon that March. The key was controlled training indoors and a good long run on the weekends.

2. Move to a better part of the day. This is good especially if you can adjust your hours or use your lunchtime for training. The upside here is daylight and warmer temps. While the downside is you may be limited on how long you can run because of having to get back to work. It is definately a plus to run midday when temperatures are likely to be the highest for the day. It seems like the same temperature when it is dark, feels colder (at least to me)

3. Train in the dark but move your training courses is another strategy. I have noticed that there are areas that are well lit by street lights that could be used for training after dark. The downside of this is that you will probably have to contend with vehicle traffic and pavement. The upside is that it will probably be plowed. This is a really tricky option. If you follow this strategy, you need to be aware of the dangers that are involved with mixing with traffic especially after dark. I will probably talk more about this in another session.

4. Train in the dark but stay on your favorite trails or move to better trails. Running single track trails in the dark can be done with proper equipment. Moving to a wider trail such as the SF Trail is a step up in trail conditions that can help. Again there are safety conditions that need to be considered here and again I will elaborate in another session

5. Stop running and cross train. This is an option that I never would consider for myself but if it makes sense, then consider it. I have used cross training during the winter to supplement my running and it has benefits. Spinning is a high intensity way to keep your aerobic levels up and provide a good workout. Climbing workout on the spin bike seem to help my hill running so I felt it did provide some positive benefits.

There are probably other ways to approach this and of course you can mix the types of workouts in a way that makes the most sense for your situation. I did this when I would do spinning especially when the weather was not good for any kind of outdoor work. At times, I even did an hour of spinning followed by an hour on the treadmill and some weight work for upper body strength.

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