Coach Jake Stout: Winter Running Tips
The Pacific Northwest brings some unique challenges to training in the cold, wet, and dark months of winter.
On the plus side, our seasons allow for a natural periodization to take place with training. So rather than flailing in the harsh elements to hit splits that seemed easy in June, it may be helpful to mix things up.
Here’s a few ideas that I find to be helpful with the athletes I coach.
Have a Plan
If you’re eager to stay fit through the winter, it helps to have a target race with a bullseye on it. Give yourself permission to be flexible over the holidays—move workouts around as needed—but stay consistent within your goal range of quality and quantity.
Run by Effort
Use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to guide your winter workouts instead of absolute pace. Cold weather slows most of us down, so don’t get too frustrated if you’re having trouble hitting your splits. Additionally, a RPE scale allows you to standardize your workouts and hone your internal physiology. With regard to specific workouts, I tend to prescribe longer, time-based tempo efforts (try 5 x 3 minutes fast with 2 minutes easy/medium) and long hill repeats. My rationale is that the off season is an important time to work on both aerobic power and capacity.
Hit the Weight Room
This is key during those winter months when there’s less of an emphasis on competing and more time to dedicate on getting stronger and more durable. Although runners have historically shied away from pumping iron, research has shown strength training reduces occurrence of overuse injuries by nearly half! A good preparatory phase of weight training is three to four sets of 10–15 reps at about 60% of your one-repetition max.
Write It Down
Every runner should put a training diary on their wish list as it encourages you to set goals. Reviewing your training diary can also boost your confidence just from seeing the body of work you’ve put in. A great running log helps you plan, record daily workouts, and maintain focus. Two of my favorite pen-and-paper training diaries are Lauren Fleshman’s Believe training journal and Mark Remy’s version that keeps you running and laughing simultaneously.
Join a Group
If you’re struggling to get out the door and stay motivated, think about meeting up with a group of fellow runners who get together almost every day of the week in different locations around the city. Or take the next step and join the PRC Race Team. The bonding experience of enjoying running when it’s 35º F and raining is not easily broken.
Happy running this winter!