Physical Activity

Your Winter Running Strategy

Get your winter running strategy from runner Leigh Gerson who is based in New York. She is USATF level 1 coach and a Pilates enthusiast.

It’s very easy to write off running during the winter: The cold air hurts your lungs, the wind cuts your hands and face like a knife and you can never figure out the proper amount of layering so that you stay warm without overheating. How do you stay motivated to get outside or to the gym when the temperature indoors is much more enticing?

Step 1: Set a goal.
Step 2: Stick to the plan.

Schedule shorter races on the way to your big spring goal race. Knowing you have a 5K on the schedule every couple of weeks will get you running. Even if your mileage is less than during the warmer months, something is better than nothing and you’ll be far better prepared for that spring marathon in April which now feels like a lifetime away!

That being said, winter is also a time to build the foundation for a strong year of running. Make sure you are creating a balanced routine with weights, cross training and your runs. If the road conditions aren’t great break your long run up into two shorter runs or get inside. Here is one of my favorite speed endurance workouts that you can do anywhere — from the track to the treadmill to a city block.

Planning Your Winter Running Strategy

  • 20-minute warm-up jog. (If I’m outside and it’s really cold, I’ll go for 30 minutes,)
  • Dynamic stretching and drills — these are movements designed to get your muscles moving in a way to prepare your body for fast running. Try things like big skips, arm swings, walking lunges, high knees and leg swings.
  • 5×80-100m strides: Start at a medium effort and get a little bit faster each one. This serves two purposes: One, to get your legs turning over and two, to acclimate your lungs to the cold air!
  • 5x (4 x 200m) at 75% to 95% max effort — 30 to 45 seconds rest between intervals, 2 minutes between each set. Yup, that’s a total of 20. The first two sets should feel relatively relaxed but like you are working. Use them to practice good running form and the pace will follow! You might even feel ready to go before the rest period is up. (If you are doing this on the treadmill, set the pace and hop on and off as rest should be standing.) The two minutes after every fourth effort should be used as a reset. You’ll have enough time to recover and push harder the further you get into the workout.
  • Cool-down jog and static stretching: Depending on whether or not you are trying to add volume to your workout, this can be as little as five minutes or another 20. I like to jog from my apartment to the track as part of my warm-up and cool-down to ensure that I don’t skip on that part! But please do your stretching out of the cold air to make sure you don’t lose the elasticity you’ve created during the workout to the weather.

Doing a workout like this one once a week in the preliminary phase of your training cycle will allow you to run faster at the end of a race come spring. New to running and speed training? Start with three sets and increase as your fitness improves. And on those days where you just can’t imagine going out there alone, make a plan with a friend or a group and do it together. Make sure you plan for a great brunch or breakfast afterward!