It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s wet. It’s miserable. It might be many people’s dream to be a professional athlete, but take it from me, even the pros struggle to get out of bed for an early-morning training session, or hit the road at night, in the rotten winter weather.
But we force ourselves to do it because we know that investing in training now will pay huge dividends during the racing season. Indeed, hard graft in the winter months can make the difference between first place and first loser when the big races are decided.
But this isn’t just the case for us pros. Solid, well-planned training sessions at this time of year will place you in perfect physical and mental condition come spring and the start of the race calendar. Because not only will you have a couple of months’ worth of hard graft under your belt, you’ll also be used to tough training sessions in deepest, darkest winter so racing in the springtime will be a far more pleasant experience, giving you a psychological boost.
Sometimes, though, it’s just not possible to get outside and train because of snow, ice or other dangerous or grotty conditions. But instead of doing nothing and seeing your fitness suffer, simply train inside, where you can get just as good a workout as in the great outdoors.
In fact, it can even be a harder one. A 40-minute ride on a stationary bike is probably the equivalent of an hour’s road ride because you never have to slow down for cars, traffic lights or to turn left or right. Indoors it’s 100% pedal power!
It’s the same story for the treadmill, where you can create tough interval or hill sessions, which aren’t necessarily an option outside. What’s more using a machine is also a lot easier on your joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments than pounding the pavement or frozen turf.
It’s also easier indoors to train at specific percentages of your maximum heart rate or at a certain pace, making it ideal for threshold or race-pace sessions to get your mind and muscles in tip-top, peak condition so you’re all systems go once the racing season kicks off.
Below are some sessions I do in the winter months when training outside is impossible.
Run: Conquer hills
This may appear to be an easy session, but it’ll really start to hurt towards the end as the fast, flat intervals take their toll and you still have to work really hard on the inclines, despite the slower pace.
5min easy at 5%
5min faster at 0%
4min easy at 6%
4min fast at 0%
3min easy at 7%
3min fast at 0%
2min easy at 8%
2min fast at 0%
Bike: Cycle faster
This stationary bike session is a great way to make sure you get out of your comfort zone. And going faster than race pace – even for just a few minutes – is a great way to improve your speed endurance.
4min race pace
2min faster than race pace
Repeat sequence four times
Swim: Build endurance
This is a tough swim session but improving your endurance levels in the water will go a long way to improving your base fitness level so you can work on your speed and power output later in the season.
Warm-up (2x100m, then 2x50m)
Repeat sequence six times
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Joe Warner worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach, from 2008 to 2013, then returned as editor of Men’s Fitness UK from 2016 to 2019.
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