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6 Best Ways for Runners to Train in Winter

Effective ways to keep training even during dark evenings and bad weather and the best kit to do winter running training on

We are heading towards winter in the Northern hemisphere with dark mornings and evenings and colder wintry weather heading our way. This can be a challenging time for us runners, especially if you are training for a half or full marathon or in your off-season. If you can’t get outside to pound the roads what are effective alternatives? What can you do to keep motivated?

Here we will discuss running options, cross training, strength training and other ways to keep training through winter.

1. Treadmill Running

The staple of runners at this time of year is the treadmill. Some enjoy the concentration of running on the mill, but others dread each session. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand the true pace, miles per hour, and impact of the incline. You can view our treadmill pace and include chart for more info about that.

The keys to making the most from treadmill running is:

Mix It Up

Muscles adapt to an exercise routine, so doing the same workout will likely stop producing results after a couple of weeks. Add in some variety by adding in speed or HIIT sessions, use the incline function and change the time you spend on it by including long endurance runs and short sharp interval sessions.

Don’t Let the Machine Do Too Much Work

When walking or running on a treadmill, it’s easy to hang on to the machine with your arms instead of swinging them. Moving your arms in a natural running style aids with good posture, which is essential for the body to work efficiently and avoid injury. Keep your stride short so that the belt is not doing the work of bringing your feet forward. Using a metronome can be very effective in setting a rhythm for your steps and can help your increase your running cadence to 180 SPM (steps per minute).

Warm Up and Cool Down

Injury and pain are often caused by not stretching before and after exercise. Your warmup should include dynamic movements, running drills and gentle jogging to help raise your heart rate before the main session. After your workout its important to static stretch and consider foam rolling to help reduce the discomfort of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

Listen to Music

Listening to music or watching videos while exercising can help relieve boredom and make each workout more effective. Researchers at Elon University in North Carolina found that runners who watch videos or listen to music tend to run faster and burn more calories than people who are running with no distractions. Listening to upbeat music is great for getting in the mood for exercise and encouraging you to keep up with the music’s fast pace. Select music with 120 to 125 BPM for a jog and 140 to 145 BPM for an all-out effort.

2. Cross Country Races and Trail Running

During the winter months you will see cross country races taking part. Cross country races will help you with your training motivation and then are great muddy fun!

Cross country races and trail running provides a softer surface for running. This is naturally easier on your joints and will keep you running longer. This type of running will help with your balance and stability and help keep you alert when running (a mind and body workout).

3. Jump Rope

Jumping rope is a great way to work on your cardiovascular fitness, core stability, running cadence and will literally put a spring in your step. The main muscle groups that it works are quads, calves, and core which is the perfect recipe for a faster runner. Jumping rope also strengthens the ligaments and tendons around the foot and ankle and improves posture and coordination.

Taking a jump rope with you on business trips and holidays will ensure you will always be able to get in a run specific workout. Read about more benefits here.

4. Strength Training to Avoid Injuries

Strength training has been demonstrated to reduce running related overuse injury by up to 50%, according to this study.

Strong muscles are better able to withstand forces from the ground that make everything hurt. Stronger muscles including hip flexors, glutes, quads, and hamstrings are better able to withstand the pounding on the road and allow runners to better tolerate the miles.

Consider a full body strength program for trail running that includes functional movements like squats, lunges, step ups, calf raises and burpees. Ideally this should be 3-4 sets of 10-12 slow reps ensuring enough weight to fatigue your muscles with recovery between each set. Try to do this twice a week to build total body strength. If you are member of a gym, then maybe try a HIIT class like Metafit and a resistance training class like L1FT to make it easy to build a strength training routine?

5. Home Yoga and Pilates

6. Cross Training

Cross training can take many forms and take the pressure off the pressure running puts on your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Choosing low impact alternatives is a great idea so swimming, cycling, indoor cycling and spinning classes, elliptical sessions and water running are all good options. You could also consider skiing, climbing (indoor climbing walls are great), and rowing to mix things up whilst getting a good full body workout and increasing your cardiovascular fitness.


Whether you are in your training off-season or training for a longer race like half or full marathon during the winter you should continue to stick to a structured training schedule.

Can’t get outside then consider the treadmill, elliptical machine, water running or jumping rope. Cross training is great to keep you active and motivated and includes skiing, rowing, climbing, and cycling. It can also be a time to concentrate on building a robust body to help you prevent injuries by focusing on strength training, mobility, stability, and flexibility.

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Karen Parnell
Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
Karen Parnell is a Level 3 British Triathlon and IRONMAN Certified Coach, WOWSA Level 3 open water swimming coach,  80/20 Endurance certified coach and NASM Personal Trainer and Sports Technology Writer. Need a training plan? I have plans on TrainingPeaks, FinalSurge and TrainingTilt: TrainingPeaks FinalSurge TrainingTilt I also coach a very small number of athletes one to one for all triathlon distances, open water swimming events and running races, email me for details and availability. Karen.parnell@chilitri.com


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