Coach Mike Mead

Going Long in the Cold

Take advantage of the arrival of cooler weather. If you are looking to make gains as a competitive runner, now is the time to increase your mileage. Unlike some species that hibernate during the winter, distance runners need to take advantage of the winter weather to build a distance base that will make them as fresh as the daisies that will bloom in the spring. If you want to be a faster distance runner, take heed!

Late fall and winter is nature’s way of making us take more rest. The days are shorter. The nights are longer. The mornings are cold. Who wants to roll out of bed on those, cold, dark, icy mornings for an eight-mile run? Distance running requires us to contradict Mother Nature and run during these bleaker days.

First off, why run when it’s below 60-degrees? If you want to be a more serious distance runner, you need to build your training base first and what better time of the year than late fall and winter. I have found that I can run farther, faster and stronger when the temps are below 60-degrees than when it’s 80-degrees. Our bodies do not overheat as quickly and we can run more efficiently and effectively. This affords you the opportunity to log in more miles. Just remember to abide by the 10-percent rule – do not increase your weekly and monthly total miles by more than 10-percent to prevent injuries and illness.

If you’re one who doesn’t like it cold (who does?), plan to run at the warmest time of the day if your schedule permits. Most serious runners will plan their day around their daily routine. If you are a high school runner trying to improve, you need to run a lot in these colder months. If you’re coming off a long cross country season, I recommend taking a break from running until Thanksgiving. Once you’ve stuffed yourself with plenty of turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, and the guilt has settled in, get out and start running again. Don’t worry about intensity, just time and distance. The longer you run, the better. Work up to running five to six days a week with your longest run being an hour and a half to two hours per week. Twenty or 30-minute runs don’t cut it this time of the year. Some days may take you that long just to warm up!

The main purpose to building your training base is to handle the faster running, like tempos, fartlek and interval/speed training, that you’ll take on when the weather warms up. In building your base, you’ll be able to recover quicker from those tougher workouts, go faster and avoid injuries.

Running in colder weather requires some common sense. The most obvious is when it’s colder you need to wear more clothing, but don’t overdress. I always try to factor in about 20-degrees. If it’s 30-degrees out, dress as though the temperature will be 50-degrees. Dress in layers so that if you get warm, you can take off a layer. I always instruct my runners to overdress since you can always take it off. If you don’t dress properly, you can not put it on if you don’t have it.

While the weather is colder, you may not feel as thirsty but you need to still be mindful of drinking adequate fluids. You may not be sweating like you do in the summer, but your body still needs to be properly hydrated considering the lower humidity in the colder months. Be mindful that if you train too hard, you’ll be more susceptible to colds and flu. Getting a flu shot, consuming more foods with Vitamin C (orange juice) and washing your hands more frequently during the “indoor season” are ways to combat illness.

If you can handle the colder weather now, you’ll be able to “bring some heat” to your racing next spring. Cool!