Hello frozen friends! I am assuming that most of you are dealing with frigid weather where you are, unless you live in Florida and in that case I’m moving in.
We have been up in Northern Michigan since Saturday and the weather has gotten progressively worse since we arrived. When we first pulled in there was snow everywhere. I took a picture because it looked like a lot for November but then it continued to snow, and snow, and snow. It also got colder, and colder, and colder. That being said, I wimped out and didn’t get much running in. Where my family lives is pretty rural. The roads were covered in snow, making it nearly impossible to run. I did go to the local ice rink on Monday and used the treadmills but there are only have two decent mills and both are preset to 20 minutes maximum. That means every 20 minutes I had to stop and restart my running. Kind of a drag.
I took this as an opportunity to do some other forms of cardio and mix it up a bit. When I was 14 I had a major knee surgery. While I was on the mend and doing physical therapy my parents got me a really nice stationary bike. Twenty years later it still does the trick. I rode that thing like it was going out of style this week. I also brought some weights, kettle bells, and medicine balls with me. I made sure to spend a good hour each day doing strengthening exercises to work my legs, core and upper body.
Winter weather tends to be rough for most of us. There is snow and other awful forms of precipitation. There tends to be a ton of annoying wind and the temperatures get downright nasty. But on the bright side, most of us don’t have a lot of races on our schedules. The rare winter races or runs tend to be centered around having fun and helping each other get through the cold months.
This makes winter a great time to refocus and seize the moment. Last week I started small group training classes in Chicago. These groups are focused on strength training for half of the class followed by a group run or interval session. The idea behind these classes is to use the off season months to focus on building strength in the muscles we need most for running.
During marathon season many runners faced some common injuries. Among these we saw a lot of shin splints, IT band issues, calf pain, and varieties of tendonitis. Most of these injuries stem from weakness in different muscles and often not right at the spot where athletes were experiencing pain. For example, a lot of runner’s who deal with IT band issues find that by strengthening their glute muscles, they can alleviate the pain. Many of my own foot issues stem from my calves.
By taking the offseason to step away from worrying so much about your mileage, you can instead focus on key muscle groups that will help keep you stronger and healthier once your training picks back up. With the holidays creeping up I also like to use this time to work multiple muscle groups in the hopes of keeping things toned and relatively lean as I continue to do damage on my diet!
Focusing on your calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes as well as your core will help you become a stronger runner. If you have the time make sure to add in some upper body exercises to give you an overall strengthening program. Try to look for any muscle imbalances you might have. This is a great way to hone in on what needs the most work.
Don’t neglect your running completely. Keep your base mileage going. Doing 3-5 mile runs, or the equivalent of your short runs a few times a week is all you need. Keep it stress free and avoid long runs for awhile. If your legs are feeling good and fresh an occasional mid/longish run is fine to add. But don’t fret if you aren’t feeling like doing longer runs or can’t find the time. Taking a break from extra mileage and focusing on your base and strength training can even leave you ahead of the game by the time spring rolls around. By maintaining minimal base mileage you also won’t need to worry about your endurance. This mileage will be plenty enough to ensure you don’t “lose” anything once spring finally returns.
Go ahead and seize the opportunity to be that strong, healthy runner you always dreamed of.