Busting The Winter Blues – Training Through The Cold Days

author : tmwelshy
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To prevent a mental breakdown before you even get to the starting line, use the winter months to set goals, build your base, vary your workouts, cut back on training and throw in some variety.

By Thomas Welsh,

Well, it’s November and gone are the warm days and long comfortable (comfortable is a completely relative term here) runs around the park. Biking isn’t as safe as it used to be — not with the ice, snow and sand on the roads. No fun there. Swimming….hmmm. Wet hair, cold air and no flu vaccine? You get the picture. But you have to train to be ready for next season. If you’re not careful your winter could become a training nightmare complete with weather blunders and mental exhaustion. 
To prevent a mental breakdown before you even get to the starting line use the winter months to:

  • Set goals
  • Build your base
  • Vary your workouts
  • Cut back on training
  • Throw in some variety.

Gut Check First

Before you get all gung-ho on training this winter take a chill pill and do some mental exercises. You need to figure out what you’re training for. That’s right, select your races for the upcoming season. It’s OK if you don’t know every exact race. But you should have a general idea where you want to start and finish next season. Want to start off with a sprint and end with an Ironman? Winter is the time to figure out how to meet that goal. You also need to choose your time and performance goals. Sprint in less than one hour and thirty minutes, Half Ironman in less than nine hours? Whatever your goals, you need to set them during these winter months. 
Select a Program That Fits

Once you have determined your “goals” for the season, you can determine where you need to be and what you need to be doing to get there. Most programs are around 13 weeks. That’s really all you need to get ready for your triathlon. Really. You’re training all season long  leading up to the big event you have planned for the end of the year. 
OK so when’s your first race? Let’s say, for arguments sake, it’s in May. That’s about seven months from now. Well, subtract the 13-week training plan and you have about four months to build base and to play with. Now you hit the training regiment like crazy, right? Well, maybe not. Back off and focus.

It’s All About The Base Baby

If you read up on training, specifically off-season training it’s about the base. Build your base. Establish your base. Base this and Base that. It’s a veritable base-a-rama. So what the heck is base training anyway? Base is lower-intensity training (read long, slow workouts), with increasing volume over the course of three months or more.

I know, I know. Like it’s not bad enough that the days are shorter, your toes are wet and cold and you can’t feel the line of snot running down your face, now you have to go slower and longer???? That’s the price you pay to be a multi-sport athlete next season. But you don’t have to bash your head in with non-stop training days during base building. Try backing off to three tri-related workouts a week. Try a long slow swim, one long slow run and one long bike. Use these workouts to focus on technique. Focus on your cadence on the bike, your stroke on the swim and your form on the run. This will do several things for you: 

  • It will change your pace. Mix up the humdrum training and keep your focus sharp.
  • Heal some of the little (or not so little) aches and pains that have been plaguing you.
  • Allow you to do more cross training, get in better shape, and actually perform better next season.

Mix It Up

Base building is important before you begin your real triathlon-training plan (remember the 13-weeks of hell we talked about earlier)? But you don’t have to pound yourself with slow and steady all winter. But you need not be relegated to swimming, biking and running. You can cross train to add endurance and strength. 
Need to run? But, you already ran this week. Why not try hiking? You can get a great workout and get in touch with nature. Call up those college chums and plan a ski day. Take your child ice or roller-skating. You will be surprised at the workout you can get. Other options:

  • Remove those unsightly tree-trunks from the back yard.
  • Cross-Country skiing.
  • Snow-shoeing.
  • Take up rock climbing.
  • Cut some firewood.
  • Try Karate.
  • Explore a river bed.

There are tons of challenging, self-fulfilling activities you can do to incorporate a successful off-season with a year-round training plan. You will find this approach to getting physical can be a real life-enhancing change. Increase your base and calorie burning activity with something new and you will be better for it and not just physically. As long as you are maintaining your three workouts a week you won’t lose anything and you can still hit as hard in the three months prior to the beginning of your season. You might be surprised at what you can gain by mixing it up. 

Or you could run right out and hop on that stationary trainer and sit in front of the television pounding out imaginary miles. Or you could head to the gym lumber onto the treadmill slug along hour upon hour staring at Betty-perfect Butt in front of you. These are options of course many athletes choose to do. But I suggest, and I know this may not be popular, cutting back significantly on the gung-ho training. You heard me. Cut your training by half of where you were when you ended the season, assuming you’re not a professional but a beginner. Instead, concentrate on building the base you are going to need to best next year season’s goals. The base is where it’s at.

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date: October 31, 2004