Marathon Training IN THE WINTER …..

How hard is it for you to stay motivated thru the winter?  If you have a spring marathon on the calendar like the Garmin Marathon or the Flying Pig Marathon, then you don’t have many options other than to keep yourself moving.  But that doesn’t mean you have to pound out the same hard miles, in the same hard way that you would do in the spring and summer months.  Maybe change it up a bit and try something new?  Something that might get you out of the cold and onto the treadmill or indoor track when the wind chill slips below zero or the snow is flying so hard that those oncoming cars can’t even make out your reflective vest?

  Kara Roy (black jacket) and Jennifer Lee (blue jacket) run down Mountain Avenue in a snowstorm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my snowy runs but I can’t run a quality workout when I have to worry about my footing.  So I save my easy, fun, social runs for outdoors when the snow is flying.  Then I take my hard, fast runs inside where it’s safer.  I also shorten my training cycle and lower the number of days I run each week.  I focus on power and speed and strength.   This does a few things.  1)  Helps me to avoid burnout.  2)  Makes me FOCUS on the runs that I have on the schedule each week.  3)  Allows me some free time for cross training and/or weight work.   Winter workouts are important.  This is the time to work on the areas of your fitness that need extra attention.  Strength?  I need more of this and it’s definitely something I’ll be focusing on this winter.  My goal is 2 strength workouts each week.


Nutrition?  How is this going for you?  I was doing GREAT before the holidays.  I had lost 12#s, then I got sick, did the holidays, ran a 50K & a couple marathons, now I’ve gained 5 of those lbs back and am facing down 16#s which I need to lose before I crush the Garmin Marathon in April.  So part of my winter marathon training is focusing on my nutrition AND making sure I am getting adequate water intake each and every day.  Lean proteins.  Fruits & veggies.  Healthy fats.  Whole grains.  Water.

salad & protein  water

Rest?  You betcha!  I’ll be honest; I’m tired.  So freaking tired.  I know I’ve ran a lot of miles lately but I’m also just a poor sleeper.  And I’ve been sick.  I’m definitely run down in more than one way.  I’m good about getting my vitamin c and other vitamins that help strengthen my immune system but nothing makes up for sleep.  Maybe the winter nights are longer for a reason?  Take advantage of the darkness and get some extra shuteye.  Sleep repairs your muscles, helps build your immune system and makes you feel better!  Don’t skip the sleep or you’ll pay for it later.  This week I’m dragging.  Do I need to swim in the mornings?  Yes.  Do I need to rest more than I need to swim this week?  Yes.  So I’m sleeping in and I’ll worry about how fast (or slow) I swim next week.  Priorities. 


Marathon training is about so much more than the miles you log.  As you age, you may also notice that your body just can’t take the pounding that was once the norm.  That’s when you start to develop aches and pains that lead to injuries OR you can shuffle the deck and change the way you train.  Change can be for the better.  I’m mixing things up this winter.  I’m going to step back on my miles a bit and focus more on quality.  One long run, one tempo, one speed.  I’ve mentioned it before but I use the FIRST Run Less Run Faster app on my iPhone to plan my workouts.  It was a $2.99 download but I’ve used the program so many times that it’s paid for itself.  This certainly won’t replace a coach if you can afford one but a coach isn’t in my budget, a $2.99 app I can justify.  Smile  I’m looking forward to picking up the pace this winter.  It’s always hard for me when I start this plan.  I can never hit the numbers initially but as I build strength, speed and confidence, I’m always amazed at where it can take me. 

** Happy Running, All! ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

3 thoughts on “Marathon Training IN THE WINTER …..

  1. Well TTF…that is a wise perspective…especially for you that has been doing a lot of marathons and other races lately…noticeably that back-2-back MS-Blues/1st Light marathons. Doesn’t matter if you ran them slow and easy, that is still an incredible amount of wear-n-tear….so it makes sense to me you feel tired and you need to sleep-in and lay back a bit! It’s called RECOVERY (as you well know), but that process doesn’t mean you stop all hard-training, or you shift that hard training efforts to non-running forms and keep the runs easy for several weeks before you segue back into building higher run-volume and increasing intensity on some of those runs.

    Just so you are aware, Strength running means different things that Strength training. It is usually speed intervals, but unlike the usual shorter 200 and 400 repeats where you run all-out, these usually work on a slightly less faster, but still in that 90% or more HR-max zone, and over weeks build in duration from 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1.5 and 2-3 mile intervals. It is that gradual build-up in duration running in that 90% HR intensity zone that is an aerobic “strength” booster. Some might call this “power-running” or “aerobic power training.”

    Why do I mention this? Well even in a Recovery mode that you substantial taper back on run training volume, and shift emphasis to building strength, especially in the cold and snow of winter, you can resort to the treadmill or indoor tracks and do some “strength” running routine 1x per week, then keep those other runs easy effort (slow speed) in the cold and snow outside.

    In first half-phase of my 18-week marathon training cycle leading to Boston, I include one Strength routine on treadmill (Tuesdays)…then it is temp run on Thursdays (tempo = goal race pace), with an easy run day on Wednesday with XT. In 2nd half of marathon training cycle, I shift that Strength routine to a “Threshold” routine…which becomes the “bread-n-butter” of my training program that often gets me the results I am hoping for when running for faster finish time.The threshold routine is similar to Strength runs with 1/2 to 3/4 mile intervals running at 90% HR, but the big difference is the recovery interval, equal to the distance of the work interval, is run at goal marathon pace. This encourages physiological adaptations that make the leg muscles better at processing lactate build-up when running race pace.

    Of course you don’t have to be training for a marathon to gain benefits from these kinds of routines….and winter is a good time to try and incorporate some of them to keep both mental and physical sharpness in your running, so you don’t have to start all over from scratch if you are one that starts a marathon or other longer distance run training when spring comes. Hope this makes sense!

  2. Yes too all of this! Winter training is tough. I’ve been strength training more and my running is doing anything BUT suffering! By switching things up I find myself more excited when it comes time to run.

  3. This is the first time I”ll be marathon training in the winter. I’m grateful for some marathon experience under my belt. I’ve fallen in love with my bike again, and so indoor cycling will be part of the plan as well. The one new thing for me is hill training. I’m running Big Sur, and I’ve never ever done hill training. That I have to do it in the winter sucks, because I need to train for downhills as well as uphills.

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