Winter Training – Building foundation for the peaks
A short guide to sculpting winter training season
As we made it through another exhilarating trail running season, it’s time to find our waterproof shoes in the closet and embark on a winter training regimen. This pivotal phase sets the stage for future victories, ensuring that our bodies are primed for the challenges that lie ahead.
Here you will find some fundamentals that may help you to sculpt a winter training season tailored to the unique demands of trail running.
Embrace the restorative power of rest
After running season, allow your body the luxury of rest. Adequate recovery is the cornerstone of sustained performance. Physiologically, the rest period is a critical phase. During this time, the body undergoes adaptive processes, repairing muscle microtears and replenishing glycogen stores. Rest allows for restoring hormonal balance, reducing the risk of overtraining and injuries. The length of the rest period depends on various factors, such as the length of the season, “type” of rest, future goals, individual factors, and sporting history. For amateur runners, the post-season rest – as we call it, the transition period – usually lasts about 2-5 weeks and includes a week or two of rest without running.
Diversity your winter playground
Escape the structured training plan and go exploring the mountains. Engage in winter sports like ski touring, mountaineering, alpine skiing… These activities not only provide a refreshing change but also target different muscle groups, enhancing overall strength and resilience. Cross-training also challenges different energy systems, promoting neuromuscular adaptation and improving cardiovascular fitness without the repetitive impact of trail running.
Lay the foundation with base training
Winter is the perfect time for increasing training volume. Long, steady runs at a moderate intensity domain (slow runs) lay the physiological groundwork for the more intense training phases. They build capillaries, increase mitochondrial density, and enhance the efficiency of oxygen utilization. This foundation enhances endurance, enabling you to tackle longer and more challenging trails that will come in the upcoming racing season.
“Winter is the perfect time for increasing training volume. Long, steady runs at a moderate intensity domain (slow runs) lay the physiological groundwork for the more intense training phases”
Strength training for trail runners
Incorporating strength training during the winter season is a crucial but often overlooked element. Beyond cardiovascular fitness, building strength enhances performance and reduces the risk of injuries. Physiologically, strength training improves muscle recruitment, power output, and movement efficiency. It also fortifies connective tissues, providing stability on uneven terrains.
Gradual transition to specific training
As the snow begins to melt, transition from general base training to more specific trail running workouts. Incorporate hill repeats, technical descents, and terrain-specific drills to hone the skills essential for conquering the varied landscape of trail races. Strategic periodization ensures that training stress is appropriately dosed. Overreaching or intentionally pushing limits, followed by adequate recovery, induces super-compensation – the body’s heightened ability to handle future training loads. This delicate balance is critical to preventing stagnation and optimizing performance.
“Escape the structured training plan and go exploring the mountains. Engage in winter sports like ski touring, mountaineering, alpine skiing…”
Strategic planning for the next racing season
Set clear goals for the upcoming season. Consider the types of races you want to conquer, their distances, and the specific challenges they pose. Goals drive the specificity of training, influencing workouts’ intensity, duration, and frequency. This alignment optimizes physiological adaptations, preparing the body for the demands of the targeted races in the upcoming season.
Mind the mental game
Winter training is not just about physical conditioning, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen your mental resilience. Embrace the solitude of winter runs, practice mindfulness, and cultivate the mental fortitude that will carry you through the grueling moments in future races.
In summary, the winter training season for trail runners is a delicate dance between rest and activity, variety and specificity. By strategically navigating this phase, you lay the groundwork for a successful racing season, sculpting both the physical and mental attributes necessary to conquer the trails that await.
Špela Bokal, coach and kinesiologist
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