Q+A: How can I improve my running over the winter months?



triathlon training

Q. One of my goals for 2012 is to get my Olympic-tri 10K run time under 40 minutes. What should I be doing over the winter?

A. A strong run can make a huge difference to your race and the off-season is a great time to work on your skills and strength. 

Most people associate conditioning with strengthening the muscles with circuit training or weights. Both are excellent ways to develop your leg and core strength, but you have to do the right exercises and you have to do them correctly to avoid injury.

Weights and circuit training can be done throughout the year, but the exercises should be periodised so you achieve the best results possible. Periodisation is a structured plan working on different aspects of fitness, such as adaptation, strength endurance, muscular strength and power, all timed so you peak for your goal race.

Triathletes tend to spend very little time working on their flexibility. With more flexibility you have a greater range of movement, muscles fatigue less quickly and recovery is quicker. If you have time to watch TV, you have time to stretch.

Long, slow runs

The winter months provide a great opportunity to develop your aerobic base fitness.  Adding long, slow distance training to your programme helps build your base fitness.  If you run too hard, too often, you won't be working the right energy system, so ensure that your long slow runs are just that - slow.

You should be able to hold a conversation and be only slightly out of breath. The long runs will provide strength to the legs but will also work your aerobic engine by increasing the recruitment of capillaries to the muscles and improving your ability to utilise oxygen more efficiently. You should increase the time of your long run by no more than 10 per cent each week to avoid overtraining.

Speed training

Speed training is often overlooked in winter but it should be kept up all year round. If you have not done speed work, start off gently to avoid pulling a muscle. Try introducing hill running, track sessions and intervals to your training. They will increase your speed, strength and endurance. You could also do some cross-country and 10K races to help improve your speed, pace judgement and endurance.

Finally, if you want to run fast off the bike, you have to practise throughout the year. Running after bike sessions will help you become used to the numb-legs sensation and running even for 5 or 10 minutes off the bike will help improve your overall run speed.

Ralph Hydes

Ralph Hydes is a running, duathlon and triathlon coach. He has helped many athletes reach international-level competition and has trained corporate teams for the London Triathlon since 2001. He is a freelance coach, designing individual triathlon training programmes, providing one-to-one coaching and offering nutrition advice. His new DVD is called Flexibility for Triathletes and Runners. Visit ralph-hydes.com.


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