The Art of Winter Training

a triathlete looking at a trail map
September 26, 2016

Mike Ricci



With the shifting weather, shorter daylight hours, and holiday distractions, navigating winter training requires finesse. While many athletes view this season as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the coming year, it comes with its own set of challenges. However, with the right strategies, you can sidestep winter burnout and emerge in spring stronger than before.

Firstly, reframe your approach to base building. Instead of aiming for long, arduous training sessions, distribute your training hours across the week. For instance, committing to 6 hours of cycling is feasible by spreading out shorter, focused sessions on the trainer throughout the week. Similarly, running can be approached with multiple shorter sessions per week, each lasting 1 to 3 hours. This approach not only accumulates training volume but also allows you to address various aspects of your fitness, from endurance to power to form.

Secondly, avoid falling into the trap of exclusively focusing on base training. Maintaining a balance between speed work and base work is crucial. Incorporating 1 to 2 speed sessions per week, even if brief, helps prevent stagnation in leg turnover and threshold capacity. These sessions can be efficiently executed on the trainer or treadmill, starting with shorter intervals and gradually progressing to longer efforts, aiming to elevate your heart rate into zones 3 and 4.

Lastly, diversify your activities to include alternative sports or multi-sport bricks for longer training days. Cross-country skiing, particularly skate skiing, offers a full-body workout without the impact associated with running or cycling. It challenges you across various heart rate zones and complements your triathlon training regimen. Additionally, snowshoeing provides a strength-building aerobic workout, enhancing leg and hip strength while boosting aerobic capacity.

For longer sessions, consider incorporating run/bike/run or bike/run bricks. These should be kept within zones 2 and occasionally zone 3. Ensure you thoroughly dry off and dress appropriately between transitions to prevent exposure to the cold, reducing the risk of illness.

Winter training demands motivation and consistency. By adapting your approach and making these adjustments, you can navigate the challenges of the season, arriving in spring mentally and physically resilient.

Train Hard, Train Smart, Train Safe,

Coach A.J.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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