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Winter Training: Off-Season Running Plan

Winter Running Plan

The winter months present specific obstacles that can make running more difficult. At the same time, it’s important not to lose all the fitness gains you made during the rest of the year. With some planning and adjustment, you can maintain and even build your running performance during the winter.


Why Train Off-Season – Know Your Why

Before diving into a winter training plan, take some time to clearly define your motivations and goals. Understanding your “why” will help you stay focused when training gets tough. What do you hope to accomplish next season? How will winter preparation help you achieve it? Clarifying your purpose will provide the drive to stick to your plan. For starters, here is a quick list of common reasons to train in the winter:

  • Maintain What You’ve Gained
  • Improve Endurance and Aerobic Capacity
  • Increase Mental Toughness
  • Reduce Risk of Injury 
  • Build Strong Foundation for Spring
  • Improve Running Economy


Winter Training Plan Schedule

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Weekly
Week Easy /lift 20 min Easy  Easy /lift 20 min Tempo/speed/hill 2mile WU & 2m CD Off Long run Cross Training
1 4  / lift 6 5  / lift 20 min tempo 4 60 min XT 60 min 26-30
2 4  / lift 6 5  / lift 8 x 60 sec hill w/ 2 recovery jog 4 75 min XT 60 min 30-35
3 4  / lift 7 5  / lift 20 min tempo 4 60 min XT 60 min 30-35
4 4  / lift 7 5  / lift 8 mile fartlek (1m hard/1m easy) 5 75 min XT 60 min 35-40
5 5  / lift 7 5  / lift Progression run 6m + (2WU) 5 90 min XT 60 min 40
6 5  / lift 7 5  / lift 8 mile out & back (1/2 half faster) 5 60 min XT 60 min 35-40
7 5  / lift 7 5  / lift 30 min tempo 6 75 min  XT 60 min 40
8 5  / lift 7 5  / lift 6 x 250 hills  6 90 min XT 60 min 40
9 5  / lift 8 5  / lift (indoors sprints)  10x30meters 3 min rest between 6 90 min XT 60 min 40
10 5  / lift 5 5  / lift 30 min tempo 6 60 min XT 60 min 35-40
11 5  / lift 7 6  / lift 4x 1000 hill 6 75 min XT 60 min 40
12 5  / lift 8 6  / lift 5×800 7 90 min XT 60 min 40-45
13 5  / lift 5  (fartlek (6,100m) in middle 3 ) 5  / lift 30 min tempo 7 60 min XT 60 min 40-45
14 5  / lift 7 8  / lift 2 mile for time 7 75 min XT 60 min 45
15 5  / lift 7 8  / lift 8-12 x 200 strides w/ 200 jog 7 90 min XT 60 min 45
16 Easy relaxed   


Tips on Training Off-Season


Adopt the Proper Training Mindset

Rather than just “building a base” of mileage, adopt a mindset of foundational training this winter. This means incorporating:

  • Aerobic development through mileage and workouts
  • Strength and mobility routines
  • Drills and striders for better running efficiency
  • Adequate recovery through proper sleep, nutrition, and rest days

With this complete approach, you lay the groundwork to handle more volume and intensity as the track season progresses.


Incorporate Strength and Mobility (SAM) Routines

Do dynamic movements and leg swings before each run. Follow every run with SAM – core exercises, hip strength, and mobility work. This builds the strength to handle more running volume and intensity. 


Over time, progress from bodyweight exercises to adding light external resistance like bands or dumbbells. But start by mastering your own bodyweight first.


Build Your Aerobic Engine

The majority of energy for middle distance races comes from aerobic metabolism. To race faster, you must improve your aerobic fitness.

Good aerobic workouts include:

  • Fartlek runs
  • Steady tempo runs
  • Progression runs
  • Aerobic intervals (2-6 minutes long near 5K-10K pace with full recovery)
  • Weekly long run

The goal is to finish these workouts feeling like you could have maintained the pace for 5-10 more minutes. You are training–not racing–all-out during these sessions.


Maintain Proper Recovery Habits

Support your training consistency and adaptation by:

  • Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Eating nutrient-rich, whole foods
  • Scheduling easy days after hard efforts
  • Doing proper cooldowns, stretching, and foam rolling
  • Learn the best ways to recover from leg day

Staying healthy and avoiding injuries is critical. Manage your recovery properly in order to absorb hard training.


Run Relaxed, Not Rushed

Don’t fixate on hitting certain paces, especially in poor weather. Use feel to gauge your effort levels. Become attuned to your breathing and perceived exertion.


Learning to run relaxed helps you adapt to weather changes and prevents overtraining when your body is fatigued. Trust your intuition.


Safety First

Watch the weather: Check the forecast and adapt your run if there are dangerously cold temperatures, icy patches or heavy snow accumulations. Know your limits in extreme weather.


Stay visible: Wear bright, reflective clothing and LED lights so drivers can see you in low light conditions.


FAQs for Training in the Winter


What are some good winter running surfaces?

Treadmills are an excellent choice. You can also opt for cleared trails, tracks, gym running tracks or running in fresh snow if done carefully. Avoid packed snow or icy surfaces.


How can I avoid frostbite?

Dress in layers and make sure no skin is exposed to frigid temperatures and wind. Cover your extremities completely and wear a face mask or scarf if needed.


What should I wear for winter runs?

Focus on moisture wicking layers to avoid sweat-soaked chill. Essential gear includes thermal tights and socks, windproof jacket, reflective vest, hat/headband, gloves and traction control shoes.


Can I still do speed workouts in winter?

One weekly speed session can maintain fitness if done safely. Warm up thoroughly and choose flat terrain free of ice and snow. Adjust the intensity and duration to suit conditions.


Is it safe to run outside when it’s very cold?

Very cold temps below -10°F including wind chill may require switching completely to treadmill runs. At minimum, shorten your outdoor run and cover all exposed skin. Check your extremities regularly for frostbite. Slow down and exert less effort to avoid dangerous breathing conditions.

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