If you’re normally a solid runner with a good fitness level but have struggled to get through your winter runs recently, Joe Beer has the following pointers for you.
1. The off-season effect
Struggling with the winter decline could be a combination of reduced aerobic fitness – what I’d call the off-season effect – coupled with some weight gain compared to summer racing weight. Both factors push the body to process more oxygen for the same training pace, so steady starts to actually feel like hard work. If this is the case then you need to be reasonable with pace and wait to feel fresher, don’t push it.
2. Adjust your pace
If 6min-mile pace is actually summer race pace then it’ll be harder to sustain this through the winter due to the factors mentioned above. In any case, this peak summer pace should be avoided in the early winter block and only gradually added as we move from January to March. Hold off the top end efforts until March, then begin to build.
3. Overcome any plateaus
If you’ve been training at too high a pace, it may be that you’ve plateaued. You may need to just back off for a bit and let the fatigue dissipate and the power come back. Build your base back up with diligent Zone 1 training.
4. Restock your fuel stores
Another possible reason is nutrition. Your premium fuel, glycogen – or carbohydrate and water stored in the muscle – may be low and have been low for a while. This can happen to people who train less and go harder because they’re not fuel-efficient. Three-five days backing off and upping the carbs is a good cure for depleted reserves.
5. Rethink your strategy
Of course, it could be all of the above. This means multiple planning and diet errors. Take a look back at your season and rethink your strategy.
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Image credit: Matt Alexander