Thursday, February 6, 2014

Walloped by Winter! What Are You Doing?

I saw a map this week online. It showed that  2/3 of Canada & the U.S., ie most of the North American continent, was covered in snow. I know that for almost all of Canada (save for the lower-mainland of B.C. and Vancouver Island) - that's normal. The snow-cover and deep cold has also extended much farther south in the U.S. than "normal" this winter.

We've been walloped by winter, actually. In my area, just north of  Toronto, ON, after a number of rather benign winters, it's been full-on this year with, from what I can tell,  record snow-falls and, the coldest average temperatures in over 10 years. For endurance sports athletes who for the most part train outside - runners, triathletes, and cyclists, it's been challenging to keep the training going. How have you been coping?

I've always had two views on this - you either take it inside, and shun winter as much as you can, or you embrace it, and make the most of it.

For the Shunners, the solutions, are obvious: For the triathlete - swim/cycle/run, can all be done indoors. If you are into this, and have access to the right facilities and equipment, in a perfect world, there can be minimal interruption in your training. True - the cycling and the running, on indoor trainers and treadmills can get a little tedious, but videos can be a great distraction and some of the interactive, computer driven indoor bike training set-ups are truly extraordinary! If you are just a runner or a cyclist, just plug into the above.

For the Embracers - the great outdoors can really open things up. Full disclosure - when I was training seriously for triathlon this was my approach. I was never a fan of the treadmill or the indoor bike trainer. What did I do?

First - I never stopped running outdoors. In fact, winter is when I would lay down the most overall volume of miles running. With the right apparel and attitude, you can run in just about any kind of weather, anywhere. Sure the footing, was lousy, the deep snow sometimes slowed you down, and the wind would force your pace to a crawl. Note the word "volume" back there - that was the focus . . not speed, pace or time. Just get the miles/K's in!

Second - I cross-country skied . . . a lot. Both classic and skating. Nordic skiing is the king of aerobic sports - it works more muscles in the body than any other single activity - upper body, lower body, core etc . . It all get's worked. When I had a great winter of skiing - where I put in the biggest volume of skiing and took my skiing to the highest level of performance, I noticed two things: 1) My cycling and triathlon performance the following summer was always better. 2) Despite very little cycling through Dec/Jan/Feb, come March, after just a few weeks of riding, I could ride 100K at a decent pace with very little ramp up!

Third - I did not eschew the indoor training completely. I would get in the pool maybe ounce a week, just to keep in contact with the feel of the water. I would also get on the indoor bike trainer, and would do one or two very high intensity sessions a week, lasting no more than 60 minutes. As to the latter, they say that even for the cyclist, who just rides, the time on the trainer in the winter, is better spent with a focus on higher intensity, power based riding, than slogging out long sweaty sessions on the trainer. These days, I only ride, and that's my focus: 3 - 4 very specific high quality session on the bike, and never more than an hour. Plus some cross country skiing mixed in.

As a Canadian, I've always had to put up and deal with a winter of some kind. It's part of being a Canadian, in my view - that's why I have always embraced winter. The Winter Olympics are about to begin, and I've found a great deal of truth, honesty and inspiration in the Canadian Olympic Committee official hashtag for the Canadian Olympic Team - #WeAreWinter.  For Canada and Canadians it's perfect!

Do you shun or do you embrace winter? What's your strategy to coping with this real winter we are having this year?

If you like what you see here, please feel free to share this blog with your preferred sharing app from the buttons below:

No comments: