How to Boost Your Running Performance During the Winter

Eric Orton, winter

Source: Eric Orton

Acclaimed running expert, author of The Cool Impossible, and the coach in Christopher McDougall’s cult read Born to Run, Eric Orton knows a thing or two about staying active in the winter. “Winter starts early here in The Tetons with skiers charging the back country by mid November. Dry trails are replaced with 2,000 vertical boot pack accents demanding you earn the fresh powder that the early morning offers up,” he says. The consummate adventurer Orton sees all of this as a welcome bonus to his fitness program.

“Skiing out of bounds, carving first tracks, and making your own way down through the trees and the unknown, all for the chance of something epic, that one day that you will always remember. The chance to experience terrain differently, floating on snow, over rock bands and down couloirs that only the snow will allow,” he adds. Unfortunately not all outdoor runners have fresh powder in their backyard, but the running pro says there are still plenty of ways to create winter adventures to help boost running performance during the snowy months of the year. Here are Orton’s suggestions for boosting your running performance in the winter.

Change things up

As winter is approaching for you, this is a great time to look to change things up with your running and build in some diverse creativity and adventure. I love to run in the winter, especially on very cold, crisp blue sky days were all you can hear is the crunch of the frozen snow. My summer running trails are now transformed into a winter multi-sport spectacle and I use this time of year to get creative with my running and with cross training adventures. I pull out the snow bike and hit the groomed snow machine trails that allow my 4-inch wide tires to float on top of the snow. I can ride for hours this way or use it to commute to Snow King, the local ski mountain in town. I strap my skis on my back, ride into town and skin up the 1,500 foot mountain for a very fast descent before hopping back on the bike for home.

Winter cross-training will benefit you when the snow dissipates


Source: Eric Orton

The trails provide endless snow running opportunities, whether it is a long climb ascent near home or an epic run in Grand Teton National. Snow biking offers a great way to build strength for your running and provide a simple way to add adventure to your winter months. Many days I will grab the fat bike and ride to my favorite climb and run to the summit and back, and then it’s back in the saddle and off the breakfast. Yes, Jackson Hole is a special place that offers true, wild west adventure, but I also believe that adventure is a mindset that can be created anywhere.



A few ways to spice things up during the winter

It’s important to spice up your workout routine in the winter to keep things fresh and to help build strength improvements for your running. A few ways I recommend people do this:

Snowshoeing — There are a lot of great races offered, look to enter one for fun. Or, the next time it dumps snow, take the snowshoes out for a run in the city or use them to run someplace new and different.

Bike/Run Bricks — Bike to and from your next group run. Or take a spin class at your local gym and run to and from the class.

Nasty Weather Adventure — On the next nasty weather day, dress for the elements and go run to the local gym and do a treadmill interval workout and then run home. Use the bad weather as a great motivator for an adventure and challenge.

Time Change — Plan to run late at night on the weekend. Set the alarm for 1 a.m. and put your headlamp on and go for an easy run around the neighborhood and then back to bed. Experience the familiar in a new way.

Race Adventure — Instead of planning another long run at the usual spot, get a group together and bike to a local 5K race, run the race for fun, and then bike to breakfast as a group before riding home.

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