Winter Training Tips from Triathlon Coach, Marni Sumbal

The refreshing chill of the water as you escape the blazing heat for a swim workout. The breeze in your face as you descend your favorite mountain pass. The feeling of being drenched in sweat after you crushed your run workout. Long gone are the days of training outdoors.

For most of us athletes living in the Northern hemisphere, we spend much of our winter dressed in tight lycra, cooped up in a gym, basement or garage. While we all know the invaluable importance of building a solid foundation of fitness for a productive summer of racing, it can be difficult to maintain a high level of motivation, discipline and focus when you are forced to train primarily indoors. 

While you may never learn to appreciate indoor training, here are a few tips to help you make the most of our indoor training sessions, especially when you find yourself in a workout rut.

1) Indoor set up – Depending on your budget, create a designated at-home workout space that is inviting and motivating. Consider inspirational posters, a fan, medal hangers or bib number displays, a whiteboard to write your workout, a TV for music/videos and of course, sport specific equipment (ex. trainer, treadmill, weights). Even if you workout in a tight living space, create a set-up that makes it easy for you to start your training session. Your “pain cave” doesn’t have to be high tech or extravagant. 

2) Focus on form, not fitness – Less daylight hours and frigid temps can drain your mental and physical energy. If you only workout on the days you feel great, you probably won’t get much accomplished. When you lack the vigor to start (or finish) an intense workout, turn your focus to technique. Although pushing hard or going long may give you a great endorphin boost, spend time on those bad motor pattern habits to help you become a stronger or more efficient athlete.

3) Create a routine – There is great power in routine. From proper fueling and hydration (before/during/after workouts) to good sleep habits, a go-to warm-up, writing down/reviewing your workout and keeping your gear/equipment in check, a routine keeps you organized, calm and prepared. Although routines are mostly utilized before an important race/competition, they are extremely valuable in training to ensure that you get the most out of your current and subsequent workouts.

4) Mix it up – If you are a triathlete, you are very accustomed to cross-training. However, it’s easy to find yourself in a fitness plateau or state of burn out if you do the same workout regime week after week. The winter is the perfect time to add a bit of variety into your training plan. Regardless if you are a single sport or multisport athlete, look for others ways to stay active (or maintain fitness). Consider mountain biking, hiking, yoga, rowing, swimming or cross country skiing as an alternative to your normal workout. With a new sport/activity comes new training stressors so make sure to not overdo it with your first workout.

5) Mental preparation – If you dread a workout, you may find it difficult to gather the motivation you need to get yourself started. Mental preparation is the first step in making your indoor workout a success. While it’s always good to have a few go-to/favorite workouts when your motivation tank is running on empty, every workout requires you to get into a good headspace before you get started. Remind yourself of your upcoming event/race goals, understand the purpose or focus of the workout and keep your mind in the present moment. Although an indoor workout may not be as fun as training outdoors, there’s great value in staring at a blank wall and listening to the voices in your head. If anything, you are making yourself a more mentally tough athlete by doing the workout that you really don’t want to do.

Written by: Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Top Image: Flo Cycling


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