Better days are coming
Although it may be hard some days, it’s important to stay consistent with workouts through the winter months.
For competitive racers, the winter is the key time to log easy distance miles to build up the training base necessary for the strength needed for faster workouts and races later in the year.
Skipping workouts through the “rainy” months will have a significant negative impact later in the year.
I know this from (forced) personal experience, unfortunately.
Two winters ago, after consistently running under 19 minutes for 5K the prior year, I underwent knee surgery, leaving me unable to run for three and a half months in the winter.
I did my best to come back from that layoff and managed, the last race of the year, to (barely) get back under 20 minutes (19:58).
But the lack of base training and easy distance miles in the winter could not be overcome no matter how hard I worked.
And I ended up, after that last race, with a bad and long-lasting case of Achilles tendonitis from pushing too hard, too soon (even though I had been trying to keep myself reined in).
Last winter, not wanting to miss a month or more of running, like the year before, I tried to run through the tendonitis by going shorter, slower and with no hills.
Interestingly, as I thought this would make a big difference in my ability to race faster later in the year, it ended up not helping me a lot.
That’s because the tendonitis lasted 10 months, limiting my training to the point that I ran barely more miles for the whole year than I had the year before when I didn’t run at all for over three months.
Consistency does count for a great deal in improving, but sometimes running through an injury is not the best answer.
Then again, we often don’t know the best answer when faced with not running so we can heal or training through in the hopes of not losing all the fitness we’ve already gained.
I ended up running 19:46 last year, better than the year before, but not by a lot, like I had hoped.
So, this year, despite some nagging injuries, I’ve been able to run reasonably good workouts so far this winter, which bode well for racing times later this year.
Which illustrates the point that came to me while out on a run in a wicked hailstorm last week.
Better days are coming.
The weather can be intimidating this time of year (he writes after running on a beautiful 64 degree day!).
Three weeks ago, I was running in moderately heavy rain on sub-40 degree days. Not the most enticing weather to head out the door into.
But, the key here is to do your normal workouts, as much as conditions allow, despite the rain or cold or hail or snow.
If it feels like too much to do it outside, there are treadmills at the local health clubs.
Then again, with the proper gear, like Gore-Tex rain jackets and pants, gloves and a rain hat, it can actually be somewhat fun. I know more than one runner who actually enjoy running in the rain. It’s mostly the first few minutes that are tough on cold, rainy days.
But once you get going, it’s not bad at all. And there’s that bonus feeling of accomplishment you get from doing your workout even when conditions were against you. Man/woman against the elements!
Come race day, you’ll have the advantage over other runners who may have wimped out on some of their winter runs, both in training and in mental toughness!
No kidding! I do remember those brutal weather days or workouts in the middle of races and remind myself that I have that extra bit I’ve earned, having done the training.
We have a lot to be thankful for, weather-wise, here in the Grass Valley/Nevada City area.
The week after those cold, rainy days, we had a gorgeous week, hitting the high 60s and even 70 one day.
From cold weather rain-gear one week to running without even needing a T-shirt the next!
But this time of year, we know that’s not going to be the norm.
Last week, I was back out in the pouring rain, in the high 40s on Wednesday, followed by Freaky Friday when it stopped raining and the sun came out.
Mother Nature fooled me that day as I headed out in a sweatshirt and sunglasses only to have it start raining 20 minutes later and then five minutes later a half-hour heavy hailstorm.
It reminded me of my high school days in Connecticut!
Thankfully, we don’t have many of those days here.
But there’s good to be looked for and found in most every workout, and in this one, it was the mental toughness to keep going despite the conditions and do the planned workout.
The same applies to all of you. Whether you want to look good on the beaches this summer or be in top racing shape, the winter is the time to get in shape and work on that mental toughness to not be stopped by bad weather.
You’ll thank yourself later this year if you stay committed to your workouts through the winter, in spite of whatever elements may come our way.
Steve Bond, whose fingers do get a little “pruney” on hard rain run days, is a competitive runner who lives in Grass Valley and regularly writes columns and feature stories on running for The Union. He may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.