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Build your running speed and endurance this winter by staying focused with these three key sessions from coaching editor Phil Mosley

Winter Triathlon Training - Winter Running

Maintaining running form over winter is crucial to success in the new triathlon season

If you’re anything like me, your natural instinct every time you go for a run is to trot along listening to music, looking at the scenery, avoiding dogs and thinking about what to have for dinner.

It’s a great way to unwind and there’s nothing wrong with it once a week. Just don’t rely on it to make you a faster runner, because it won’t. Your body needs something more specific and stressful to force it to adapt, so I’m going to suggest some good training sessions to help you achieve this.

At this point during the winter, the general thinking among coaches and sports scientists is that you should work on your base endurance, speed skills and muscular endurance, all of which I’ll explain below.

The theory is that once you’ve spent a few months working on these areas, you’ll be in a better position to absorb the higher intensity training and racing that you’ll do in the spring and summer. So try to make these three essential winter workouts a regular fixture and soon you’ll be too focused on the run to think about the scenery or what you’re going to cook when you get home.

The Base Endurance Run

  • WHY: These runs have a number of benefits, including improving your muscles’ ability to use fat as a fuel source, and converting some muscle fibres from slow twitch to fast twitch.
  • HOW: This is also known as a long run and involves running for a relatively long time at a low intensity. The distance of your run depends on a) what you’re training for and b) the maximum distance you can already run comfortably. As a ball park, it could be anything between 40 minutes and two hours but ultimately it’s down to you. If you’re racing sprint, Olympic or Ironman 70.3 you need to work towards being able to run at least the distance you’ll be racing over. For Ironman athletes, work towards running for up to two hours 30 minutes during training sessions. Try to run with a heart-rate monitor and aim for 65 to 75% of your maximum heart rate. You should try to progress the duration of your run over a period of months by no more than 10% per month. If these sessions leave you feeling sore, tired and grumpy for two days afterwards, take it as a sign that you need to shorten them or back off the pace slightly.

Speed Skill Run

  • WHY: Speed skills are something that well-known coach Joe Friel discusses in his Training Bible books. He believes that until you can move with great fluidity and skill there’s no point in doing harder, faster types of training. So speed skill training is all about learning to run efficiently at high speeds. These sessions shouldn’t feel too tough, because they’re more about technique than cardiovascular fitness.
  • HOW: Warm Up 15mins at 70% of maximum heart rate. Main 15mins at 70% of maximum heart rate, incorporate the following:Technique Drills 2x20secs running with an exaggerated high knee lift, 2x20secs. running with exaggerated high heel lift Sprints 6x30secs as fast as you can, while maintaining good form. Jog for a few minutes between each one, until you’re ready to go again. Warm Down 10mins at 65% of maximum heart rate.

Muscular Endurance Run

  • WHY: These sessions are about teaching your body to delay fatigue while holding a fairly high pace. The key is to maintain the same pace throughout.
  • HOW: This session is best saved for the late winter or early spring, when you’re a couple of months away from your first race. The duration depends on the races you’re training for and your experience level. If you’re unsure, start off with 15 minutes and progress gradually over a period of weeks and months. Warm Up 10mins gradually building the intensity from 60% to 80%. Main 15 minutes to 1 hour at 80% of maximum. Warm Down 5 to 10mins at 60% of maximum.

In Conclusion
There are no cast iron rules when it comes to training, because we’re all different. The advice here is general and will work well for most people. However, if you’re already brilliant at long runs you may be better off using the winter to work on your speed skills and muscular endurance.

Whatever training you do, the important thing is to break it down into periods where you focus on improving the areas that limit your performance the most.

You can find more winter triathlon training articles here