Words by: Matt Fitzgerald, Sports Coach

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you are training for one or more events in the Lexus LaceUp Running Series. If so, your mind is focused on getting ready for the big day. But it’s not too early to start thinking about what to do after your race. You should wait until you’ve already crossed the finish line to ask yourself, “What’s next?” So let me offer a suggestion: winter training! The right approach to winter training will set you up for success when the spring running season comes around in just a few short months.

Take a Break

The first objective of winter training is to give your body a chance to regenerate and let your motivational “batteries” recharge. Even if you’re a serious runner who can’t wait for that first race of the spring, taking a little time off is the best thing you can do now to improve your future running. Professional runners including Kara Goucher go two full weeks without running a single step after their last big race of the year. If it works for them, it will work for you, too!

Mix It Up

The winter is a good time for runners to explore some alternative ways to keep in shape. Many runners have a hard time motivating themselves to run during the winter, but they find it easy to muster enthusiasm for other activities they enjoy. Go ahead and spice up your routine with a little variety. Any activity that gets your heart rate up and is fun for you is a good choice.

Again, there is precedent for this winter training tactic at the professional level. Former Olympian and 2:28 marathoner Libbie Hickman used to get most of her exercise from cross-country skiing in the winter. By the time she returned to running her motivation to train was back up to peak level.

Build a Foundation

The foundation for running performance is a strong, balanced musculoskeletal system. Various postural and muscle imbalances that are quite common among runners inhibit performance and contribute to overuse injuries. Consistent strength training is needed to correct these imbalances. But it can be hard to find enough time to strength train during the competitive season.

The winter presents an opportunity to prioritize building a solid musculoskeletal foundation. I suggest that you do full-body strength workouts two to three times per week for at least eight weeks.

Make a Plan

Finally, the wintertime is a good time to set running goals for next year and make a plan to achieve them. Think about what was missing from your fitness this year and tweak your training in ways that address those weaknesses. There’s always something you can do to improve!

** Matt Fitzgerald is an acclaimed author, world-class running and triathlon coach, and sports nutritionist. His mission is to inspire, educate, and help athletes and fitness enthusiasts achieve their goals.  His books include Racing Weight, Diet Cults, The New Rules of Marathon Nutrition, and many more.