The winter months for some is time to go into hibernation, but it's also the perfect time to put in some training to get you ready for next seasons amazing selection of trail races. The hardest part of training is actually getting out of the door in the cold, wet and dark, however there is some fantastic kit out there now to keep you warm, dry and to turn dark into light. For example, on cold winter days I wear a Merino base layer, and full-length tights, with a wind-shell on top, to keep the breeze off, until I warm up.
Once you've got your kit sorted, you can get out there and put in some training, however I think one of the most important things to have in place prior to this is a training schedule. I went for years just going out and running at one pace (somewhere between fast and slow), and it wasn't until I started implementing a plan that I started to see vast improvements in my performance. I realise that everyone is different and that each person has different goals, abilities and amount of time to actually put into running, so the key is to make the most of the time you have on the trails. I have put together a list of key things that I'm sure will help you enjoy your running and see you improving your performance at the Lakeland Trails next year, whether it's the short medium or long events that you plan to take part in.
Work out how much time you have to put into your running. Even if it's one or two evenings a week, you can still put in some quality work to help improve your fitness and enjoyment on the trails. I have a year planner with key races on it, and sessions that I plan to do before and after these races to perform at my best. Having a plan can motivate you to get out when otherwise it's so easy to shut the door and relax for the evening...there's time for relaxing after your run.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have the Lake District on their doorstep, but if you do then why not train on some of the footpaths that are on the Lakeland Trails routes. There's no better way to prepare than actually running on the race route in advance. Those of you that don't have the Lake District as a playground will have to make the most of what you've got. Find a nice park or wooded trail and get out and explore. I think one of the best things about running is being able to be an adventurer...find new trails and snickets that you've never run down before and it opens up a whole new world of running. Going down new trails keeps you on your toes and prepares you to expect the unexpected.
I try and get a speed and hill session in each week. They prepare you for what the Lakeland Trails have to throw at you. If you've never really tried speed work, then try incorporating a few short sprints into one of your steady runs. Even if it's just a ten second sprint with one minute recovery and then repeated, it will get you out of your comfort zone, which is what you tend to find when you're in a race situation. Hill work is also important, as it replicates what your body will encounter in the Lake District. There aren't many places out there with at least one little hill, so find it and make the most of it. Try running up it for ten seconds and jogging back down as your recovery, and then repeat.
A recovery run is just as important as a speed or hill session. Your body needs time to recover from the hard work you have put it through. The majority of my running week is taken up with steady runs (I use a heart rate monitor to make sure I'm not over doing it). These runs allow your body to recover from a tough session and make you feel fresh and raring to go into your next session. It is so easy to fall into so-called 'Black Hole Training'...this is where you are neither pushing yourself nor recovering.
I really enjoy a bit of cross-training, whether it's swimming, cycling or going for a walk, it's all helping to improve your cardio-vascular fitness. There is no harm in swapping a running hill session for one on the bike, and if you're lucky enough to have a turbo trainer, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. A speed session in the swimming pool is also a brilliant compromise to a session on the track or road.
It's no secret that a healthy diet has a big part to play in being a more efficient runner. I try to avoid sugary cereals for breakfast and stick to a nicer hot bowl of porridge with blueberries and banana. I find that this keeps me fuller for longer and I don't have that sugar crash mid morning. I try to avoid sugar as much as possible and the fresher the better is a good rule to follow. Also, try to avoid eating just before a run. If I'm racing I try and eat three hours before, this way you can be sure that things have settled before you put your body through its paces.
I hope that you can take something from the little bits of advice I
have sent your way, but just remember that no matter what distance trail
race you plan to have a go at next year, the same formula works for
all...if you put in the effort during these harsh winter months, then
you'll reap the rewards next year. Enjoy your training over the next few
months, make the most of those crisp, cold winter days.