A Top Trail Runner’s Secrets for Effective (and Enjoyable) Winter Training

5 tips from Forrest Boughner of the Cycling House to keep you training all winter

Winter is upon us and for most of the country that means road and trail access is limited. For a lot of runners this may mean that training suffers in favor of eggnog and pumpkin pie. But, a dip in training during winter months makes getting ready for that spring race more challenging. So what’s the best way to fight the winter weather? We asked our experts for their secrets for endurance athletes to stay fit in the winter.

Typical runners are creatures of habit. If their favorite loop becomes too icy, or early morning runs are too dark, it becomes easy to skip running all together. Snow and trail runner Forrest Boughner of the Cycling House has found a few ways to keep training exciting enough to continue through the winter.

1. Try snowshoes. Running snowshoes open up a whole new world of running in the winter. A good pair of running snowshoes will allow you to stay on trail all winter long. While you may need to rethink “speed” snowshoeing is one of the best ways to burn calories and will keep your heart rate in the red zone the entire run. Snowshoeing also helps maintain the muscle memory of running while providing more resistance from powder and the extra weight, which helps increase eccentric strength.

2. Check out cross country skiing. Arguably the greatest cardio workout in the world, cross country skiing is a great way to stay fit in the winter. Classic skiing works best for runners as far as muscle training goes and opens up the entire back country. Getting on skis during the winter also allows joints to recover from the other nine months of pounding the dirt.

3. Train with the treadmill. The treadmill often gets a bad name for runners but it is a great winter training tool, especially for those ever so important speed workouts. It’s almost impossible to get the speed through snowshoeing and skiing (and in the cold in general), making the treadmill in a nice, warm gym a winter necessity. Find below one of Forrest’s go-to treadmill workouts to maximize the functions and speed session is a short fartlek/hill circuit.

Warmup 10 minutes
4×30 second sprints on flat treadmill with 1 minute walking recovery in between
4×30 second sprints at 15% grade, 1 minute walking recovery in between
Cooldown 10 minutes

4. Challenge your core. Winter is a great time to focus on developing other areas of your running game. Strength workouts are easy to neglect during the rest of the year when the trails are so inviting, but are important to long term success. Here’s one of Forrest’s favorite core specific workouts that doesn’t require any gym equipment:

1 min plank
15 oblique v-ups
1 min plank with shoulder taps
15 reverse sit-ups
30 second side plank
25 crunches
1 min plank with alternating knee drives
20 pushups

5. Aquajog at your indoor pool. Like cross country skiing, the pool is a great place to get a workout and avoid joint impact. By staying in the deep end and simulating a running motion (focus on staying straight up and down), you can get a solid workout in a pleasant atmosphere. The pool can get boring though so we recommend diving in with a workout in mind, like the one below.

Warmup 10 minutes
4x(30 seconds, 1 minute, 90 seconds, 2 minutes) with 30 seconds easy aquajogging in between each interval, and 60 seconds easy in between each set
Cooldown 10 minutes

But don’t forget to take some time to recover. Your body performs best when you’re well rested and well fed. Even Eddy Merckx used his off season as an opportunity to eat cake and smoke cigarettes.


This post originally appeared on the Cycling House blog; for more visit their website