Alternative training for runners in winter

30. January 2023


At our latitudes, wintertime often means limited running training. But what should or could alternative training look like?

Wintertime is not only foundation training time, but also the best time to introduce runners’ musculoskeletal systems to new movement patterns, and through this variety, also help to prevent injuries. This is because the typical runner generally runs enough throughout the year and usually does little alternative training at the same time.

That's why it makes perfect sense to switch to indoor activities when you start training at the beginning of the year in cold temperatures. If anything, though, you should avoid using the treadmill (unless you're preparing for a marathon in April) and opt for other types of endurance. If the weather doesn't cooperate, indoor options such as cycling (spinning), rowing or guided fitness training units are available. Group fitness classes are particularly motivating, where you can pedal, row, strengthen muscles or boost your flexibility under guidance to groovy music. Especially for many male runners, beginner courses in Pilates and yoga can be enormously beneficial because they not only specifically target and strengthen the small muscles frequently neglected in normal endurance sports, but also place great importance on flexibility, which experience has shown is not a domain that runners particularly excel in. Swimming is also a good alternative as is deep water running, where you can train exactly the same movement sequences as on land but without any impact from touching the ground.

If long runs are hindered not so much by the weather but by ice and snow on your running routes, then cross-country skiing, snowshoe hiking and ski touring are suitable alternatives. Snowshoe hiking and ski touring (beginners, please do both under the supervision of an experienced guide in high mountains) are ideal for completing basic endurance training units that last several hours without overloading the musculoskeletal system.

When it comes to cross-country skiing, runners should opt for the skating technique. The classic technique strains your calf muscles in the same way as running. But if you're already doing alternative types of sports, it's worth sparing your running muscles by introducing new stimuli. The classic technique also naturally provides first-class foundation and coordination training.

Not to be forgotten in winter is classic strength training on machines or with barbells / dumbbells as well as strength gymnastics using your own body weight. Even though a runner doesn’t need large muscles, they do need strong muscles, especially in their feet, legs, and core.