How intense should you be training in winter?

22. December 2022

The prevailing motto is: Protect your immune system and don’t catch any viruses. But what does this mean for running training during the cold season?

First things first: A broad consensus has proven that regular physical activity is beneficial for your health, which is why you should never refrain from doing sports for fear of catching a cold or an infection. On the contrary: A cold is always based on a viral infection – and this doesn't lurk in the forest, but primarily in enclosed spaces when you are among people (without a mask).

The way in which runners should train during winter also depends on their ambitions and the outdoor conditions. From a health point of view, outdoor running training is recommended as moderate-intensity endurance units, i.e. at a level of exertion that does not subject your respiratory system to undue strain, even in very cold air. Enjoy the very special atmosphere in winter and dress in layers to ensure you are always warm enough.

If you do intense units, they should generally be shorter

Ambitious runners (or cross-country skiers) also want to improve their performance in winter, which sometimes requires higher intensities. However, you shouldn’t do this for too long in winter (about 30-50 minutes). If the outside temperature is so low that increased respiration causes twinges in the lungs, the intensity should be reduced. A scarf in front of your mouth can also be useful. After the exertion, take a quick, warm shower (before stretching), fill up your energy reserves with a balanced diet, and allow yourself sufficient time to recover before training again. If you want a really intense workout, you can also do interval training on the treadmill, preferably in a fitness centre during off-peak times when there are few visitors.

One simple health tip is to rinse your nose with salt water to keep your mucous membranes moist. Equally important: If you feel weak, you shouldn’t do any intense training, as this will otherwise increase the risk of a respiratory illness. A good alternative for more intense runs is training on the treadmill, where you can do really good specific interval training units at fixed heart rate and/or pace parameters.