In many parts of the country, those running in cold early mornings and dark nights are slightly less appealing—especially when it comes to doing speed workouts.
Fortunately, strong desire combined with a little creativity can go a long way. Give one of these four speedier sessions a shot next time you’re dreading heading out the door to try and run fast.
Parking Garage Hill Repeats
Yes, you can train in a parking garage! Just be careful when you go. Seek out an empty multi-story garage during off hours—early mornings, evenings or on weekends are best—and be alert while watching out for traffic. Wear something bright and visible so drivers can see you. If you can’t find a suitable relatively traffic-free garage, look for a long set of stairs at a snow-free stadium or even inside an office building (seriously, a back stairwell can be a great place to work on uphill running).
Warmup: Jog for 15-20 minutes (outside the parking garage), followed by 6-8 x 20-second strides.
Workout: Since the size of the garage will vary depending on what’s available to you, simply running from bottom to top—or one level to the next—and back down without much interruption makes for a great workout. If you want a more structured workout, short “uphill” sprints in the range of 8-15 seconds are likely going to be your best option and will help you develop speed, power and strength over the winter months. Note: Avoid fast “downhill” running in a parking garage. The ramps are usually short, sometimes steep and almost always concrete, which will wreak havoc on your legs if you’re not careful.
Cooldown: Jog for 10-15 minutes (outside the parking garage).
Ever notice how cemeteries are usually one of the first places that get plowed after a big storm and are typically light on traffic throughout the day? For these reasons, they tend to be a great option for winter speed sessions. When I lived in Massachusetts, I often ran to the cemetery closest to my house for faster fartlek sessions in lieu of going to the indoor track for interval work. The beauty of fartlek is that it can be as free-flowing or structured as you want to make it. I prefer the free-flowing method, especially for winter workouts, and this approach tends to work well in a vast open environment such as a cemetery.
Warmup: Jog for 15-20 minutes, followed by 6-8 x 20-second strides.
Workout: Take note of the connecting roads inside and around the perimeter of the cemetery and identify landmarks that are easy to spot. Option 1: Simply run a series of medium and hard efforts from landmark to landmark around the cemetery, or run hard from one road to the next. For recovery, run easily until you’re ready to go hard again. Option 2: If possible, devise a series of small, medium and large loops to use for your workout. Run the small loop at a hard and recover by running it again at an easy pace. Now do the same for the middle loop—one hard, one easy. Finally, repeat the process for the large loop. Depending on the length of the loops, you may want to repeat a second set. Maybe not. You can go as hard or as easy as you’d like for as long as you’d like. Remember, true fartlek is a free-flowing exercise—be creative!
Cooldown: Jog for 10-15 minutes.
Treadmill Tempo Run
Like it or not, the treadmill can be one of the best places to practice pacing in the wintertime, especially when finding a clear stretch of asphalt for a tempo run proves tricky. Adjust the incline to replicate your favorite outdoor route and keep things interesting.
Warmup: Run at an easy pace for 15 minutes, followed by five faster 20-second pickups (jog easily for 40 seconds between pickups)
Workout: Run continuously for 30 minutes at your half-marathon or marathon race pace. Or, run the first 10 minutes at your marathon pace and increase the speed by 10 seconds a mile for each of the next two 10-minute segments.
Cooldown: Slow back down to an easy pace (ideally 1:30-2:00 per mile slower than you just ran for the tempo) for 15 minutes
Industrial Park Interval Session
Industrial parks are great places to go in the early mornings, after work and on weekends when you want to get a good winter workout under your belt. Vehicle traffic is either light or non-existent during off hours, and many industrial parks feature long, wide roads that loop around and are great for interruption-free running.
Warmup: Jog for 15-20 minutes followed by 6-8 x 20-second strides.
Workout: There are a number of options (and intensities) you can choose from, but you can run intervals by time using a basic chronograph or distance using a GPS watch. Here’s a wide array of options previously featured on Competitor.com.
Cooldown: Jog for 15-20 minutes