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    Three Ways to Train During a Polar Vortex

    By By Jenny Hadfield, Runner’s World
    February 10, 2014, 8:10:08 AM EST

    One of the great things about training through an Arctic winter is that you'll remember this season forever and have training stories to brag about for life! That said, when Alaskan weather strikes, here's how to effectively train through it. 

    If you must go for a run outdoors, check out these fast workout tips designed for cold weather.  


    Hit the treadmill.

    I've written about Alaska-based elite runner Chris Clark, who prepared for the 2000 Olympic Marathon Trials on a treadmill to acclimate to the heat and avoid the snow-ridden roads.    There is a tipping point at which running outdoors becomes less effective and more risky, and when you have the double whammy of Arctic temperatures and ice and snow, it's time to take your workouts inside to weather the storm. Not only is it wise to make the move inside to prevent injuries, it can also aid in more efficient recovery, as training in extreme elements takes a lot more out of you and delays the recovery time. And if you follow a training plan to the letter, you run the risk of performing your next workout in a partially recovered state, which could affect your performance and set you up for over-training down the road.    It's not about ego at this point; it's about safety and finding the best opportunity for quality training. While down at the Disney Marathon last month, I spoke with The Hanson Project's Coach Kevin Hanson, and his entire team trains on the treadmill when the conditions go to the extreme. 

    TRY THESE: Best Treadmill Workouts for Winter Weather

    Train by your body rather than your watch.

    Another reason you may be feeling fatigued is if you're trying to hit a certain pace, especially on your long runs. Running in the snow and ice is a lot like running off-road on trails, as it requires a lot more energy and stabilization, and energy is lost with every stride. 

    The Trick to Keeping Your Hands Warm On Winter Runs

    For this reason I have my athletes train by their body using heart rate and perceived exertion rather than pace -- especially for the long runs. Picture two athletes training for the Boston Marathon. Hunter is training by pace, and Alec is training by his body's response to the day.    Hunter sets out for his hilly 14-miler on a snowy, icy day, tries to run his normal 8:00 long-run pace, manages to nail it up to about 9 miles, and then has to slow it down to 8:45-9:00s to make it to the finish. Not only is he unsuccessful in hitting his target pace, but now his body is in overdrive trying to recover from a race-effort level long run. Because he is sore and fatigued, he skips his speed and hill workouts during the next week and has to swap them out with easy runs. His season continues to roll up and down as the weather affects his performance, and he runs a subpar race in the spring.

    PLUS: The Best Workout Gear for Cold Temperatures

    Alec, on the other hand, takes his workouts indoors when the extreme weather strikes, and trains on hilly terrain by how is body is performing on the given day. Instead of charging hills or keeping an average pace, he maintains an even effort throughout his long runs. Some days this translates to a slower average pace, while other days it is faster than expected. Because he trains within an easy effort, his body has a much easier time recovering and adapting to the workload week to week. This also allows him to make significant progressions in his speed and hill workouts throughout the season, and he ends up running strong through the Boston Marathon finish.   The names of these athletes have been changed to hide their identities, but these are two real case scenarios in the training world. Your body doesn't know pace, especially on tough weather days. It knows effort, and when you put aside the pace and begin to focus on what really matters (your body's response to the stress load), you will be better able to train through the challenging days of winter and reach your goals this spring.    Read more on the benefits of effort based training here. 

    Train outside the box with Embedded Circuit Workout.

    Train with the Polar Vortex rather than trying to fight with it (you won't win that battle). A great way to prepare for those quad-crushing downhills in the first half of the Boston Marathon is to incorporate an embedded circuit workout (ECW) within one of your speed workouts indoors. This workout is an effective way to learn how to run hard on fatigued quads, which is the secret to running a strong Boston.    Here is a sample ECW: Warm up walking for 3 minutes and running easy for 10 minutes Repeat: 4-5 times 5 minutes at tempo effort 60 Seconds of slow-motion squats 60 seconds of alternating lunges  60 seconds of wall chair sit (exactly how it sounds) Cool down with 10 minutes of easy-effort running and 3 minutes walking.    Pace yourself on this workout as it builds in intensity, especially as you get fatigued. Before you know it, your workout will be done and you'll wonder what happened to your legs along the way. It's a fabulous way to train your brain to push through leg fatigue and develop leg resilience for those downhills on your horizon.    The great news is it's still early enough in the season to turn your training around. Train wisely like the elite athletes, and take your workouts indoors to navigate through the Polar Vortex, invest in good nutrition, hydration, foam rolling and sleep, toss in some leg-fatiguing workouts, and you'll have a strong race come April. Good luck and run strong!

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