Beating the winter weather

So you've committed to training for the Buffalo Marathon.  And you live in the northeast.  And you're looking at the weekend forecast calling for cold temps, maybe some snow, maybe some wind.  And you are questioning, "Is it possible to train in this weather?"  YES IT IS! 

In this section I will give some ideas to help you keep your training going strong when the weather is providing some extra challenges.  We'll use a little reverse psychology: training in tough conditions will make the marathon seem more manageable!

Here are three steps to help you get ready for winter running. Step #1: Accept that you will have some cold, windy, snowy runs.  If you accept this fact, then you will be fine.   Step #2: Concede to the idea of indoor training.  Step #3: Plan to be creative and flexible. 

Step #1: Acceptance. You can, in fact, train very well in the winter in the northeast.  Training in the strong winds that whip off the Great Lakes makes you tough.  Running through slush on the roads makes you appreciate dry roads and makes the effort on dry road easier.  All of this builds your mental strength, toughness, and focus.  This only helps your mindset as a marathoner.  Being tough and staying focused are key ingredients to successful marathoners.

Step #2: Indoor Training.  Ok, I've told you to be tough and train outside.  Well, sometimes coming inside is simply a smart idea.  Treadmills should be your friend (not enemy!).  Treadmills are a great training tool and will help you on the days that it is simply too risky outside.  I am often asked, "Is running on the treadmill as good as running outside?"  Simply put, YES!  Here are the keys:  Give yourself time to get use to running on the treadmill.  If you are new to the treadmill, start with 5 - 10minutes of walking, and gradually increase your pace until you are running.  Never hold on to the rails while running.  Keep your stride natural as if running outside.  If you are unsure if you are changing your gate, simply ask someone to watch you (preferably someone that knows a little about running). Always set your treadmill to 1.0% - 2.0% grade.  This makes up for the lack of wind resistance and gives a more true pace to outside running.  Select your pace correctly - if needed, use a miles/hour to minutes/mile conversion chart.  Lastly, keep your water bottle handy (and learn to drink WHILE RUNNING, do not stop to take a drink).  The controlled environment of the treadmill makes it an ideal training tool for tempo runs, long runs, marathon paced runs, and more.  Just follow the rule of setting your grade to 1-2% and you are ready for a great workout.  The extra benefit of treadmill running is MENTAL TOUGHNESS.  You get quality time with yourself and can work on your focus, mental thought process, positive cues, and build confidence.  MINDSET is critical to the marathoner.  If you are wondering, YES, I do train on a treadmill.  I ran a 2:41 marathon in a late February off of winter long runs on the treadmill.  You can be fit, healthy, and strong with a treadmill. 

Step #3: Be flexible and creative.  Let's face it.  Real life will get in the way of your best plans for training.  Whether it is bad weather, extra hours at the office, family obligations, or illness, there are bound to be glitches tossed into your training.  Adjust for as much as you can by being flexible and having alternative plans.  When looking at the week's weather, if you see Sunday looks great and Saturday looks awful, run your long run on Sunday.  Simply shift days around to accommodate a Sunday run.  Always look at the weather forecast for the week and make a plan "A" and plan "B" based on variable conditions.  If the weather looks bad and you want to run your Tuesday workout on the treadmill, adapt the workout to be treadmill friendly.  Sometimes I'd head out for my warm-up with two plans.  If the weather felt good, and roads were clear, I'd run my workout outside.  If the roads ended up being slick, I'd have my backup plan for the treadmill with a change of clothes, an iPod, and water bottle ready to go.  We runners are very structured creatures!  But, allowing yourself some flexibility will be beneficial to your training.

Note: NEVER RISK YOUR SAFETY!  No matter how careful you are, RUNNING WHEN IT IS ICY IS DANGEROUS!  Cars can't stop on ice.  Runners slip on ice.  It's a recipe for disaster!  And remember that REFLECTIVE GEAR is a must at ALL times of the day. 

To get you over the winter blues, get yourself one new piece of training apparel for your training.  Maybe a new pair of tights, a new winter running hat, or perhaps a new pair of gloves.  The new item will get you excited, and prepared for a great run. 

As winter weather challenges you, accept the challenge and build the reasons why you will be tougher than anyone else and fully prepared come May 24th! 



Vicki is a distinguished athlete and international competitor, Vicki competed in the 1996 US Olympic Trials in the 10,000 run. She made her marathon debut at the 1999 Hong Kong Marathon, where she qualified for the 2000 US Olympic Marathon Trials. In 2001, she was invited to join the Fila Discovery USA training program, a program designed to develop American distance runners into elite marathon athletes able to compete with the best in the world. She has been a member of five USA national teams, including the 1993 World University Games and 1998 IAAF World Road Race Championship in Manaus, Brazil.