Beating The Winter Blues

The leaves continue to fall and each weeks weather seems to hold a little bit of everything.  Fall can be a short season in the Rockies, but is also a favorite of mountain town residents.  Dreams of an endless fall are quickly drowned out by the changing of the seasons as the first snowflakes hit the ground.  Unfortunately mother nature and daylight savings closes the door on afternoon spins.  Some folks preserve by riding fat bikes, trainer sessions or bundle up for some cold road rides.  Finding the motivation for those activities can be very difficult.   Fortunately a new phenomena is making it easier, or at least more necessary to maintain our fitness over the winter.

Endurance sporting events in the United States are growing faster and faster these days.  Triathlons, endurance mountain biking, grand fondos, marathons, ultra-marathons are a few events that are at the forefront of the endurance craze.  The levels of training and obsession with body image has finally taken a step out of the gym and back outside into nature.  Many weight grunting gym rats have jumped full throttle into Spartan races and other similar events.  People are finally realizing the potential of muscular endurance and strength in a real situation other than looking at themselves in the mirror between sets.  The rise has seen a dramatic increase in race participants, venues and varieties of events.  The popularity of these events has left us sitting by our computer waiting to register as soon as registration opens.  Once you click the pay button you might have a moment of panic, fear and anxiety.  These early spring events have just committed you to some serious winter training.  I like to think I’ve figured out a few good tricks to maintain fitness over the winter(This is coming from a snowbird, lets see how I handle my longest winter in 10 years:)

Rolling with the seasons and staying fit skinning.
Rolling with the seasons and staying fit skinning.

The rise and growth of these events have many people and businesses capitalizing on this opportunity to address core strength among participants.  The problem with all of the growth an options is that it has become a confusing mess of information and choices.  The bottom line with core strength is that it needs to be simple and functional.  Many companies offer the “best option”  for functional core strength and some of these options can be rather expensive.  Many core exercises are very simple and do not require equipment but can be very difficult.  The most difficult part about developing core strength is developing motivation, habits and a routine.  Core strength has no replacement in many of these events because as you get tired your form fails and injuries and failure can occur.  With all of the available options out there I suggest finding something that works for you and stick with it.  Some important consideration should be; time, cost, motivation, equipment and schedule.  Many of these factors will relate directly to your schedule and the amount of time you can dedicate to core strength.  After all core strength is merely a necessary evil of participating in these endurance events.  I have a few guidelines in helping guide you towards developing a stronger core.

  1. If you lack motivation look for a good class that incorporates functional strength. (Be cautious of classes that do not reinforce proper technique.)
  2. Make core strength a habit a couple times a week. (Find a time place and routine that works for you, then stick with it.)
  3. If you buy it use it!  TRX’s, bosu balls, etc.  all look good but be sure to keep the dust off them by actually using them.
  4. Go uphill!  Its good for strength and also very good bang for the buck if you only have limited time.  (Ski, run, bike, hike, snowshoe, etc.)
  5. Use Zwift or other technologies that keep you motivated.  I have not started Zwift yet, but my smart trainer is on order and I’m sure I will soon be addicted.
  6. If you see the sun, get outside!  There is nothing like the sun to motivate you even if it is cold.  Who cares what you do just get in that vitamin D!
  7. Take a yoga class.  I love yoga in the winter because it’s warm and you get in a great workout especially if you do a class that focuses on core too.
  8. Plan long outdoor adventures with friends.  There is nothing like other people to hold you accountable and make it more fun.
  9. Do some foam rolling and stretching.
  10. Keep it fun!

A simple routine that has worked well for me requires 10-20 minutes and can be done anywhere.  I break my core workout into 1 minute exercises with 10-15 seconds between each effort. The exercises should target a variety of muscle groups and can be a great way to work on known weaknesses.  I personally like to add in some glute strength exercises because I’ve always had trouble firing my glute muscles.  These issues are not only limited to my inability to fill out a pair of jeans but has also caused knee and IT band pain in the past.  I use a timer app on my phone that can be preset for number of reps, time per rep and time in between each rep.  If possible recruit others, workouts like these are always easier with friends. I have taken it a step further, and won’t drink coffee until I complete the workout.

Hopefully some of these tips will helpful in finding winter fitness and keeping you prepared for your spring events.

Plank contest at our staff retreat 2017.
Plank contest at our staff retreat 2017.