Four Ways to Train for Spring Runs and Rides


Snow sports like cross-coun­try, tele­mark, and alpine ski­ing and snow­board­ing place mul­ti­ple stress­es on the body. The good news is these sports will help you stay in shape for spring runs and rides. They help you han­dle the bio-mechan­i­cal stress of tran­si­tion more effi­cient­ly, while also  help­ing you avoid injury.

The pri­ma­ry goals of train­ing for spring should be improv­ing car­dio­vas­cu­lar and skele­tal mus­cle func­tion. The demands of exer­cis­ing in cold weath­er also trans­late well to spring sports, improv­ing your meta­bol­ic effi­cien­cy, and help­ing you main­tain mus­cle strength and endurance.

Get­ting out on the snow and cold will pre­pare you for windy, rainy runs or rides come spring. Endurance not only improves over­all per­for­mance, but helps reduce the prob­a­bil­i­ty of injuries that usu­al­ly occur at the end of the day (often called “final run of the day syn­drome”). Sus­tained endurance car­dio efforts—30 to 60 min­utes of walk­ing, run­ning, ellip­ti­cal, or swimming—are all good com­pli­men­ta­ry alter­na­tives for those days that live between snow sea­son and spring training.

You should also mix car­dio train­ing with a cou­ple days each week of high inten­si­ty inter­val train­ing (HIIT) to increase endurance. This type of train­ing repli­cates the con­di­tions you’ll encounter when run­ning or bik­ing. Train­ing for just 20–30 sec­onds for 2–3 min­utes, three times per week, has proven to improve endurance more effec­tive­ly than rid­ing a sta­tion­ary bike for 90–120 min­utes three times per week.

When devel­op­ing a HIIT pro­gram, the dura­tion, inten­si­ty, and fre­quen­cy of the inter­val should be con­sid­ered along with the length of the recov­ery inter­val. As you tran­si­tion into spring train­ing, you’ll want to try short­er work inter­vals of 5 sec­onds to 30 sec­onds. As the warmer weath­er of spring sets in, increase the high inten­si­ty phase, per­form­ing for 30 sec­onds to 8 min­utes. Inten­si­ty dur­ing the high-inten­si­ty work effort should range from 80 per­cent to greater than 100% of max­i­mum oxy­gen con­sump­tion (VO2max), heart rate max or max­i­mal pow­er out­put. The recov­ery phase (or inter­val) should range from pas­sive recov­ery (near rest­ing state) to active recov­ery, in the 50–70% range.

One pop­u­lar strat­e­gy is to do a 5‑minute warm up, fol­lowed by 30 sec­onds of effort, then 90 sec­onds of rest. This is repeat­ed for 20 min­utes, and then fol­lowed by an easy cool down of 5 min­utes. HIIT done 2 to 3 times a week like this will help you improve your endurance.

©istockphoto/Christine Glade

Strength Train­ing
Free weights or ket­tle­bells are the eas­i­est way to build up mus­cle strength (if you have pre­vi­ous train­ing expe­ri­ence with them)—focus on shoul­ders, biceps, tri­ceps, core, gluteals, and quadri­ceps. Most expe­ri­enced run­ners already have an upper body rou­tine, but it’s the low­er body mus­cles that suf­fer the most neglect between win­ter and spring, espe­cial­ly the quads.

Ski­ing dou­bles as an impor­tant strength exer­cise as the quads and the glutes pow­er much of it. The quads come into play in two ways on the slopes: they help you bend at the knees and straight­en them. It’s a lit­tle more com­pli­cat­ed than that, but the point is that you don’t want to even have to think about it while you’re ski­ing. And it’s the glutes in com­bi­na­tion with your core and quads that pow­er your legs and pro­vide your stability.

As you begin to train for spring, add planks and sit-ups to improve your core. Train the quads and glutes in tan­dem with lunges, deep squats and split squats, step ups and sta­tion­ary cycling. Step downs (off a step) are a good way to train your quads eccen­tri­cal­ly, which is very impor­tant in both run­ning and cycling. Make sure your body align­ment is stacked per­fect­ly when you do these. Start with 25 to 30 reps and add weight to increase the effort if that becomes too easy.

Train­ing Drills
Cyclists await­ing spring train­ing should keep their focus on improv­ing endurance. Run­ners should incor­po­rate drills that improve foot speed to improve reac­tion time while reduc­ing injuries. Jump ropes are an inex­pen­sive tool for improv­ing foot speed.

Pro­pri­o­cep­tion and Balance
Pro­pri­o­cep­tion is your body’s posi­tion­al sense, or kines­thet­ic aware­ness. Because of pro­pri­o­cep­tion, you know exact­ly where your body is in space, even when your eyes are closed. Yoga is ide­al for devel­op­ing this tech­nique. Of all the yoga meth­ods, Vinyasa Flow is par­tic­u­lar­ly ben­e­fi­cial to run­ners and cyclists. It helps improve bal­ance, joint strength, propul­sion and pro­pri­o­cep­tion, all keys to bet­ter run­ning and rid­ing technique.

A sim­ple but effi­cient way to train for pro­pri­o­cep­tion and bal­ance is to stand on one leg with your eyes closed for two min­utes twice dai­ly. After you mas­ter this with­out wob­bling, add small move­ments like lift­ing a knee up or putting your hands over you head to chal­lenge your bal­ance. Con­tin­ue until train­ing sea­son starts.