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Three things you must pay attention to in the winter- by Jasper Blake

Vitamin D, H2O and Ginseng

For most summer athletes the winter months are a time for base building and cross training.  In Canada we are lucky to have winter because it provides a venue for some of the most fun sporting activities on the planet.  Winter is by and large great but it can also create added mental and physiological stress.  Cold weather and shorter, darker days can cause macro and micronutrient depletion that can leave you tired, fatigued and often under the weather.

1) Perhaps the most obvious example of micronutrient depletion is Vitamin D.  Northern climates in particular leave people prone to Vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D is produced naturally in the body through sunlight exposure.  In the winter months we are exposed to less sunlight particularly through the eyes and on the skin.  Incorporating a multivitamin supplement that contains Vitamin D can help you stay healthier during the winter months.

2) Hydration is another area that people often neglect in the winter.  This happens primarily because people don’t think to drink as much.  Cooler weather doesn’t prompt us to hydrate as readily as a hot summer day.  However, we still lose water at a rapid rate especially when exercising.  We lose water through sweating but also through respiration.  It’s not uncommon to become chronically dehydrated in the winter months.  If you exercise regularly make sure you follow a similar protocol for hydration as you do in the summer.  It’s also a good idea to make a habit of drinking a glass of water upon waking in order to replace lost water through respiration during sleep.

3) The immune system is probably the area that people focus on most during the winter months.  Ginseng has long been used in traditional medicine as an immune system booster.  Ginseng is often referred to as an adaptogen.  An adaptogen is a term used to describe a herb that increases the body’s resistance to stress, trauma, anxiety and fatigue by balancing the endocrine and immune systems.  There are several products that claim to boost the immune system through the use of Ginseng.

Incorporating a good multivitamin/mineral supplement into your daily routine can help you stay healthy during the winter months.  A product like 7SYSTEMS Endurance Sports Supplement provides a complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals and added extras like the adaptogen ginseng.  And although 7SYSTEMS does not contain any water, you will likely consume a glass of it when taking the product so you will be inadvertently hydrating.

What We Can Learn From the Winter Olympics- Jasper Blake

Probably the biggest lesson we can take from the winter Olympics is that there are literally dozens of great sports that can keep us fit during the winter months. Triathletes often get stuck in a rut during the winter months and forget that there are other great ways to stay fit in the snow.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy a day of skiing in Whistler during the Olympic games and I can tell you I am incredibly sore from one outing. I was amazed with how vigorously my core and back muscles were worked during a day on the downhill slopes, not to mention my quads!

Other great sports that are perhaps more relevant to the aerobic athlete are cross country skiing and if you are fortunate to live in an area with an oval; speed skating. The cross over from cross country skiing and skating to cycling and running is remarkable. Take Clara Hughes for example, Olympic medalist in both cycling and speed skating. Many sports compliment each other and as Canadians I truly believe we should take advantage of and embrace the opportunity to participate.

Classic cross country skiing is said to transfer very well to running and skate skiing and skating compliments cycling very well. Many national level cyclists play in recreational hockey leagues during the winter. It works similar muscle groups, is a great interval type workout and is incredibly fun.

So use the Olympic inspiration from the last two weeks and get outside into the Canadian winter, you won’t be sorry!

Treadmill Running- Stefan Timms

Treadmill Running

Considering the winter we are having I thought it appropriate to post an article I previously wrote on treadmill running.  In case Jasper’s “Crap its Cold” article doesn’t inspire maybe this will.
There has been an overabundance of “amazing and astounding” pieces of exercise equipment promoted to consumers in recent years that sell dreams of an easy way to turn your body into a toned, athletic machine. Many of these breakthrough inventions have sold millions of copies to people desperate for a quick fix and then disappeared. However, there is one piece of exercise equipment that has stood the test of time, and continues to be a fixture at gyms and in homes around the world…the treadmill.
Today’s treadmills may have a lot more bells and whistles than past versions, but their premise remains the same: indoor running on the spot. Treadmills have been so successful because they work. Running is the best exercise you can do in terms of calorie burning and building fitness, and no other piece of cardio equipment is as efficient at calorie burning, because no other piece requires full weight bearing like the treadmill.
The same basic training principles apply to all workouts, whether they are done outdoors on the road/trails or inside on equipment, and the treadmill can be quite useful in specific instances. Treadmills allow you to jog, run, sprint, climb hills, or even resistance train by easily and accurately varying grade and speed. Many top triathletes and runners use treadmills as a regular part of their training as they have several advantages traditional methods of cardiovascular exercise.
Treadmill Advantages

The main advantage of treadmills is of course that they are used indoors in a controlled environment. This means they are not affected by weather, traffic lights, or safety concerns. When you get on a treadmill you know the temperature, you don’t have to stop for anything, and you don’t have to worry about where you are going. Obviously this aspect of treadmills will appeal to people who live in places with extreme climates (cold or hot), big cities, or unsafe neighbourhoods. This is also important though when travelling, as a treadmill provides you with the ability to get your workout done without worrying about these factors in an unknown place.
A second advantage of treadmills is that they are more forgiving then the road as they absorb shock better and are less likely to cause impact injuries then running on the road. This will help you to run as efficiently as possible, and can be a great help to someone coming back from any injury.
A third benefit of running on a treadmill is being able to program an exact speed that you want to maintain. This is ideal for training at a certain pace for intervals or the entire workout to ensure you are achieving your desired result. This can also be very useful if you are preparing for a specific event, as many treadmills allow you to program an exact course. For example, top triathletes such as Greg Bennett and Simon Whitfield regularly use a treadmill to simulate specific courses they will compete on later in the season. Often they even take this to another step by doing these workouts surrounded by portable heaters-if the race they are training for is held in a hot climate. This is a great motivator as well as a very specific training adaptation to prepare their bodies as best as possible for race day.
Another benefit of treadmill running is the ability it allows you to work on correcting your running form. Most gyms usually have mirrors around in which you can see yourself on the treadmill, so taking note of what you do, and trying to improve on one aspect of your technique each session is a great way to help pass the time during your easier runs.
A final benefit to using a treadmill is that you can build a lot of mental toughness since there are not many distractions like there are on the road or trail. You have to focus on your workout, your pace, and your technique. Although it may be boring to some, for others this is just what they need to get that hard session done.
However, treadmill running is not for everyone. Like any training technique the treadmill also has its negative aspects.
Treadmill Disadvantages

There are four main problems associated with treadmill running: biomechanical changes, inaccurate readings, heat, and boredom.
Treadmill running is great when you cannot run outdoors, but you should not use it as your sole venue for running as you may find the transition to road running somewhat uncomfortable. This occurs because of several biomechanical differences that occur when you run on a treadmill vs. the road:
When you run on the road, you must exert more energy in your running to overcome the braking forces than on a treadmill.

You have to face air resistance outside which forces you to work harder to run the same speed.

Your stride length is shorter outside because the ground doesn’t move under your feet the way the tread does.

Your feet are always on a smooth, flat surface on a treadmill so that your neuromuscular system does not get any work on proprioception the way it would on a road or trail.
All of these factors mean that you will fatigue sooner and be more susceptible to injury if you mainly run on a treadmill and then try to transition to outside.
A second problem with treadmills is that they are notoriously inaccurate. Treadmills are usually calibrated when they are first built up but then as they are used, wear and tear knocks off the calibration. As a result, it can be hard to determine how far you actually have run, or the exact speed you are running at. This can be a big detriment if you are using the treadmill for a specific workout.
Thirdly, many treadmill users complain that they get extremely hot when working out. This occurs because of the lack of air resistance that helps in cooling you off when outside. The easiest way to combat this problem is with a properly placed fan, but if that is not possible you may find yourself sweating more than normal. Ensure that you are staying hydrated if this is the case, as you will quickly lose electrolytes in your sweat, causing fatigue and dehydration.
The most common criticism about treadmills is that runners find them boring. Running in one spot with no change in scenery is not particularly stimulating. Although it may help build mental fortitude, it can also cause people to shorten sessions or avoid treadmills altogether. If you do get bored on treadmills, but you want to continue using them as a fitness tool, then you need to spice up your workouts a bit. There are now several great books on the market that have a variety of treadmill specific workouts that will keep things fresh and interesting, or you can use the guidelines below to design your own.
Treadmill Workouts

The best way to combat boredom and maximize the benefits on the treadmill are to only use them for specific workouts. I do not recommend that athletes use the treadmill for regular easy runs of 20-40 minutes, unless they have to because of certain circumstances (injury, weather, they are away at a race, etc). I prefer they use the treadmill for one of the following sessions:
· Fartlek is a great idea for indoor workouts as it really helps break up the monotony and helps get the person’s mind off the fact that they aren’t actually moving anywhere. I use a couple versions of the indoor fartlek: “commercial” and “song” that has the athlete go hard during a song or commercial (after a proper warm-up), and then easy during the next song or during the show. “Commercial” is used for long workouts that are mainly aerobic with the small number of short intervals included to work their other system. The “song” version, which is used most often, involves increasing speed and/or grade during the harder parts.

· Tempo runs, which simulate a specific course, are usually what my athletes use the treadmill for. After a 15 minute warm-up, you would then run 20-30 minutes at your race pace over the pre set course, and finally finish with 10 minutes easy cool-down.

· Hill workouts are especially great for people who don’t live in a hilly area and want the benefits of hill running. Treadhills are a series of short, hard efforts up a 5-10% grade. After the warm-up, you would do a set of 3-10 x 1-3 minutes up the hill at a challenging pace, with 1-2 minutes rest between each hill repeat. This can be done by presetting the treadmill or by manually adjusting it at the start of each hill.

· Interval sessions normally done on the track can also be run on a treadmill. After warming up, a set of a specific distance or time, such as 2:30 (an 800), is done at a fast pace, with adequate rest between intervals. They only problem with this is that the rest is still running unless you choose to hop off the treadmill between intervals. Also remember that most treadmills max out at 10-12 mph, so short, fast repeats are hard to simulate, and should be left to a track.
Treadmills are great when you cannot run outdoors or when you have a specific workout that it is best suited for, but you should not become dependant on them. Use them for the advantages they provide, but try to limit your use of treadmills to when they are necessary, and get outside the rest of the time. The outdoor environment provides not only a more pleasant and invigorating atmosphere, but it will keep you more biomechanically correct. So enjoy those treadmill runs, but don’t forget about that park around the corner from your house.

Treadmill Tips

· Run on a grade. Treadmill running is slightly easier than outdoor running due to the lack of wind resistance. This enables you to be more efficient in your running on the treadmill, so to accommodate for the lack of resistance set the treadmill at a 1% grade for all of your workouts.
· Use a heart rate monitor. By using one you can eliminate “junk training” and get fitter faster. The monitor allows you to maximize your efforts at the gym by guiding your intensity so that you work out in the zone that you want to be in, helping you get results faster. A heart rate monitor also allows you to work out in zones that are safe for you and helps reduce your risk of injury or overtraining, as well as preventing boredom from doing the same thing every day.
· Bring a waterbottle. Be sure to hydrate lots while working out on a treadmill. You can lose even more water running on a treadmill then you would if you were running outside. This is because of the lack of air resistance to help to keep you cool. Just a 1% loss in water can lead to a noticeable decline in performance.
· Use the mirrors. If you have a mirror nearby try to check your form during several parts of the workout. Do you start to hunch over or tighten up, as you get tired? A mirror can help to point out to you how to improve your training.

Tips for Running in Winter- Jasper Blake

“Crap it’s cold”

We are a tough breed up here in Canada!  We spend almost half the year dealing with the wrath of winter.  Icy roads, fierce winds and abominable snowmen are a few of the challenges we face.

Running poses an interesting dilemma; stay inside or venture out.  This decision is quite obvious with the other two sports.  Swim in a heated indoor pool, not a lake.  Bike on a turbo-trainer or a set of rollers and get your head around some hours pedaling hard and not actually going anywhere.  When it comes to running you can spend time on the treadmill, but after having gone nowhere on your bike it is great to get a change of scenery.
So, as my dear mom would say, out the door you go young lad and jolly well enjoy the day that is provided for you.  Good advice, but keep these simple guidelines in mind.
Dress for the weather conditions.  You need to keep your muscles warm – particularly if you are on the flip side of being a kid which is probably most of you.  Consider wearing tights under track pants or the combination of short tights and compression socks to keep warm.
Warm up properly.  In the winter make sure that you warm up and cool down more slowly than in the summer.  Cold muscles equal tight muscles and tight muscles can lead to minor pulls or tears.  Ease into runs, especially harder workouts.
Run if it drops below minus twenty; consider the treadmill or an indoor running track.  Winter can stress your immune system.  Suddenly exposing your lungs to forced inhalations of crystallized, frosty air is like throwing gas onto a tire fire.
Wear three socks if you are of the male variety.  I am quite serious about this, there is nothing worse than running 30 minutes with a tail wind, getting all warm and sweaty only to turn around and face the wrath of the winter gods on your nether regions.  Many a time have I been caught out on runs where a headwind greeted me on the way back and a third sock was all I needed to maintain sanity.
Get inside immediately after runs so you don’t get chilled.  If it is particularly cold, consider starting and finishing your runs inside.  If you are running with a group that stretches or does some core exercises after the run, find a gymnasium or a living room so you don’t get chilled.
Remember to keep drinking.  Cold weather can be deceiving.  It may seem as if you’re not losing fluids during a workout but trust me, you are.  Remember to stay hydrated; it’s just as important in the winter as it is in the summer.
Invest in proper footwear.  Obviously stick to the shoes that are best for your foot and running gait but look into something with additional tread or grip particularly for snowy and icy roads.  I often run in a cross country shoe through the winter months as it offers more traction than a normal shoe.
Run on busy roads.  Road shoulders become smaller in the winter and visibility can be extremely bad at times.  Pick routes that have cleared sidewalks so you can avoid the road all together.  Remember that roads are icy and cars can be less predictable.  If you have to run on a busy shoulder I strongly recommend running towards oncoming traffic so you can pay attention to what the cars are doing and do a navy-seal dive into the snow bank if required.
Invest in some reflective running gear.  Winter days are short and darkness comes on quickly.  If you want to be safe, be seen.
Wear layers.  Yes, you’ve heard this before but tail winds can feel warm and headwinds can feel very cold especially when you start sweating.  Layers allow you to adjust your clothing choices if need be.
Experiment with alternative forms of winter activities.  Winter is one of the best aspects of Canada if you take advantage of it.  There are dozens of aerobic sports that take place in the winter months and many will translate fitness very well to running and biking.  Skate skiing is said to compliment cycling very well.  Cross country skiing (the classic version), and snowshoeing can compliment running.  Both of these activities present the opportunity to get out into the woods.  Keep in mind that where aerobic fitness is concerned, your heart and lungs don’t know the difference between activities so the cross over between sports can be very effective.  Not to mention the mental break from the other sports.  It is also another chance for you spandex lovers to wear some tight clothing in the off season.

Winter Training Part 2- Stefan Timms

Beat Old Man Winter

Unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere that is warm all year round, chances are you will have to deal with cold at some point in your training and racing this season.  Besides the dangers associated with cold exposure, frigid temperatures can affect athletic performance as well.
The human body has a built in thermostat that functions similar to the one in your home.  The hypothalamus gland, located in the brain, is this thermostat and it strives to maintain a stable core body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit based on feedback received from the skin, the nervous system, blood vessels, and other physiological receptors.  When the hypothalamus senses an environment that threatens to change the core temperature of the body, it initiates processes that influence heat loss or preservation by the body.
Extreme cold temperatures may cause the body to sacrifice blood flow to peripheral tissues to maintain a stable core temperature and sustain life. The risks of exercising in the cold include bronchial irritations from increased ventilation of cold dry air and in extreme cases, frostbite to the hands, face, or other exposed skin.
While exercise produces metabolic heat that helps to maintain stable body temperatures and increases circulation to the periphery, prolonged exercise in the cold provides some challenges.  The first problem is that faster movement though the air, especially while cycling, increases wind chill and therefore heat loss.  This can be overcome by wearing an outer layer of clothing that blocks wind such as Gore-Tex®.  Covering skin, especially the extremities will help to reduce heat loss to the wind and cold as well.
Another obstacle to overcome when exercising in cold temperatures is avoiding an increased heat loss to conduction from sweat soaked and cold clothes next to the skin.  Avoid wearing cotton that will trap moisture.  Instead choose layers that will wick moisture away from the skin such as special polyester blends like CoolMax®.  While wearing wicking layers is important, the outer wind resistant layer should be breathable to allow wicked moisture to escape and evaporate, keeping you dry.
Fluid and carbohydrate needs are increased during cold weather racing and training as well.  You may not notice fluid loss due to the colder and drier air so a conscious effort must be made to consume extra liquids.  While fluid loss from sweating may be decreased in the cold, more moisture is lost through exhalation than in normal conditions.  In addition, working muscles utilize glycogen at a higher rate in the cold due to increased adrenaline produced by the body in response to cold stress.  This increased glycogen utilization leads to a higher risk of hypoglycemia without adequate carbohydrate ingestion.  Liberal intake of a carbohydrate containing sports drink will serve the increased need of both fluids and carbohydrates.
Failing to dress properly for the cold or address fluid and carbohydrate needs will negatively affect your athletic performance.  The body will shunt blood flow away from the periphery and working muscles toward the center of the body to keep internal, more crucial, organs warm.  As noted, carbohydrates usage will increase as well.  The cold will affect the nervous system and fine motor control.
When training or racing in cold weather, be on the lookout for signs of hypothermia that include shivering, confusion, drowsiness and weakness.  In extreme cases, the athlete may even stop shivering and go unconscious.  When training in the cold, utilize training routes that keep you close to home in case you need to head back earlier than expected.
Another challenge that cold weather creates is dangerous or unusual terrain due to snow and ice.  Running routes can become hazardous due to uneven frozen surfaces.  Try to find and use special running “spikes” that strap onto your running shoes for more stable footing.  If running or cycling outdoors is simply not an option due to surface conditions, embrace Old Man Winter by cross-training with a different winter sport such as snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.  If all else fails, indoor training on a treadmill or stationary bike trainer may be required.
Finally, do not think that just because you live where there is no snow on the ground that you are not susceptible to the dangers and performance decreases of cold.  Wind-chills or wet clothing can cause hypothermia at what may seem to be warm ambient temperatures as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  This wind-chill on a “warm” day is especially common if you live and train on hilly terrain where you may be descending while wet with sweat from climbing the previous hill.
With good planning, and by following the tips above, it should be possible to maximize your training opportunities despite living in a colder climate.

Winter Running- Stefan Timms

Winter Running

By: Stefan Timms

Running is an activity that comes naturally to us.  As children we run around barefoot and free.  Smiles as big as the sky splashed across our face, we chase butterflies and balls around the park, not thinking about anything except catching that which we seek.  We are too young to know that we are tired, and if we do run too hard for too long, we just sit down and rest.  But as we gain age and supposed wisdom, running falls by the wayside.  So when we begin running again it is not with a smile as big as the sky, but usually with a pained expression of anguish as we pull our body up a hill. No longer are we chasing the items of our desire, but rather we are seeking a better body image or a faster time. This is the time to return to the sheer joy of running.  No longer do we want to think about the burn and the discomfort, but rather feeling of flight as we glide along the running trails.
At this point you might be wondering how to focus on running light and fast while you are feeling like an overstuffed turkey from all the holiday gatherings.  Well, not to worry, it is the objective of this article to give you some new ideas on how to maximize your winter run training.  Although you might be dealing with a few extra pounds, cold and snowy conditions, and short daylight hours there are ways to regain that child like running form.
Technique and Strength Drills
Improving or changing your running technique can be an extremely difficult task since its repetitive nature ingrains in our neuropathways.  However, there are some ways of improving technique, efficiency and strength.  As I have discussed ways to improve technique in other articles, I am not going to focus on that here.  Instead I am just going to give you some other ideas on developing efficiency.  Efficiency for our purposes will be defined as the ability to go further, faster, with less energy.  This is accomplished through the elimination of extraneous body movements during the full running gait.  It is also done through by the fine tuning of the aerobic system, which through a series of specific workouts will enhance its ability to carry oxygen to muscles throughout your body.  Over the winter I often ask my athletes to do one run session every other week that gets them to do a light warm up followed by a workout that consists of running A’s, B’s, C’s, lunges, leap frog, karaoke (grapevine), running backwards and sidesteps.  I will assume that you know what the first four drills are since they are very common and I’ve written about them before.  However, the rest of these drills need to be explained.  Leap frog is a game commonly played by children.  For this drill you will need a partner.  Have your partner crouch down into a ball on the ground.  Now, you are to run toward them, put your hands on their back, and jump over them by lifting both legs out to the side and propelling yourself over with your jump and by pushing off their back with your hands.  Once you have cleared your partner, it is your turn to duck down in front of them.  The idea is to keep going for several jumps.  Karaoke is also known as grapevine.  This drill requires you to move sideways by crossing right over left foot then right behind left foot and then back to right in front.  After fifty meters or so it is a good idea to go the other way…left in front of right.  This drill can be challenging so it is a good idea to put your arms out for balance.  When you run backwards it is a good idea to take survey the area first so that there are no unexpected holes, rocks, or any other obstruction.  I also advise taking small steps and looking over your shoulder frequently.  The final drill, sidestep is kind of like doing jumping jacks while moving either left or right.  You swing your arms out and up and back down as you take big jumps to the side.  Make sure you switch and go in the other direction. The idea here is to keep the heart rate in an aerobic zone for the 20-30 minutes of the workout.  Each drill should be around 50-100m in length.  You can do sets of one drill before moving on to the next, or just do one of each drill continuously, and then repeat the whole thing.  The drills will help to stimulate the muscles as well as build strength.  The added benefit is that it feels like you are just playing!
Treadmill/Water Run/Elliptical Trainer
There are lots of great reasons to stay inside for your training over the winter.  As I alluded to earlier, dealing with harsh weather as well as short days can make running outside difficult.  Why not hit the gym?  Aside from being in a controlled environment and being a great place to meet people, the gym can provide some great training benefits.  The treadmill is a great tool to help to get you running faster.  Even if you live in a perfect climate I still recommend that athletes do some running on a treadmill.  First of all, running on a treadmill will help to increase your turnover or cadence.  This will in turn carry over on the road and help you to go faster.  Additionally, a treadmill can be set to specific speeds that you want to do intervals or pace workouts at.  Finally, continuing on the earlier theme of technique, if you find one that has a mirror in front or beside it you can really get a good look at your form and watch to make sure that you are doing everything right.  Water running is another great climate controlled activity.  It can be used to supplement your outdoor training for easy recovery runs, or it can be done when coming back from injury, or simply as a preventative measure.  The beauty of water running is that you maintain the same stride and muscular benefit as well as some of the aerobic benefit of running without the impact.  I also encourage some of my athletes who are especially injury-prone to use the elliptical trainer for some of their run sessions.  Similar to what I mentioned with the water running, the elliptical machine can replicate the running motion without the impact.  This makes it great for anyone coming back from or with a history of stress fractures, joint problems, or even muscle problems such as chronically inflamed calves.  Furthermore, all of these ideas provide alternatives to the same old routine or running route.

Run Focus
While you may have read an article of mine that said the fall is the ideal for a run focus, the winter can also be a great time for one.  By doing a run focus in the winter, you can really build up the mileage to point that you would not be able to maintain during a full triathlon program or race season.  This is because a significant amount of run volume does not allow you to ride well, just as a lot of mileage on the bike does not allow you to run to your potential.  By focusing on lots of base miles and strength now, you will be able to carry that over into your triathlon season down the road and can take the benefit of all that volume into a balanced program when the time comes.  Make sure to schedule a race into your run focus as I find that many athletes need a race as a motivator.  Whether it is a 5k tune up, or a marathon, there are lots of racing opportunities at this time.  So check your local community for road races.  You might be surprised to discover that many areas have great race seasons that run from January through May.  The best way to do a run focus is to set it up as a macro cycle the way you would for your larger, yearly periodization.  This means incorporating a base or foundation phase where you add frequency, then volume, and finally intensity.  If you have not been running much I recommend increasing the number of days you run first, but keeping the runs fairly short.  Once you are running comfortably for 4-5 days a week you can start to increase the volume.  The key workouts to try to get in, after the initial adjustment to training are: a long run, a steady state or tempo run, and an interval, fartlek, or hill repeat run.  As you progress into more speed you can maintain this framework but simply adjust the intensity and volume.  If you are unsure of how to do this or what distance or time you should aim for in the various sessions try consulting a respected athlete in your area, a local triathlon club, or a triathlon coach.  A final point to consider:   a run focus is just that.  Do not try to maintain or increase your swimming or cycling at this time and instead only swim and bike 1-2 times per week.
The winter is a great time to get out and explore new routes and training venues.  If you are not using the winter as a run focus now is the time to just get out and go running somewhere that you normally don’t.  This is the best time for this since it doesn’t matter if the route is too short or long…you will not be sacrificing the objective of the workout.  Trail running, beaches, or scenic drives are great places to start, but the possibilities really are endless.  In addition routes that include sections on trails, hills, and beaches can challenge your body in a different way then the routes that your body is accustomed to thereby giving you an even better workout.  This is because running on hills or sand require different muscles then running on a flat road.
So take these winter months to relearn how to run with joy and happiness and efficiency.  Learn what you look like while you are running – see the beauty in motion.  While treadmills and running drills will help improve your form, be sure to maintain your fitness with a structured running schedule throughout the winter.  You don’t need structured workouts every time you go out for a run, but you should have a structured schedule of running so that you stay true to yourself.  And commit to change; your competitors won’t recognize your as effortlessly glide by them next summer!