Winter Roads and Training Ruts

03/05/2015 10:50 am ET | Updated May 05, 2015
Stanislaw Pytel via Getty Images

It's Been a Long Cold Winter
It's been a long, cold winter with an unprecedented amount of snowfall. It's been the kind of winter that keeps runners indoors and disrupts their training schedules. Many of us, myself included, have become a little too comfortable in our weekly training runs and low mileage weeks.

I'm forecasting a slow start to the 2015 racing season here in New England. I expect the podium will belong to those who persevered while the rest of us became complacent and made excuses. The roads are dangerous, the temperatures are brutal, and the indoor bike trainer does help maintain fitness and add strength, but I'm not feeling it.

My running is in a rut. I've been getting out four or five days a week for about six miles on average. Not bad. But when you consider that my pace has only varied by a narrow 20-second margin on any training run over the last six weeks, you can see the rut I'm in. Too many regular runs at the same pace and distance.

Train Hard, Race Easy
Runners know that a certain amount of discomfort and suffering leads to new growth and adaptation. We must run fast if we want to race faster. Simply plodding along and enjoying the scenery won't help you PR, BQ or reach the podium in your next race.

And that's perfectly fine if your goal is to enjoy yourself, stay fit or simply finish the race. But don't deceive yourself. If you want something more, you'll have to follow a training plan and mix things up a bit. Speed, strength, stamina, and mental discipline are required to race with the best.

The heavy-legged, shoulder-aching, side-stitch inducing pain of speed sessions will comfort you in a weird way that only competitive athletes understand. The pace per mile at which you hope to run your next race will start to feel like a familiar cadence that you can adjust to almost effortlessly, and without the benefit of a watch. Your legs will lift higher, your stride will expand, and your arms will pump faster as you learn what speed feels like again.

That's what training will do for you. The hard part is basically over before you even toe the line. Of course, racing requires a supreme effort. It's no cake walk, but if you've trained hard you'll be ready for the familiar discomfort.

Getting Out of a Running Rut
Identify your motivation: Why are you running? What do you hope to achieve? Be honest with yourself. Consider your lifestyle, your job, and your family.

Set a goal: Choose a goal that is clearly defined. I want to Boston Qualify. I want to finish a half marathon in 2015. I want run under 30 minutes in the local Turkey Trot. If you can, set a series of smaller goals leading up to that big goal. It will help you stay on track and keep you motivated.

Follow a training plan: Find a good training book, or find a good coach. Either way, a training plan will give you a specific workout for each day of the week. A good coach will give you personal attention, tons of encouragement, and will hold you accountable when you lose focus.

What are you doing to breathe new life into your training this spring? Has the winter been tough for you?

I've signed up for a few spring races, set a goal to PR in the 5K (18:30) this year, and developed a 16-week training plan. Let's do this. Follow me on Twitter or visit