Why training during a polar vortex isn’t so bad

Dashing through the snow....

Dashing through the snow….

We were really spoiled last winter. I trained all winter long gearing up for Around the Bay and I barely remember a hiccup in the plans. Long runs were met with crisp, sunny winter days and pleasant afternoon runs in cottage country. Sure my water froze somewhere around the 10K mark, but that’s normal. That’s winter in Canada!

This year, I can’t bring myself to attempt a similar training plan. Between the ice, the frigid temperatures and the wind-chill, the thought of a long run is rather daunting. But training during this so-called polar vortex really isn’t so bad. In fact, it’s just forced me to be innovative in my training plan. Here’s how.

Spice up those treadmill workouts

My favourite running trail is closed due to ice and fallen trees and the wind-chill makes it tough to get out there for very long so I’ve been resorting to the treadmill a lot more lately. Despite the fact that I once ran 32K on a treadmill, most runs over 5K are nearly unbearable. To spice things up, I’ve been trying some speed workouts where I vary the speed every kilometre. I start with an easy jog for about 10 minutes. Then I crank it up to a notch over race pace – basically as fast as I can maintain – for 1 kilometre, then drop back down to an easy jog for the next one. I alternate like this until I can do now more (usually 8-10K). Other times, I watch a show and run at a race pace during the show and do a slow jog during commercials. You’d be surprised how fast an hour flies by.

Indoor training

Even though the gym is a mere 800 metres from my front door, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to get out there. So an easy solution is to do a workout at home. My husband and I have been dabbling in the Insanity workouts. Dubbed the “hardest workout ever put on DVD,” these short sessions are tough! Even the fitness test had me sore for days. If you can stand the ridiculousness of fitness DVDs this can be a decent alternative for a great workout.

Grin and bear it

OK, this really isn’t a coping mechanism but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Due to the weather, I’ve really cut my long runs short, but when you do get out there, you feel like a superhero. Jumping over ice, dressed like a ninja, there’s something very rewarding about accomplishing a run in crazy conditions like this.  Obviously, dress warm, cover as much exposed skin as possible and stick to sidewalks that are more likely to have been shovelled and salted. This may be adventurous, but there’s no need to be crazy. Stay safe out there kids.

How have you had to change up your training plan due to weather? What tips do you have for battling the polar vortex?


  1. aprilcunningham January 21, 2014 / 9:57 am

    I love it. “Jumping over ice, dressed like a ninja.”

    • Miranda January 21, 2014 / 9:58 am

      Yup. That’s me. Winter ninja.

  2. afastpacedlife January 21, 2014 / 10:23 am

    I’m spoiled. I have a gym inside my condo building, which is just around the corner from my unit. I never have an excuse to not work out.

    • Miranda January 21, 2014 / 10:33 am

      That is both great and terrible. 🙂

  3. davetriing January 22, 2014 / 12:59 pm

    I agree – I ran The Bay last year too. Training last winter was so much nicer than it is this year. This year I can’t do it. Almost all my running is on the treadmill. You’re right – it’s all about a plan for that day to keep it interesting. Great post!

    • Miranda January 22, 2014 / 1:13 pm

      Thanks! Glad to hear I’m not just being a baby 🙂 Are you planning to tackle ATB again this year?

      • davetriing January 22, 2014 / 1:25 pm

        I am not. My wife is though, so I’ll be there cheering. I’m focusing this year on shorter distances (10ks and Halfs)

  4. Lauren February 15, 2014 / 2:11 pm

    haha I SO agree with your comment on how you feel like a superhero running in this weather! I went out yesterday for the first time since the last snow and ice came, and I was the only one out there and I felt invincible!

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