Winter running tips: an Olympic champion's guide to training indoors

You don't have to give up running, even if it's too cold outside

Winter running tips
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Many people will start to hibernate in December and will be busy putting on all those extra pounds they will struggle to lose next year. But just because it's cold outside, it doesn't mean you have to give up the work you have been putting into your running training in the past year. With T3's winter running tips, you will be ready for the the first race in spring in your best condition!

We asked Zwift ambassador Gwen Jorgensen, former triathlete turned long distance runner from the US, to share her how she trains during the winter months. Gwen retired from professional triathlon in 2017 to concentrate on running marathon distances. Her aim is to win a gold medal at Tokyo 2020 and her training reflects this.

As much as she focuses on treadmill training during the cold period to maximise recovery, that doesn't mean you have to skip outdoors training altogether. We rounded up the best winter running gear for you and also have the list of the best running shoes, too, so you hit the road any time during the year.

But in case you want to stay indoors, below are six thoughts and tips from Gwen to make your treadmill training even more effective.

winter running tips

Gwen Jorgensen's setup is a bit hardcore, you should be okay with a regular treadmill

(Image credit: @talbotcox)

1. Routine change

Conditions might change outside and it's always a good idea to adjust your training accordingly. You might be able to run in shorts and a west in July at 5 am, but in the December, when it's pitch black and -1º, the story is a bit different.

"When I run inside I am able to focus on my form more and adjust as needed along the run in order to maintain proper form," says Gwen, "I can also run at any time indoors, as opposed to outdoors when I have to plan my runs around the daylight and safety conditions."

winter running tips

Running on treadmills is a safer option when it's dark outside

(Image credit: Adidas)

2. Safety first!

Gewn likes to play it safe: "I like to run on Zwift inside in the winter for safety. In the winter it is too dark and slippery. I prefer to train on the treadmill knowing I’ll be able to have good footing and will be safe."

Treadmills, elliptical trainers, indoor bikes and rowing machines are great tools to keep your cardio levels high, regardless of the weather. They are also a great tool to better your performance due to their ability to set up programs that can progressively increase the training load, making you stronger and more agile by the time you can hit the road outside.

Winter running tips

Drink plenty of water

(Image credit: Sundried)

3. Get ready to sweat

For a pro athlete like Gwen, it's all about having everything ready for the perfect run, every time.

"I set the treadmill to .5-2% incline on the treadmill for a flat run. I use Zwift, a fan, and Skratch Labs nutrition. I find I sweat a lot more indoors so I need to stay hydrated."

Sweating more indoors is a common occurrence and something you should take into account. Get a good sports towel – a travel towel is a good alternative – or if you are working out on a turbo trainer or exercise bike, get a sweat cover so the excess moisture won't drip onto your bike. It can literally corrode the frame on the long run.

winter running tips

Running watches can help you keep track of your training efforts

(Image credit: Future)

4. Have a plan in mind

Gwen's daily routine most usually gravitates around running.

"Usually I run 1-1:30 around 9am followed by stretching and core. I usually have treatment and a nap and then a second run before dinner." – she explains – "In the winter I usually run on the treadmill for my second run to maximise recovery time between runs as it usually gets dark by 4pm in the winter."

Your average winter day will look slightly different – there will be a big 'going to work' section in the middle – but working out a day/week plan in advance is a good idea nevertheless. By crafting a plan, you are more likely to stick with it, as opposed to just 'exercising as often as possible'.

We wholeheartedly recommend getting something like a triathlon watch to keep track of your heart rate and progress over time. Even cheaper devices like Fitbits can help you better understand how training effects your life and by recording the activities. The accompanying apps sometimes give you virtual badges, too, to further incentivise you to keep pushing yourself.

winter running tips

This is probably not how your living room looks like but you can still recreate outdoor runs indoor with apps like Zwift

(Image credit: Nordictrack)

5. Is running indoors the same as running outdoors?

Gwen's thoughts: "The process is the exact same. Do not start too fast, you want to build and maintain speed through the entire race." – even if it's a virtual one!

Depending whether you are trying to get ready for your first 5K race or training up to run a half marathon, the key is working up the stamina and endurance to be able to do whatever distance you would like to run comfortably at the end.

Doing cardio exercises often has too many benefits to list here but it can most definitely help you lose weight faster, improve your cardiovascular health and can help you sleep better, too.

Gwen's favourite Zwift routes, to help you start: "My favorite routes on Zwift are the running path in NYC and the 5k loop in Watopia."