It's that time of year again. Darker evenings, colder temps, and the holidays right around the corner. For some, winter can be a let down after a hardcore summer and fall of training and racing. For others, it's a welcome excuse to get cozy in front of the fireplace and spend a little more time with family and friends.
Whatever your experience of winter, there are still plenty of ways to take advantage of the short days and use this time to get even faster and stronger for the next XTERRA season.
We recently caught up with XTERRA St. Louis race directors Mike Barro and Walter Davis, who have plenty of experience training in cold, snow, and tough conditions. Below are their top five tips for staying strong and making winter a season of fun and fitness.
Take it Inside
One obvious way to beat the winter weather is to take training inside. Pools and gyms can keep you strong while indoor bike trainers and interactive, downloadable programs like Zwift make indoor cycling more like a video game than a chore.
"The reality is that sometimes the weather makes it impossible to train outside," said Barro. "But even in the middle of a blizzard, the new training programs make it possible to stay connected with friends and build up your base."
Barro adds that swimming is often a triathlete's least favorite sport, and winter is the perfect time to find a masters group and enjoy the sauna-like heat of an indoor pool. The more pool time you can get in now, the easier that first open water swim will be.
If you can't handle being inside all winter, gravel bikes and fat bikes can help you get your fix no matter how much snow is on the ground.
Gravel bikes are a road-trail hybrid, but their disc breaks, additional clearance for wider tires, and comfort are a good winter option.
Fat bikes - basically mountain bikes with four or five-inch tires - have the stability and the suspension to get you through sand, snow, and mud. Their lower tire pressure means you will burn more calories than on your indoor trainer, but you will still recover faster than if you did a long run.
"We do a lot of rides on fire roads and gravel trails in the winter when the mountain bike trails are too frozen or too muddy," said Barro. "Getting on a gravel bike or a fat bike with a group of friends can keep you in the loop during the off season."
Work on Your Weakness
"This is the part no one likes," said Barro, "But winter is a great time to make your make your weaknesses a little bit stronger."
This doesn't mean you have to swim all winter if you are new to the water or work on super technical mountain biking over frozen ground.
"Just doing a little bit of work on the things we don't love can make a huge difference," said Barro, who recommends taking one day a week to strength train, do stroke drills in the pool, or fit in some running and agility drills. You'll feel better once spring finally rolls around, and that extra confidence can translate into faster racing times.
Get Good Gear
It's common to hear that there is no bad weather - just improper gear. We've come along way from the days when Gore-Tex was our only option against the wind and the cold. Now there are tons of options for everything from base layers to toe covers.
In weather below 40 degrees, make sure you have a long-sleeve jersey, thicker gloves, toe covers, a wind breaker, and something to keep your ears warm. Anything colder and you may want to bust out the tights, lobster gloves, hand warmers, and a puffy jacket.
Now is the time to scope out Black Friday sales where you can score great deals on last year's gear and stock up for the days ahead.
Plan for Next Season
By January, most of the races for the 2018 XTERRA season will be on the calendar, so winter and early spring are the perfect time to sign up, reserve a camp site, and plan for the fun times ahead.
This year, XTERRA St. Louis will be at a brand new venue in late July, with lots of camping options (with showers!!)
"We are finalizing plans with the land manager," said Barro, "But what we can tell you is that swim is looking to be an open water course around 400 meters with two laps, for 800 meters total. The mountain bike course will be a 12-mile loop around a lake, and the run will consist of two laps of a two-mile run course for four miles total. Both the mountain bike and run courses will have significantly more climbing. Like seriously more."
This might be the best reason of all to keep up with the winter training.
You can learn more about XTERRA St. Louis by following them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/XTERRAStLouis.