Winter Training: The S.A.F.E. method!

Coach Casey · January 28, 2020

Training as a runner in the winter can be tough! There’re frigid temperatures, horrendous conditions, poor footing, and massive amounts of clothing. On top of that, general determination to get out and complete a workout decreases drastically. Lucky for you, there’s a quick and easy training approach (designed by yours truly!) that can help. You’ll get fit, stay healthy, and maintain active during the winter without having to brave the elements every day.

The S.A.F.E. method is not just a perfect acronym. It denotes three elements of training/conditioning that you can hone in on during the winter to effectively continue your fitness progression. Preparing for the spring racing season has never been so easy!

Let’s begin!


Simply enough, the “S” in S.A.F.E. stands for “Strength.” Using extra time indoors during the winter to increase your strength training can have an incredible effect as you gear up for the spring/summer. On days when it’s just too cold or horrid to get outside for your run, there’s no shame (in fact it’s a good idea) to pick up the weights instead. Don’t be enticed by the low-weight, high-rep stereotype of distance runners. Work on increasing your 1-6 rep maxes in a variety of Olympic lifts (squats, cleans, jerks, and snatch) and more traditional gym exercises like pull-ups, bench press, leg press, and deadlift. The extra power and strength will easily translate into speed once the weather improves and you can be outside more consistently with harder running efforts. Plus, you get the extra bonus of becoming even more injury-resistant and unbreakable than you already were!


Our “AF” stands for “Aerobic Foundation.” Now you may be saying, “well that’s no different than my focus during any time of year.” There’s some truth to that, but the importance lies in how you approach building that aerobic foundation. During the winter months you may not have the opportunity to run your full weekly mileage or execute longer, harder tempo runs. Not to worry! Following the S.A.F.E. approach means that the focus is on consistency of aerobic movement more than pace/intensity. There are plenty of ways to build an aerobic foundation without hitting your exact mileage or per mile splits. Keep your miles easy, watch your footing, avoid treacherous weather and substitute any decrease in mileage with indoor aerobic activities. Swimming, stationary bike, elliptical, etc, can all serve the same purpose as a run. Keep your heart rate between 60% and 75% of it’s maximum BPM and you’re golden! Oftentimes even when you are running in the winter you’ll reach that HR zone at a much slower pace than your normal runs in the spring, summer, and fall anyways. 


Last but not least, “Elasticity!” Now it could simply be “flexibility,” but the acronym SAFF doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. The approach is the same however. Increasing the elasticity of your muscles and elongating them not only leads to more strength but your ability to bounce back from a hard workout and stay injury free improves tremendously! Take 1-2 days a week for a yoga class. Use your holiday gift cards for a new set of dynamic elastic bands. Make up for a shorter run with a longer post-run stretch session. With a strong focus on dynamic stretches (versus static) and you’ll see increases in general agility and stability. On top of the physical, taking some quiet, calm time to take care of your body in peace is good for you mind. Win, win!

Now that you have all of the secrets of the S.A.F.E. method memorized, you can head into your winter training with confidence!

Looking for even more ways to keep your training on track in the winter? Sign up for a Charge Running membership and keep motivated through live coached, virtual, personalized running workouts!

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