Winter Hiking Tips + Training Lately

Hi friends! Hope you had a great weekend + Monday. I have some training updates to share but first let’s recap the perfectly low-key weekend. Chris and I headed to Christine’s cabin in New Hampshire after work on Friday and spent a few days doing a whole lot of relaxing aside from Saturday’s hike.

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We drove about an hour north to Mount Field in the White Mountains, our normal hiking area, and did a 5-ish mile trail with some incredible views as always.

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A bunch of people have asked me how I hike in the winter and while I’m certainly no expert, I can’t encourage it enough. It’s something that was new to a lot of my friends last year and it’s completely changed how I experience winter. You need to give it a try because:

  1. It gets me outside for the majority of a day when I’d probably be indoors.
  2. There aren’t any bugs or crowds on the trails during this season.
  3. It’s an incredible workout.
  4. It’s free.
  5. You get to eat snacks and spend the day with friends (two of my favorite things).

All you really need is a little planning ahead of time, the right gear and adequate fuel. Some popular trails during the warmer months aren’t safe during the winter so make sure you know where you’re going and check the weather beforehand. Here’s a guide to a few options in the White Mountains for starters. In terms of gear, dress like you would on a cold running day plus hiking boots, ski jacket, ski pants, and microspikes. Depending on the conditions, some people also use poles or crampons. You’ll be stripping layers quickly but it’s good to have options and dry clothes for the hike down if you’re too sweaty. I’d also pack a pair of hand warmers and foot warmers but I’ve rarely needed them even with Raynaud’s.

Last and absolutely not least, fuel. Pack plenty of water and it’s helpful to have a cover to keep your water from freezing but I’ve gotten by without one thus far. You’ll be out there for a few hours and burning calories like crazy so make sure you bring food as well. Some of our go-to snacks are trail mix, granola bars, chocolate coconut chips (addictive), and turkey & cheese wraps. While I’m hiking I tend to crave protein and fat so I make sure to have some of those options beyond the standard carb-heavy endurance sports fare.

Now all you have to do is get ready for some views like these:

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Sold yet? Aside from Saturday’s adventure, the rest of our time involved cooking, watching movies, and a lot of sleeping. It was perfect.

So I was talking with a friend yesterday about our training goals and finding motivation to workout when you don’t have a big race approaching. Technically speaking, “training” should indicate some end goal but I’m not sure what mine is yet specifically. All summer long I was just working out and trying to enjoy running again, but I was definitely not training because I didn’t want to stick to any schedule. Now, I’m thinking longer term and I’m training to get stronger so I’ll ultimately become a faster runner.

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I’m doing this by focusing on strength and interval based workouts over easy miles. The roads are already getting dicey in Boston so running is a little less carefree. I don’t mind running through winters here but it becomes stressful when I’m set on a specific pace given the conditions. (Note: My biggest tip with winter running is to go for total time over distance or speed. An hour on winter roads will feel completely different than an hour in perfect conditions).

I’ve been trying different things like boxing and strength workouts instead of running and while I might lose some endurance, I’m confident that getting stronger will eventually make me faster. My plan for at least the next month will look something like this:

  • Monday: Run to/from NP (5ish miles) + strength workout
  • Tuesday: Track (either indoor or speed intervals on treadmill)
  • Wednesday: Stadium + strength workout
  • Thursday: Boxing
  • Friday: Hills
  • Saturday & Sunday: Run / Hike / Yoga / Rest – basically whatever I feel like doing

Yes, it’s a plan with some structure so I consider it training but I’ll play it more by ear than I would if I had a race in mind. I’m still considering a late spring marathon but I’m not going to commit to anything quite yet. It’s fun being new to a sport again (e.g. boxing & lifting weights) and I’d love any strength workouts if you have ’em! Have a great day, friends.

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