Winter Marathon Cross-Training Guide


Winter Marathon Cross-Training Guide

Winter is upon us and the days seem a lot shorter. It’s time to buckle down and stay motivated to train hard and eat well, but boy does it seem a whole lot easier to cozy up by the fire and sip hot cocoa instead. Maintaining physical activity when the temperature drops and the snow piles higher can be downright tricky. Switching up the routine with some marathon cross-training to improve your aerobic base and make you an all-around better athlete during these unforgiving months.

Lift Heavy Weights During The Winter

Winter weather will often force you to spend your exercise time indoors. But this is a good thing!! It’s the perfect time of year to focus on strength training. Lifting heavy weights and consuming high amounts of protein are key to building your muscular system. Building a stronger body will benefit your speed and endurance. Focus on the following marathon cross-training exercises to see the most dramatic results:

Lower Body Strengthening

Leg Press


  • Do this exercise without any added weight to build strength and condition the knees for the movement.


<iframe width=”854″ height=”480″ src=”″ frameborder=”0″ gesture=”media” allow=”encrypted-media” allowfullscreen></iframe>


  • Do this exercise without weights if you are susceptible to knee pain.
  • Use lighter weights or hand weights.
  • You can also set the bar in front of your shoulders to balance your weight as you sit back into your glutes.



  • This exercise can also be done on the floor without weights.
  • You can also perform this exercise using resistance bands.

Back Strengthening

Morning Glory


  • Try machine rows for more stability.



  • You can use dumbbells, plates, or bodyweight for this exercise.

Upper Body Strengthening

Bench Press


  • Perform this exercise using dumbbells or resistance bands.
  • You can lay flat on the floor if you’re using dumbbells or resistance bands, but be careful not to rest your arms on the floor between reps. This disengages the muscle.

Dumbbell Military Press


  • Perform this exercise on the smith machine for more stability.

Tricep Dips


  • Perform this exercise using a flat bench of chair for more extension.

Core Strengthening

Throwing Medicine Balls

Landmine Rotations

Cable Crunches

Dumbbell Side Bend

If you’re unfamiliar with weight lifting or have trouble with your back, knees, or other joints, start slowly. Every one of these exercises can be done simply with your own body weight. As you get more comfortable with the movement, begin adding weight to the exercise in 5-pound increments.

Mimic Your Favorite Outdoor Activities

Look, runners want to run and cyclists want to pedal but if the conditions aren’t good you simply can’t get outside. Simulate something close to a run or ride with some of these creative workouts:

Utilize Indoor Machines

When avoiding the ice and snow outside while still prepping for the spring and summer season, athletes can get a great workout indoors. With a variety of stationary machines available, you can continue your normal outdoor routine in from of the television. But don’t stop yourself with a flat spin or jog. Winter is a great time to turn more of your attention to building strength all over your body instead of the legs and lungs you’re so apt to use on a long run.

Again, if you struggle with joint pain, start simple. We cannot stress this enough. Using minimal weight in the beginning and slowly building your strength will help you avoid injury. As you develop your strength, SLOWLY add weight to your routines to build the muscles around your joints. You’ll see huge growth over time.

Embrace Seasonal Activities

Start by layering plenty of outdoor athletic clothing appropriate for your adventure. You’ll start cold but always heat up as you go.

For The Snow Bunnies

  • Snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing are all great aerobic activities. These snow sports are sure to fire up some leg muscles not used nearly as much as cross-country running and provides great endurance training. If you throw in some trekking poles you’ll add an upper body workout which is typically a weak area for runners. Hit your favorite trails or venture further into the backcountry for the day.
  • Have the kids with you or just feel like being a kid yourself? Grab the toboggan and have a shredding sledding session. The multiple hill climbs won’t even seem like work with the thrill of the ride each time you cruise down the hill. Or head on over to the local ice skating rink and show off your speedy skills as you get a great workout lapping the leisurely skaters.
  • Ice climbing is available in many snowy states like Colorado and Wyoming! If you’re ready for an extreme sport this winter, grab an ice pick and pull out your climbing ropes!

Desert Dwellers – Do we hear you complaining!? Your winter months are great for outdoor activities. Running, cycling, hiking, and more are within your reach and potentially even better during the winter months. Now that the temperatures have dropped into the 50s during the afternoon (boo-hoo!!) you can hit the pavement without worrying about heat exhaustion! Studies have also shown that exercising in uncomfortable temperatures like cold weather can aid in faster muscle recovery.

Nail Down Your Nutrition

Don’t hibernate on your health when it comes to diet during the winter months. Cold and windy nights can prove a nutritional challenge for some but with planning and prep, a good diet can not only help energize your workouts but boost your immune system. Getting in those fruits and vegetables is vital every day! Remember to also stay plenty hydrated and boost your vitamin D intake even though you’re not spending time sweating and soaking in the hot sun rays outside.

The key to successful marathon cross-training during winter months is to simply accept the conditions and work with it. Stay present in the moment and maintain a positive outlook. When you step up to the starting line in the spring you’ll already be a leg ahead of your less creative peers.


About Author

Kevin Jones is a health and fitness blogger and regular contributor to a number of fitness websites. He writes for NordicTrack. During his free time, he likes to be very active and spend time with his wife and two children shredding the slopes of Park City, Utah or chasing down the Salt Lake City Korean food trucks. Connect with him online; LinkedIn - Twitter

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: 5 Strength Exercises for Runners 0 – My WordPress

Leave A Reply