Base Training for Endurance During Winter

While our inclination to hibernate during the cold months gets stronger as the days get shorter, winter is the perfect time for base training to help build an endurance base. My typical schedule requires me to use December as a recovery month. The first two weeks of the month are a true recovery – no workouts. The remaining couple weeks of December are recovery workouts – meaning, light workouts (no long days). Once January comes, I use January and February to build my base for the upcoming running and triathlon seasons.

Recovery doesn’t necessarily mean do nothing. It just means give your body a break from the high volume of training required by endurance sports. My husband is mostly a runner, so he swims during his recovery month. Since I run and do triathlons, I usually add in more strength training and less swim/bike/run.

Come January, you’ll find us beginning to build our base.  Start slow and short and spend the first two months of the year increasing your speed, pace and distance. Training consistently like this during winter allows your nervous and muscular systems to adapt and develop your slow twitch muscle fibers which, in turn, builds that endurance base.

For swimming, you can use this time to build your distance and work on drills.

For cycling, you’re going to need to get on that trainer. I know this can be drudgery so find a good Netflix series to catch up on, an online video instructor or a local coaching group like Spin 90 or your tri coach.

For running, join your local running club. A running program like Flying Feet will make sure that you are building your base for spring using a training plan that will minimize your risk of injury.

Strength training is also important for performance. The more muscle you have, the better your body will be capable of making physiological adaptations to stress. Since you aren’t putting in as many high intensity sessions during the winter months, increase  the number of strength training workouts in your schedule to a maximum of three times per week making sure to put at least one day of rest between workouts for those major muscle groups.

Running and Triathlon are both sports that place a great deal of stress on the body.  Even though our bodies are great at adapting to the stress we put on them, too much stress can lead to overuse injury.  Base building allows you to slowly add stress to your muscles and joints so that once you begin adding those long, high intensity training sessions in the spring, you won’t be asking your body to go from Zero to Mach 10 fresh out of the gate.

Lastly, don’t forget about good nutrition. Fueling your body to meet the needs of endurance goals will only add to the benefits of building your base during the winter.

What do you do during the winter months to build your base for the endurance season?

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Cassandra Burke is a Forensic Scientist by day, and a Group Fitness Instructor, Swim Team Coordinator and Travel Agent by night. A Breast Cancer Survivor since 2010, she writes about her journey as well as her struggles – training for triathlons and races, struggling to get back her health, and balancing family life all while building her brand and finding her purpose after cancer. Subscribe to Cassandra’s newsletter for updates and follow @poweredbybling on social media! For endurance sport race travel and custom family vacation travel, visit her at


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