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Winter. Not a word that is particularly welcomed by any British Isles-dweller, and certainly not by a triathlete. For a triathlete it means two things: 

1. Race season is over
2. Cold, wet, dark training sessions

Hardly an advertisement for the sport. But it's a reality that we all have to face - if we want to actually achieve stuff next season, that is. Many people assume that 'out of season', people start to tone down their training a bit, ease off, get back on it in the Spring. Some people do. But for most of us, this period is crucial for getting the miles in.

Cold/damp. Not even sunny, despite sunglasses.

It's pitch black outside, mind-numbingly cold, with a pervading dampness in every molecule of the atmosphere. You're in bed, warm, dry, cosy and cocooned in the comforting glow of semi-consciousness. Exactly what motivation is there to get outside and train? It's miniscule, trust me.

But even for me, a motivational monster, it's tough. It's really, really tough, and I don't think there's a person on the planet that doesn't find this kind of thing tough on some occasions. But you can't escape it (well, maybe you can, maybe you spend Winters basking in equatorial sunshine), but for the mere mortals among us, who have to train in the dark before AND after a full working day, this takes real mental fortitude (or maybe if you're just a bit mental).

I was in Stuttgart last weekend and although it was dark, about 3 degrees and I was there on a social visit, my 1.5 hour run around a huge landscaped park in the city was actually quite rewarding. The motivation to start it was almost non-existent. The sense of satisfaction when completed? Immeasurable.

Stuttgart. Cold, dark but enjoyable run!

Winter is all about base training. My coach recently said to me that over Winter, 90% of my training needs to be EASY. Like music to my ears. But it's true, this period is all about building endurance and it needs to be done at low intensity to make your body aerobically efficient. If you keep hammering out speed sessions all Winter you'll be wrecked and/or almost certainly injured by race season. 

Turbo time. Painful but at least it's not cold!
Acclimatisation. That's what it comes down to. Muscular and aerobic endurance, and don't forget the strength and conditioning too - perfect for this time of year. Obviously I'm no triathlete sage being relatively new to the sport, but I am aware of the gains I have made and to be honest, I think a substantial part of triathlon training is mental. And if you have to drag yourself out of bed or away from sitting by the fire with a glass of wine, in order to indulge in a prolonged period of self-torture and a full-on war against the elements, then what better mental toughness can you get than that?!

Appreciate the UK and all its weather flaws for what it is, and actually give it credit for making us FEARSOMELY STRONG. That's the positive slant on it anyway. Essentially, we all want to achieve our goals next season and this is not time for slacking off! (*whip cracks*) But in all seriousness, Winter can be beautiful too and provide a positive training mecca for hardened triathletes.

Pretty Winter skies - make it all worthwhile?
My training levels have now been upped, much to the surprise of some others who are taking it slightly more easy. But I am very conscious of the fact that I have to work immensely hard to achieve my goals for next year, and six months really isn't a very long period in which to improve. This kind of stuff takes years. But if you're as impatient as me, then you don't have years to relax and just tick along and see what happens naturally...

"If you only do what you've always done you'll only get what you've always got."

Get out there, challenge yourself. Let's make this happen.