Interval training in the cold Canadian winters

If you’re a running addict or enthusiast like I am, chances are, you’re well-versed in running in all kinds of weather. But sometimes, no matter how experienced we are in running in different climates, the conditions can get in the way. With that, I give you my best tips for running in the cold, snowy conditions of Canada (and other countries with snow), helping you keep your progress up ahead at full steam.


Staying motivated is one of the hardest things for a runner to do in the winter. If you’re like me and you run early in the morning before work, it can be even tougher to stay motivated at what is one of the darkest and coldest parts of the day.

I’ve sprinkled some tips throughout my writing in how to stay motivated, including making running an adventure, going out and exploring new spots, re-arranging your schedule to run when it’s lighter outside, and ensuring that the art of the run always stays fun for you. But what you also have to remember is this: There are some days where you simply won’t feel like going outside and completing the run. The easiest thing to do would be to let that voice in your head rule your decision, and forego the run. I don’t know about you, but every time I feel this way, I always end my run feeling so glad that I went out and completed the run. In fact, some of my most enjoyable runs in the past year have come on days where I almost didn’t allow myself to have the experience.

On the first snowfall of the year today, I almost opted for a cycle instead. But I made the most of the run, remembering how much fun running in the beautiful snow can be. I even completed my workout in non-ideal road conditions, getting in a powerful workout that will benefit my progress in the long-run. You may even surprise yourself as you go along in the conditions, as there’s nothing that makes you feel more bad-ass than sprinting in the snow as all the cars sit in traffic behind you.

So next time you’re struggling to stay motivated, make the run an adventure, go out and explore somewhere new, and remember that you will likely thank yourself later for getting out there. There’s a great saying about regret that goes like this: “We don’t regret the decisions we make. We regret the decisions we don’t make.”


If you’re struggling to find roads or trails to run on in the winter months, consider hitting up the nearest graveyard. Out of respect, I wouldn’t blast music like I might on a trail. I’d personally like for John Ralphio to be the only one to blast Lil’ John at the scene of a funeral. But recognize that graveyards are often well maintained in the winter – even more so than community parks. You can then often run your workout free of any snow and ice, and often within the scope of a half-decent loop. The twists and turns don’t always make graveyards the perfect workout landscape, but they are typically free of cars, dogs and others who may normally get in the way of your run.


Since we often have to slow down or stop mid-workout in the winter for our own safety, fartleks become the ideal workout for you to employ. For the unfamiliar, fartleks allow you to select your own level of distance and speed on the fly, with intermittent bursts of hard, medium and slower running. For those that enjoy the structured nature of workouts and find it easiest to complete when constantly challenging yourself within a distinct frame, fartleks sometimes make for an odd combination for our workout needs. But for those that like the unstructured, loosey-goosey nature of life, you may find that fartleks become your favourite type of workout.

In the winter, it often makes the most sense to slow ourselves down on turns, downhills, or other dangerous spots. So rather than the snow constantly interrupting our ability to run a fast pace, you can find areas that are cleared of the snow and ice and use those as your hard minutes, and slow down on the sections of your run that might be less safe. If not, I definitely encourage you to take those turns carefully. Falling mid-workout is a far worse outcome than a one-second drop-off in pace.

Here’s another workout hack to use on snowy days…hills! Believe it or not, hills are often the most well maintained in the winter months, since they provide the most dangerous road conditions when not well maintained. On my latest snowy fartlek, I struggled to find many roads or sidewalks that had been cleared of ice and snow. But the hills inside the vast majority of neighbourhoods were completely clear of any snow and ice. This made it easy to turn a snow day into a hill day, and get in a solid workout that I might not otherwise have done.


The final key tip about running in the winter months is in identifying the proper footwear. I’m an advocate for Sauncony’s winter trail running shoes, which, as the name suggests, are built for both snowy winters and tough trails. Made of durable material, they tend to last longer than your average fast-paced running shoe – typically more than a single winter.

Crucially, they help you grip the ice and snow to greater effect, lowering your risks of slips and falls. They’re typically heavier, so you won’t want to be doing your track workouts in the pair, but this is an investment you won’t regret. If you’re serious about running fast in the winter months and want a lighter shoe, Saucony even makes a lightweight version of the shoe ideal for racing. Regardless, proper footwear and that extra bit of support is crucial to a winter-time workout, ensuring you stay safe on the run.


When it comes to running the winter months, it’s important that you find your own mechanisms for staying motivated. Runners will often fall into slumps in the winter, foregoing their typical training in favour of staying inside. If you want to reach peak physical fitness and become as healthy as a horse, keeping your running muscles engaged during the winter is essential to maintaining your fitness and seeing the progress.

Turning the run into an adventure and embracing the snow will be crucial to the process, as will finding locations that make for ideal conditions. This could range from graveyards to hills, where fartleks become an easy workout of choice to conduct in the winter months. No matter what you do, finding the right footwear is a must for winter running, ensuring you stay both safe and speedy.

With that, I turn the tables over to you. How will you stay motivated in the winter months? Share your thoughts below!

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Thanks for reading & see you soon!

Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


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2 responses to “Interval training in the cold Canadian winters”

  1. […] pay more attention to my recovery process after that 34k, continuing into the week during my first snowy 5AM runs of the […]


  2. […] it is! What you need to bring and prepare on your training run. Be sure to check out more of our Training articles, and join our community to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you […]


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