How We Adapt Our Running and Cardio Workouts During the Winter

A soldier completes a two-mile run during an Army physical fitness test.
U.S. Army Spc. Mitchell Fromm, front, with the 428th Engineer Company, completes a two-mile run during an Army physical fitness test administered as part of the 372nd Engineer Brigade's Best Warrior competition at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, March 12, 2013. (Spc. Lindsey Schulte/U.S. Army photo)

Stew, I noticed that you have been posting your winter workouts that involve more weights than PT.  What kind of cardio are you doing in the winter?

The system of periodization that I have been using for more than 15 years helps break up the year, so I do not overdo any particular element of fitness.  So during the winter, I focus more on lifting and lower-repetition calisthenics. I still run, just less frequently and at faster-paced intervals. 

For instance, I still run 12-15 miles per week, throw in a few rucks for an hour or more, and swim. So even though my mileage is lower compared to the summer, I still get enough cardio to keep the heart and lungs prepared for any test, if needed. For instance, here is what I did today after doing a heavy weight/PT/swim workout yesterday.

Repeat 6-8 times.

  • Run a half-mile at faster than goal mile pace

  • 20 squats

  • 20 lunges (no weight)

  • Swim 1,000 meters with fins

  • Swim without fins

Repeat five times.

  • Swim 50 meters, using the flutter kick with a kickboard

  • Swim 50 meters, using the scissor or breaststroke kick with a kickboard

As you can see, I still do cardio, even running. I did have a few people opt to bike or work the elliptical pyramids instead of running due to unrelated lower back or hip pain. For a non-impact option, I like to do a simple time-intensity pyramid. Each minute, I make the bike, elliptical glider or rower a little harder than the previous minute by increasing the resistance, incline or speed for 20 minutes, then repeat in reverse order for a longer workout and cooldown.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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