British Mountain Running Champion explains how he keeps his training focused.... in February.... in Scotland.

Andrew Douglas is a formidable athlete who has confirmed himself as one of Britain's most prolific mountain runners ever, having only been beaten once at a national event (and that was by Robbie Simpson!). He is 3x British Mountain Running Champion and has consistently placed in the top 10 in the European and World Mountain Running Championships over the last few years. His recent dominance was evidenced in 2016 when he won the British European Mountain Running trial by over 2 minutes (the race was under an hour long!). Here he talks about some of the ways he focuses his training during those long winter months:

"February always seems to be the time of year when you really need to dig into those reserves of resilience. Just as you begin to feel you’re coming out the other side of a long stretch of gruelling winter training and spring is in sight, then bam, you’re hit with near sub-zero temperatures, snow showers and plenty of cold, wet and windy weather – and not to forget it's still dark when you get to work and dark when you leave.

I try to have a couple of clearly defined races to target to keep the weeks ticking away, but also a curveball thrown in to really look forward to. Towards the end of the month is the Scottish National Cross Country Championships in Falkirk, then in March a venture out on the roads with the Inverness Half Marathon. But before those two, on the 18th Feb I have a mountain race all the way out in Georgia (the country, not the US state) – I really took that “curveball” to a new level this time!

With those in mind, it helps me to:

1. Keep disciplined with those Tuesday night interval sessions – it can be a daunting prospect at the end of a busy day in the office! But a bit a flat speed is an essential element in building up for cross country. Typically the session will be something like 10min tempo, 6 x 3min, 10min tempo.

2. Get motivated to venture out to the hills on a Saturday morning… whatever the weather! It’s important to maintain a tough workout on the hills throughout the winter so that it gives me a base to work on when I go on to do longer sessions in the summer to prepare me for racing in the mountains around Europe. I’d do something like 5 x 6min uphill/4min downhill, and finish off with 6 x 20s hill sprints with a minute recovery in between those.

3. And for a bit of respite from being outdoors, the hot yoga sessions I go to a couple of times a week feel so much better around this time of year (especially when I have some Active Root to drink with me – so much more refreshing and tastier than plain old water!).