Winter Training Mode 2020: Do It Anyway


Well, I think we can agree on this if nothing else: 2020 has not been what any of us expected.  And, we all know and feel there are still more “interesting” days ahead.  The question is, are you still taking care of yourself, eating right, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, working out, etc? Whether you’re just getting back to your favorite fitness routine, or you’ve kept it up through all of this weird year, it’s time to transition to Winter Training Mode once again.

Winter Training Mode

city exercise fun girl

For several years, I wondered if it was possible to stay 100%, tip-top, super-duper “in shape” all year around.  Wouldn’t that be great, to be at the pinnacle of your fitness level not just a few days or week, but 365 days a year, every year? Imagine being strong, flexible, and having great endurance all the time.  Who wouldn’t want that?  But after researching and reading about the pros and cons of training at a high level all the time, and after experiencing some of those cons for myself, I concluded that it might not be such a great thing after all.  So, I decided I should try a different way.  In 2011 or 2012, I started experimenting with what I call Winter Training Mode (WTM), and I’ve been doing so ever since.

About five years after I made WTM a regular part of my training practice, I reconnected with one of my former karate instructors.  We hadn’t seen each other since 1995 so we had a great time catching up.  He’d been deeply studying and training in a Chinese martial art (Bagua) for more than a decade at the time of our reunion.  During our fervent and enjoyable conversation, he mentioned a training principle of Bagua that sounded very similar WTM.  I couldn’t help but nod and smile.

Go Deep

photo of old tree

Winter Training Mode is a time to allow your roots to thicken and grow deeper.  This is a time to:

  • Set a short-term goal (or goals) and go after it.
  • Strengthen one area of physical weakness.
  • Reassess and shore up the four pillars of your base.
  • Cross-train in, and explore other exercise and movement methods.  I like to add a new / alternate exercise or set of exercises to my routine.  Kettlebell training, strength-stretching routines, and the Five Tibetan Rites have been very helpful in the past.  I wrote about my experiences with the Rites in a previous post.
  • Take care of your immune system so it can take care of you throughout the winter. This is of utmost importance, especially now. To do this, lower intensity training with sufficient rest, especially during wintertime, is all but essential. The intensity of training must be lower, but the training days and times should remain consistent.
  • Research any ideas or theories you have related to health, fitness, martial arts, etc.
  • Be more mindful and aware of various aspects of your training, your diet, and your lifestyle choices as a whole.

During WTM, I decrease the intensity of my training routines while increasing the depth of my personal martial and fitness research and experimentation.  Because I really enjoy training, I still have to remind myself at the start of WTM that it is okay, and necessary, to not push so hard during this time. 

The Gains

strong sportsman practicing martial arts and yoga on roof

I’ve experienced the following benefits through WTM:

  • My immune system tends to be much better able to deal with winter’s challenges.
  • My enjoyment of training and teaching is renewed and deepens even more.
  • My understanding of the topics I’m exploring grows even as many new questions are sparked by the few answers I uncover.
  • Replenished mental and physical strength.
  • A powerful sense of mission during WTM.
  • A potent sense of renewal and excitement at the end of WTM.

Do It

apple blank business computer

Though spring seems so freakin’ far away, it will be here before you know it.  So, grab a notebook, a pen or a pencil and make your plan. Be sure to keep it simple.

  1. Determine what you would like gain, and write it down. Don’t go crazy–keep the goal challenging but within reach.
  2. Choose one area of physical weakness to focus on.
  3. Pick one or two alternate exercise methods that you’d like to explore.
  4. Examine your base and do what is necessary to give each area the appropriate attention they need.  Remember, you cannot grow without a strong base.
  5. If you enjoy self-directed research, pick a topic, write down any questions you seek to answer as well as any hypotheses you might have.

Consider starting this month. Don’t wait until after Thanksgiving, or Christmas or some other upcoming holiday because if you do, you’ll have lost valuable, irreplaceable time. Then, once you implement, remember to keep track of your goals, stay fluid and adjust as needed, and enjoy the journey.


At the start of 2020, we were ready and determined to conquer the new year in order to elevate our lives, and because that’s just what we do, right? Well, after everything 2020 has thrown at us, utter vengeance just may be the main motivating factor in conquering the remainder of what has been a strange and challenging year. Winter Training mode, if done correctly, just might play a pivitol role in the things that help us position ourselves for a strong and vibrant comeback in 2021.

Be well, and stay strong!

Eric



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