Training Tuesdays: Tips for Running in the Snow

For some, the arrival of snow and ice means an end to outdoor running. However, if you are like me and despise the treadmill, never fear! With some adjustments to your running style and some additional gear, you can enjoy outdoor runs year round!

I always like to include caveats around outdoor running in the winter. A major one is that I live in a moderate climate where, even when there’s snow, it’s usually no colder than -10 celsius and, truth be told, rarely is the temperature below zero. I’ve lived in colder climates, and my own personal cutoff for an enjoyable snow run is -15 celsius. Any colder and I personally find it too hard to breath.

If you want to enjoy your outdoor winter runs, here’s my most sage of advice on the topic:

Invest in the right layers: This is the time when a good pair of insulated running tights are worth the investment.  You need a little bit of extra warmth, but not the full-on heat retention of base layers. As with any athletic endeavour cotton is your enemy. This is a time for merino wool or at least sweat-wicking synthetics that won’t cause you to freeze once you break a sweat.  Light weight gloves and an insulated headband are two other highly recommended products. If you’re anything like me and tend to overheat, you may also want to run with a very small backpack for when you need to take off gloves and extra layers.

Consider traction devices: I gave my opinion on these last week. If deep snow or ice prevail, these can make your run far more enjoyable and far safer.  You’ll run effortlessly, like a gazelle (well, I won’t but some of you probably will) while those around you take delicately awkward steps and flail their arms madly trying to stay balanced on snow and ice.  And remember, it’s ok to smugly mock them as you run by without fear of falling…as long as the mocking is inside your head. The extra small backpack also comes in handy here for stowing traction devices when running routes that are partially snowy/icy and partially clear.

Switch up your shoes: In light snow with minimal ice, you may not need traction devices. However, I find that your average running shoe’s grip pattern is not ideal for snow and slush. I like to switch out to trail runners in the winter. They have deeper tread that will work wonders in shallow snow. Many are also waterproof. Dry and warm feet are happy feet.

Adjust your gait and foot strike: If you’re a heel striker, you’re just asking to slide out of control in the snow, particularly if you take long strides.  If you’re able to concentrate on a solid mid-foot strike and shorter, faster steps, you’ll be far more in control on snow and ice.  Your pace may suffer a bit, but it will be worth it when you don’t heel strike onto a patch of ice and send yourself careening out of control (and potentially into a nice, little injury!).

Now you’re ready to get out there and run, even when it’s snowing and even when it’s (moderately) cold. Here’s hoping for a white Christmas!

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