It’s that time of the year, when your streets may be lines with snow and the roads may be a tad icy. But runners can still make the most of these conditions and improve their overall speed by taking on the snow challenge.
It’s obvious that the chief concern for runners in winter is to stay warm, and injury free on slippery terrain. There are ways to ensure you continue running hard, while staying injury-free and warm in the snow.
Warm up like never before
Staying warm is not a consequence of how you dress, but of how you begin your fast-paced workouts. You muscles will be colder to start off, like an idle car, and may require that extra push to make them agile and supple. To do this it’s very important to warm up in the right way. On most running days, your warmup can be performed indoors, or you could just take a hot shower to get some warmth going down your muscles. It’s important to make sure your body doesn’t go into a shock as soon as you step outside, so warm-up indoors beforehand. After you are out and about, do your regular warmup routine before every run, making sure your shoulders, back, neck and torso are well-oiled to go with those ready knees, hamstrings and feet. Before hitting top speed, run at an easy jogging pace to get used to the terrain and the cold.
Gear up for the powder
It’s only common sense to step out on a snowy day with the right gear. A light running jacket is optional, but what’s not is a pair of shoes that’s capable of handling the slippery, icy terrain. Usually you can find customisable spikes and traction control gear that can fit under your shoes. This will help reduce slipping, give you a firmer grip on the surface. It’s important to not let your strides become stretched in order to support you upright. Adding traction support to your shoes will allow your muscles to relax – they are already a bit rusty in the cold – while letting you pushing harder.
Choose the well-lit path
When it’s snowy, visibility takes a beating. Make the most of the time when the sun is out, so that it’s less of a challenge to see the track ahead. As we say, your head position determines a lot of your running form, so a sagging head will result in you losing shape. Instead make sure you have at least a 200-250m visibility so that your head remains in the ideal position i.e. looking ahead and straight, and you also get enough time to evade vehicles, obstacles and other impediments. It’s also wiser to study your neighbourhood and see which paths runners prefer to take in the winters. They will have ample light and help at hand.
In snow, run compact
Your mind is always playing tricks on your body, and that makes it harder to run. Most of times, you will hear that voice in your head that tells you you can’t go on, but regular runners can beat that with little effort. What they can’t beat as easily are those involuntary signals your brain is feeding your muscles about your stride and the amount of effort they need to put in. When starting you will find your muscles are working extra hard, maybe coercing you into extending your stride and making you land heel or toe-first. So make a deliberate effort to shorten your strides, and keep your feet lower to the ground. The less distance they have to cover while coming down, the smaller the chances of slipping. You can always go back into an extended stride, if that’s what you find naturally comfortable, after getting used to the surface. Don’t let your mind make you over-confident about your ability. Respect the conditions, and your run will be injury-free.
Know when to run indoors
An intelligent runner will know when it’s time to step out, and when you must remain indoors. Always take a call on whether the weather is good for a run before heading out on a winter morning or evening. If it’s snowing heavily, it’s a good idea to stay indoors, while fresh snow in spurts will make it easier for you to find traction. Make sure you choose a path that doesn’t hav ehevy vehicular traffic, as the constant movement of cars and bikes break down the snow and make the surface wetter and more slippery. There’s no shame in running on a treadmill, as even elite runners have to resort to this at times. Think of them as the practice runs before you can take on the outdoors again.