Running on Snow
Winter is here. Some seasonal runners will take this time off to regenerate themselves and to think about something else as the passionate runners are rubbing their hands with the idea of running in fresh cold weather on a white welcoming winter bed. With adequate clothing (not too warm, not too cold) it is possible to enjoy a superb running season. Running on snow has many advantages but also some disadvantages that we have to be careful with.
The advantages are:
1- Landing on irregular flattened snow is an excellent stimulus for everything that touches proprioception and stimulation of stabilizer muscles.
2- This season is often next to the off-season and the resolutions period… Use it to change your bad habits! (shoes, nutrition, training type,…)
3- It is also a good time to integrate smoothly more minimalist shoes (lot of them with excellent trail crampons) and a lighter and more efficient running gait. The slippery snow will automatically get you to run with smaller strides to avoid skidding and the irregular nature of the snow will allow to switch from heel to midfoot strike way easier.
4- The joy of running without worrying about heatstroke.
In revenge, we have to pay attention to the following dangers:
1- In the last segment of a foot stride, the push brings the foot to skid on the snow. This produces a slight "slingshot / toe off" effect in plantar flexion (foot exaggeratedly pointing) which can bring foot, Achilles tendon, and also back problems.
2- Danger of frostbites with very cold weather. Run with face well covered.
3- Danger to "burn" your airways if colder than -15C to -20C. (5F to -4F) It is important to always be progressive in this season change because the new surface brings even very little biomechanics changes.
It is also important to privilege running volume rather than speed during winter because in addition to biomechanical changes inducted by new surfaces, cold and strong efforts seem incompatible on certain points: Warming up muscles, tendons and joints is more laborious and substantially increases the risks of pulled muscle, tendinitis, joint pain... and the cold air gasping could irritate or burn your airways. So use winter for good volume training and to strengthen up by running on soft uneven surfaces in shoes or snowshoes! Enjoy winter!