Do you have any tips on winter running? What do I need to know to help me run in snowy conditions? I don't think I would be running if it was slippery or icy but I’m thinking more about running on snow-covered or semi snow-covered roads or trails. Is there any gear that would be helpful?
Here is the great thing about Central New York: Our dedicated highway departments are really good at removing snow. That allows us access to good running venues throughout our long winters. (We tend to take this for granted—our smugness revealed only when we see southern cities shut down when they get two inches of snow.) But there will be times when the plowing schedules do not match our run schedules. So I applaud your sense of adventure.
Let’s address three areas of winter running: gear, strategy and technique.
When it comes to gear, it is all about traction. There are certain shoes that have more aggressive treads on them, such as the Saucony Peregrine and Razor Ice+, and the Brooks Cascadia, that are effective on snow. Naturally, it needs to be a shoe that is comfortable and works for you. If you prefer your current shoes, then you can add traction with a product like Yaktrax. Just remember to remove them if your terrain changes to dry road.
Regarding strategy: They say that the Inuit dialect has more than 50 words for snow, a fact that sounds exaggerated, but was verified last year by everyone who ran the Syracuse Half Marathon.
Strategy starts with determining conditions. Were the days preceding the snowfall warm? If so, ice may be lurking beneath the snow. Is your path in the unspoiled forest, or in a nature preserve that has been trampled by fellow nature lovers, leaving ruts and uneven ground? Is your course windswept, where the slightest bit of pooled moisture turns conditions into a skating rink? There is an old Russian proverb, made famous by Ronald Reagan that also applies to winter running conditions: Trust but verify. If you sense that it is getting too slippery for you, trust your instincts, and adjust.
My preference is to run on fresh snow, on wide, lightly travelled roads, with long straightaways and wide shoulders. This gives options for changing conditions, anticipating and navigating traffic and avoiding snowplows. After dark, there is less traffic, and a headlamp can reveal the glare of icy patches to avoid. Stay away from sidewalks as they tend to be less maintained.
Equally as important as these other factors is technique. Although the slippery conditions may seem like a hindrance, it can be a gift for improving technique. It requires care to make sure that your foot is landing directly underneath you, which is preferable for all types of running. The key is to take shorter steps, and to be patient. It’s like winter driving—you can get through most anything if you are willing to slow down. And just because you might be going slow, don’t assume that you are not getting a quality workout; you are still engaging lots of muscles and you may find yourself sore the next day.
While snowfall may seem like an imposition, it can provide a sublime running experience. We are loathe to admit it, but winter is what makes us what we are: resilient. If this weren’t true, I would be answering your question about how to run in sand.
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