While winter may not be considered by some the best time to pound the pavement, there are many benefits to running outdoors in the cold and snow.
It’s just a matter of doing it safely and comfortably to avoid injuries.
“Sometimes people will look at the negative side of winter running, where you can slip and fall and hurt yourself, and that is a concern, but I can also tell you there is nothing like being the first person to make a footprint through the freshly-fallen snow,” said John Stanton, president and founder of the Running Room. “It’s exhilarating and you touch nature, and when you get close to nature, you just feel better overall.”
When the risks are mitigated properly, winter running can have positive health effects for both novice and avid runners. One key component is to have the proper footwear to help navigate through snow and ice. Products such as Yaktrax or Get-a-Grip provide runners more secure footing in icy conditions.
“These slip on your running shoes and they have studs on them, similar to studded tires, and allow you to have sure footing even in icy conditions,” Stanton said. “In the wintertime, where characteristically injury occurs is at intersections where you get that polished ice. You’re running along the sidewalk where it’s packed snow and it’s fine, but then you get to that intersection and you’ll slip on that ice.
“There are also great running shoes that are available, a variety of brands out there, that are both waterproof and much warmer in the winter so your toes don’t get cold when you when you go out for a run.”
In winter it’s all about layers. Each layer provides another level of protection against the elements. It’s also important to cover exposed skin, because frostbite can be as dangerous as a fall, and usually not detected until it’s too late.
“You want to make sure any exposed skin areas are covered and you want to have mittens, they are a lot warmer than gloves,” Stanton said. “For men, you want to wear wind briefs, just to protect future generations because that often is what can get chilled in the winter time. Even if you’re wearing a pair of tights, we recommend most men wear wind briefs because it has a panel in the front that protects you.”
Unfortunately for Stanton and the Running Room, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on group runs, but his website (runningroom.com) still provides tips and running advice. He does recommend the buddy system and going out with a cohort in the winter if possible. If not, it’s probably best to stick close to home.
“If you are alone, a lot of times I recommend for people, particularly if you’ve had a fresh dump of snow and it’s maybe cold in the evening and you still want to go out and still get your run in, instead of doing a big loop, do a quadrant around where you live,” Stanton said. “Then if you do that and you do find that it gets inclement or you slip and twist an ankle, then you’re only a block or so away from your home at any time and you can always shortcut it back to your house if you had to.”
For those looking to lose or keep off the lockdown pounds during the most recent spread of the virus, and possible upcoming restrictions, winter may be a more favourable time to start running.
“The good part is that many people are running for fitness and wellness and weight control, and the cool part about running in the winter time is that you get the benefits of a calorie burn because you’re exercising, but in addition to the calorie burn there, you’re also getting a calorie burn because your body is burning calories to keep you warm,” Stanton said. “So you get a double effect and that’s why people who train through the winter sometimes discover they are running faster in the spring and they’re running faster for two reasons: One is because they did the training in the wintertime and the other things is they had that double calorie burn so they probably trimmed up a little bit.”
Elite runners often train outdoors due to the challenges of the cold and snow and see benefits in the spring. While they’re not running as fast in the winter, they are working just as hard or even harder.
“That’s why so many people will train in Alberta in the wintertime and then go to Vancouver in May and run the marathon or half marathon, and have a great time while they’re out there,” Stanton said. “There are lots of benefits to running in the winter time. Most of the time the hardest step is that first one out the door.”
On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest
ASK A TRAINER
CSEP-CPT fitness and lifestyle consultant Deanna Harder offers health advice and a home workout of the week. This is for educational purposes only and a physician should always be consulted before beginning any fitness program.
Today I will talk about Hypertrophy training, which is basically training to build muscle. Hypertrophy is about finding that perfect balance between workout volume, training frequency, exercise selection and amount of weight to use with the goal of building muscle.
I asked another expert in the industry, Jeff Marsh, who knows a thing or two about building muscle, why it is so important as we age?
“The No. 1 reason I would consistently try to build muscle, is to help stave off muscle atrophy and maintain dignity later in life. Having strength in later years allows us to keep doing a lot of the things we take for granted when young and healthy,” Marsh said. “Second, there’s a definite discussion needed about sport-specific training to improve performance. However, a common variable that may not be recognized is how powerful this tool is in injury prevention. Building size and thickness in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones will keep our joints feeling robust and healthy.
“Finally, training for muscle gain is a great way to build confidence. When one starts to see noticeable improvements in their body composition their minds change, too. You do not have to be in the gym or train seven days a week either. If a client was to engage in resistance-based activity in pursuit of muscle growth, I would recommend training each muscle group at minimum once per week and two-to-four sessions per week.”
If you would like to work with Jeff for a strength or hypertrophy goal you can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
EXERCISE OF THE WEEK
Complete the following circuit for 4 total rounds:
Squats x 10
Single Leg Glute Bridge x 10 per leg
Bent over Rear Delt Raises x 10 (hold water bottles or dumbells)
Push-ups with a short pause x 10 (modify as needed)
Pledge Plank x 20 total (shoulder touch)
Back extension aka Superman’s x 20 total
Not sure how to do some of these exercises? You may have to google, or you can email me email@example.com or message me on Twitter: @DeannaHarder and I would be happy to help.