In the first month of 2013 I have mostly been running in the snow. In the U.K we get about 2 weeks to a month of cold snowy weather in the winter if we are lucky or unlucky whichever way you see it. Everything stops, school is out, families go sledging, the traffic is slow and the pavements don’t get cleaned until it melts away. For all of us runners who have just signed up for a marathon or something else in the spring the show must go on, the legs must keep turning and it has a challenge all of its own, not only to find a suitable place to train but the running is different to running on muddy cross country courses or on wet roads, more similar to running on sand. It is tough. It does however have some good training benefits.
Firstly lets talk technique. I am a great believer in the benefits of running naturally, minimalist or barefoot whatever you want to call it. When the weather allows, I try to do at least one run a week on grass barefoot to remind my body how to run naturally without trainers on. In the past month I have been in trainers and a thick pair of winter socks as well. However, when you run in snow, you naturally do all the things you do when running barefoot. The snow slips under your feet and therefore you must be more balanced. Firstly you lift up onto you toes more for grip, secondly you straighten your back, and thirdly you shorten your stride to make more balanced footsteps.
Secondly, the resistance offered by snow gets you working harder which builds strength-endurance. Here is a good article on this a running buddy pasted my way.
There is also a challenge mentally as you negotiate every section of path in front of you to find the best route, this stimulates your mind and stops it from switching off and getting lazy. Your creative pathways are activated as you leap from one patch to another. This variation must also be good for your legs as it mixes up many different movements and uses different muscles in a random way as opposed to the repetition of running on flat road.
Two of the nicest runs I had in the Snow were up North last weekend. Firstly when visiting my friend George in York. Kathleen and I (You & The Night) played a fantastic gig in a community owned pub called The Golden Ball. It has a really great atmosphere and is full of the friendliest people. We came out of the Pub at 11.30 to another foot of snow. We walked home with our instruments while the snow was still falling, stopping a few times on route to George’s flat for a snowball fight or two. In the morning we woke up and we all went for a run along the river out of York, it was beautiful, the snow was thick under foot and the sun was so bright it bounced off the white landscape as if we were in the Alps. The Second run was on the way back on Sunday after a family party in the peak district. The snow was melting rapidly and we ran up and down steep roads that soaked our feet, acting like waterfalls down to the rivers in the valley below. The sun shined and the views where fantastic.
Now don’t get me wrong, when the snow finally disappeared I let out a big cheer. It is great to be able to get back on solid ground with a few less layers on. Hopefully all of you runners like me who have gone out there and kept going in the winter wonderland will have an extra spring in your step thanks to all that snow training, if you didn’t then you will be nice and fresh after a little break, either way thanks Frosty, hopefully see you next year!