Running outdoors is simple during the spring, summer and fall, but as the temperature cools and snow begins to fall, runners are presented with the unique challenges of winter running. Challenges like running on snow and ice.
Winter running season brings its fair share of discomfort with cold, frigid temperatures, but what about all the snowy, icy terrain?
While running on snow and ice certainly present a few extra obstacles for runners, many are able to successfully run outdoors even in these conditions.
It is possible to safely run on snow and ice.
Stepping foot outside in the winter may not sound too appealing when you’re wrapped in a warm blanket by the fire, but once you get moving, the beauty and serenity of the season make everything worth it.
This time of year is by far one of the most beautiful, especially if you live in a snowy climate. Heading outside to run through the snow and ice is certainly worth any extra effort it may require.
Safely running on snow and ice requires just a few simple adaptions to your regular training routine. Here are 5 tips to succeed on those snowy, icy trails this winter running season!
5 Tips for Safely Running on Snow and Ice
Invest in the right gear.
If you live in an area where running through the winter means running on snowy trails and icy sidewalks, you’re going to have to invest in some high quality winter gear.
Although your insulated leggings and waterproof jacket might be enough to keep your body warm, running on snow and ice requires some unique gear – particularly for your feet.
Running through snow and ice means that we will need to adapt to slippery, thick, and powdery terrain very quickly. And in order to do so safely, you’ll likely need a few specific types of winter running gear.
Finding a pair of running shoes that are meant for trail running will help you navigate the bumps that come along with packed snow. Looking for a Gortex material will help keep your feet dry as you step through inches of unshoveled snow.
In addition, investing in a pair of traction devices, such as Yaktrax or snowshoes, may help you stay upright and balanced when things are especially slippery. Many runners find that adapting to the slight changes these items cause in their stride is much safer than slipping or falling when running on ice and snow.
Many pieces of winter running gear can be re-used and worn for just about every run, so although you may not be wanting to spend extra money this time of year, investing in just a few pieces of high-quality gear now will likely get you through years of snowy runs to come.
Shorten your stride.
A simple adaption you can make when running on snow and ice is to shorten your stride and increase your cadence. When the terrain gets slippery, a simple way to improve your balance is to take shorter, more frequent steps.
Shortening your stride may take some conscious effort during those first few winter runs, but once your legs get used to the change, it will become second nature in the snow.
Increasing your cadence and shortening your stride helps you maintain your regular running pace while increasing your contact time with the ground. This reduces your chances of falling and provides you with continuous opportunities to slow down when things get really slippery.
Take things slowly.
There’s no doubt about it – running on snow and ice is slippery business. Between the uneven terrain of packed snow, inches of fresh snow to trek through, and slick spots of black ice, winter running season creates a recipe for slipping and falling.
In order to avoid any disastrous spills, slow things down when running on snow or ice. Running outside in the winter is not the time to be completing any speed or interval workouts. Use these outdoor runs to fit in mileage, maintain a running base, and enjoy the season.
When you have a tough workout on the schedule, take it indoors to the treadmill where you can really focus on speed. Accept the fact that snow and ice are going to slow you down this season, and remind yourself that this is more than okay.
Winter running season is a great time to build a running base and increase full body fitness while running on uneven terrain. Plan your training accordingly so you can slow down and really enjoy those snowy, icy runs with ease.
Practice balance exercises.
Between the slick, icy surfaces and unevenly packed snow, running outdoors in the winter requires a great deal of balance and full body control.
Unlike clean sidewalk and paved running trails, running on snow and ice creates extra challenges for your body – particularly when it comes to balance.
To prepare for the snowy runs ahead, spend some time incorporating balance exercises into your strength training routine. Practice isolating exercises on one side of the body at a time and throw in a few balance challenges that will really get your muscles working.
The more prepared and better balanced your body is indoors, the better it will be able to handle running on snow and ice outside. Set yourself up for success this winter running season by adding just a few simple balance exercises each week.
Decrease your mileage.
Running on snow and ice requires a great deal of effort, no matter how many winters you have been through on the trails. The uneven, slippery terrain requires more physical effort and mental focus than any other time of year.
Because of this, it’s important to decrease your mileage for outdoor runs during the winter. Try to focus on spending the same amount of time running that you would during other seasons, but understand that this might not equate to the same amount of mileage.
For example, 30 minutes spent running in the fall might get you close to 4 miles – but you might only be able to cover 2 miles when running for 30 minutes on snow and ice.
Remind yourself that your body is putting forth a greater effort during these particularly snowy, icy runs, so you are likely gaining the same amount of endurance and physical benefits even though your mileage has decreased.
Running on snow and ice presents many extra challenges, sure, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Take advantage of the unique opportunities our sport presents by experiencing all four seasons each year.
With just a few simple adaptions, running in the winter can be just as safe and fulfilling (if not more) than any other time of year. The unique challenges it presents will make you stronger, fitter, and more motivated than ever for the upcoming season of running.
Stay safe out there on the snow and ice!
More winter running tips:
- 5 Ways to Keep Running When It Gets Cold and Dark
- 8 Winter Running Tips to Conquer of the Season
- The Best Winter Running Gear for Cold Weather Runs