So, I’m sitting here at my favourite spot, the Black Duck, waiting for inspiration to hit me. It’s a cross-training day for me which means no running and for once I’m actually thankful. Besides the fact that it’s ridiculously cold out there, the combination of bouncing temps and a random assortment of precipitation has made the roads and sidewalks a minefield. I have layers of fancy schmancy gear to protect me from cold and wind. However, the prospect of falling, nearly falling or catastrophically twisting or tearing something is far more daunting.
Eureka! Topic acquired – it’s time to get a grip!! (Or more accurately, keep ourselves from going arse over teakettle). How can we runners keep in shape, keep improving but also keep safe? Here are my suggestions;
Option 1 – Get off the road!!
To borrow a phrase from the 5peaks trail running series, one option we have to avoid the perils of slippery roads and sidewalks is to find a place where we can more safely run (or approximate a running workout). Some towns have multiuse trails that you can still safely run on, especially if you have a pair of trail running shoes that give you a bit more grip. These areas are priceless if you have some near you, so it’s worth asking around or even doing your own search to see if you have some in your area.
Of course, winter provides an awesome opportunity for cross training activities that give us very similar workouts while still allowing us to enjoy the sun and fresh air. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are popular options and for good reason! Both are lower impact (great for conserving your legs a little), are relatively inexpensive (once you invest in the gear) and you can do either sport practically where ever you want.
As a side-note, runners need to be wary of the subtle differences in which leg muscles are being used compared to our daily grind – stretching and rolling those “newly discovered” parts of your legs will prevent exciting new injuries from occurring.
Option 2 – Get in the gym!!
Many runners are not as consistent with cross training as we should be (guilty!). The colder months can help us establish new habits that help our overall fitness as well improve our running even with a decrease in road mileage.
Elliptical trainers, stationary bikes and targeted weight lifting are all ways we can improve our running without having to worry about the road conditions. These activities actually strengthen neglected areas as well, which will also decreases the likelihood of injuries once we are back on the road.
Of course, gyms always have the option of getting our running workouts done via the treadmill (or dreadmill, as it is often referred to by runners). With an open mind as well as practice and research, the treadmill can be a terrific way to get in a variety of workouts such as tempo runs, speed work and even hill workouts. The monotony of longer runs can be helped with music or playing around with the various options on the machine. You also don’t have to worry about traffic. I’d say slip and falls weren’t an issue but, full disclosure – I’ve been that person who falls and gets thrown off the treadmill. And it’s happened twice. In both cases, it was absolutely my fault and the only thing that was injured was my pride. Still, it pays to at least be aware that it can actually happen.
Option 3 – Get a grip!!
Many runners are quite stubborn (obsessed?) with regards to getting out on the roads – weather and road conditions be damned! This can lead to injuries from slip and falls, sudden loss of grip with one foot, stepping on snow-covered, uneven ground and countless other ways. With all of that being said, you know you are still going to layer up and pound the pavement as often as you can – so why not be smart about it?
If you had endless financial resources, I suppose you could hire a plow, salt and sand truck and police escort to lead you around and ensure your safety (I’m totally adding this to my “when I win the lottery memo). For those of us with more limited budgets (and imagination!!) the more realistic option is to find a way to increase the grip of our footwear – whether it is with a specific type of shoe or by purchasing add-ons.
Trail shoes are a solid option for a lot of the winter road conditions. They are meant to deal with uneven terrain, have a grippier tread pattern and you may already have a pair – hurray! With our weather conditions, their use may be limited and you need to also be aware that using them on the pavement will wear them down more quickly as well. I have a pair of Mizuno Kazans that I love, and I decided before the snow that I would save them for the trails.
More commonly, runners are looking for things to wear over their sneakers or install on them to make winter running safer. The two options that I have tried are YakTrax and Goat Head Sole Spikes. They are two fairly different products with the same purpose – to be as comfortable as possible on your feet while preventing you from slipping.
YakTrax are slipped on over the shoes very quickly and easily. They have various styles designed for walking or running and are readily available. It is nice to be able to quickly “convert” your shoes to various conditions and in most conditions they work pretty well. The down side to this product is that in thicker snow or slush, they may come off. Another issue is that if you hit a patch of bare pavement, they may actually cause you to slide or one foot to suddenly shoot out – not what you want to worry about.
I will be doing a full review of the Goat Head Sole Spikes here soon, but basically these are screws designed to be inserted into your sneakers. The installation is fairly simple, although far more time consuming compared to YakTrax. You can remove the spikes as well, with minimal damage to your shoes, but this also takes a little bit of time. It’s more realistic to have two pairs of shoes in this case as the more times you insert and remove the spikes, the more damage would occur and the more time you would be spending not running.
The spikes have a more natural feel to them and you can tinker with the orientation and number of spikes on your shoes to get the best fir for your foot and foot strike. The slippage issue with the spikes is non-existent as well which makes them a bit more practical when you running on roads that are sometimes clear and sometimes covered in snow and ice.
Hopefully something in today’s post will help you or possibly even inspire you to get out there and get active, regardless of the weather and road conditions! Something I missed? A tip you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below!!