Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Working on my winter skin

The first winter I was a runner, I was super tough.  I was hardcore.  I ran in -30c (-22f).  I remember ice globules on my eye lashes and using vaseline on exposed skin.  Nothing was going to stop me from getting my run in, and only rarely would I head to the town's indoor track, due to truly icy conditions.

Then I got soft.

Two winters ago, we got a treadmill.  Then last winter, in addition to that, I was working at a sports centre, which had an indoor track.  And, I ran much of the winter indoors.

Now, indoor running has it's place - mainly slippery conditions or times when you are stuck at home (like if you're a parent and don't have anyone to watch the kids).  If you live in a climate that gets a true winter, you really can't spend the whole winter running indoors.

In fact, in searching for the "why" of last spring's stress fracture, I identified all my indoor running as one of the possible factors.  You just don't use the same stabilizing muscles when you are running on a nice even track or treadmill.  So, perhaps when I did go back to running outside full time, my body just wasn't ready for it?  Granted, I don't know that it was a contributor, but the very possibility is motivation to bundle up and get outside.

Yesterday's run was just a short one.  30 minutes, with pick ups every 3-4 minutes.  It was around -8c (17f).  The weather website said it was a few degrees colder, with windchill, but there didn't seem to be much wind at all.  It's not really that cold, by our standards, but at the beginning of winter, it seems moreso.  Runner Leana talks about getting our "winter skin" and I like that analogy.  By February, a day like this will be positively balmy.  So, I went out and ran.

There are things you have to keep in mind.  Most important is to watch your footing.  I had to skip the pathways as they hadn't been cleared yet, and appeared to be pure ice.  So, I ran on sidewalks instead.  Fortunately, most people in my neighbourhood are pretty good about clearing sidewalks.

It did mean I would walk a bit when I hit icy sections and I only did my speed pick ups when I was confident I had a nice long clear section ahead of me.  I will add speedwork to the list of reasons to possibly run inside.  It would be challenging to do really structured speedwork when you have to slow down every time you cross a street or go over an icy driveway.

Always beware of patches of snow.  The snow may not be slippery, but it can cover up icy patches.  Part of that is being aware of the recent conditions.  If snow has just fallen on dry pavement, you're probably fine, but if it was wet snow, or it's thawed and refrozen, you need caution.

I haven't had luck with traction aids.  My first year I used yak trax, which were okay, but broke after about a dozen runs.  I also had another one that was kind of like little thumb tacks, but I lost 3-4 of them in my very first run in them, and didn't feel like they helped traction much anyways.  I may look at getting a winter specific pair of running shoes at some point, but I find the best things is just to pay attention.  If you do use traction aids, don't let them fool you into a false sense of security.

When it comes down to it, nothing beats a good outdoor run.  Indoor running is better then nothing, but outdoor running is where it's at.  Even if you have to dress a bit warmer to do it.


  1. I'm a big fan of outdoor running, no matter the temperature. Well, once it gets to much colder than -30C, I start thinking really carefully abou it. And footing, I'm much more likely to bail if it's icy out than cold. Oddly enough, I don't mind the icy when I'm running. I'm much more likely to slip when I'm walking before or after.

  2. I love a good cold run, but lately I've been treadmill treadmill treadmill

  3. Brrr that's a pretty cold one. It's been awhile since I've seen temps that low and just thinking about them makes me cold. I will however, run outside when it's cold because I hate the treadmill so much. As long as it's not too icy or the snow is just way too deep I'll brave the cold, but it doesn't mean I'm gonna like it :) Good job getting out there!