Running in the winter can be challenging. I live in New England so during a “good winter” dealing with freezing temperatures and a time period of snow covered roads is a seasonal reality. This winter was incredible until about three weeks ago. We had received barely any snow and I could still see my grass. Since then winter has returned full force and we are now breaking records for snowfall totals. Running on the roads is now impossible.
Some runners insist on running on the roads despite the impossible conditions. Now maybe you don’t understand what I mean by impossible road conditions. Take a look at the picture below. The white line of the road and sidewalk are completely buried in snow. Running on a road like this would be equivalent to running in the middle of the road in the summer. In addition vehicles are now driving on snow/ice and also have limited visibility due to the snow banks.
So why would any runner insist on risking their life to run on main roads? Good question. Running outside in these conditions does not prove that you are tough or some kind of iron runner. It is just plain stupid. Not only are you putting yourself in extreme risk but you also force drivers into impossible situations as they try to avoid hitting you. Please..Please..Please..do not run on these roads until conditions improve.
So where can I run safely?
1) Treadmill- Most runners hate the treadmill but at certain times of the year it is the best or only option. Join a gym or buy one for your home. Even when winter conditions don’t prevent you from running outside it is not fun to run in sub-zero temperatures or in the darkness all winter. Mixing in a few treadmill runs in shorts and a t-shirt is great when it is dark and 10 degrees outside. Not to mention the risk of slipping on black ice. Embrace the treadmill and many times you can get a much better workout than slipping and sliding outside.
2) Run in a quiet neighborhood- Once the roads are plowed many people can find a quiet neighborhood where they can repeat small loops without much danger from vehicles. This is fine as long as the neighborhood is virtually traffic free. These type of runs are also boring as you usually have to repeat the same loop numerous times but at least you are not on the treadmill.
3) Snow shoe running- I am not an expert nor have I attempted snow shoe running but many people enjoy this type of running. Just strap on specially designed snow shoes to your running shoes and you are good to go. This is so popular in some areas there are even numerous snow shoe running races during the winter/early spring.
4) Cross-training- If your only option is the treadmill and the thought of running 4-5 times a week indoors is not something you could possibly do then consider cross-training. Cut back to 2-3 runs a week and mix in 2-3 alternate workouts such as cycling, elliptical, swimming or some other form of exercise. This will mix up your workouts and help get you through the tough winter months. This is also a great time to try out a spin class, yoga, or any other class that looks interesting at your gym.
The bottom line is that if you live in a winter climate there will be times when you need to adjust your running habits. Runners are creatures of habit and this is tough for some of us but please don’t put yourself or others in danger. I have learned over the years that every winter at some point “treadmill season” will begin and it is just a fact of winter living. Be smart this winter and keep running. Just do it safely.