Tips for running in the snow

Don't let the white stuff slow you down – here's Ironmate Mark Kleanthous with his advice


Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? So are we, but you know what they say about ‘be careful what you wish for’… We’ve recruited Mark Kleanthous – a man who once completed a triple Iron in the snow – to share his tips for running in the white stuff.

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Snow may soon be on the ground outside but don’t let this stop you losing fitness. For one thing it can add variety to your training. So here are my tips for running in the snow…

Imagine you’re running across tyres (stepping into each tyre). Push off from the toes upwards and forwards as this reduces the chances of slipping

Run with your thighs, not your calf muscles, so if you need to react and regain your balance your lower legs will be less fatigued and more able to react

Running in the snow is demanding and strenuous like running on soft sand. Each time a foot lands it presses down so extra energy is used up to allow us to lift the leg and propel us forward.

If you’re using a pedometer, expect to take up to 20 more strides a minute to cover the same ground (this all depends on depth of snow, going up or down hill and your running style).

Running in the snow can be a great workout because each time you land in deep snow you have to work harder than normal.

This is far better run strength specific training than hitting the gym. Using your arms for balance will also help with knee lift out of the snow.

Have a relaxed upper body and swing your arms smoothly back and forwards to allow correct push off. Being tense when you come across slippery white snow/ice will end in you slipping over.

Run equipment for the snow

Off-road shoes for grip are essential. If you have to use road shoes, realise they’re going to be covered in snow so avoid mesh on the front as this allows the snow to get on.

Don’t use cotton socks because as soon as they’re wet your feet will stay cold. Choose a dri-fit or outdoor wicking style, there are even some waterproof socks like SealSkinz – if you don’t like their texture wear a thin pair underneath. I often carry an extra pair of dry socks that you can change into.

Use polarized or tinted sunglasses. Also clear lenses may be needed in a snow blizzard. We can lose up to 40% of the heat from our head and 10% from our hands, so you must cover the skin to keep the skin warm and prevent frostbite and chapping.

A thermal hat with fleeced lines or a scull cap with a Gore Windstopper layer on the outside is essential. Gloves are also essential to keep your hands warm, but avoid the types that make your hands sweaty as this can soon chill your fingers.

Wear several layers on your body, the outer layer should be waterproof or, at the very least, windproof. A zip helps should you get too warm, some tops have arm pit zips to allow extra ventilation.

Your legs will be working harder than normal so you should only need one layer on your legs. Carry a few sizes of plasters due to running differently – it’s not uncommon for skin to rub as you continually lift each foot out of the snow.

Carry your mobile phone and a gel or sports bar just in case. Leave a message where you’ve gone and your planned route and don’t deviate, no matter how tempted you might be.

Injury prevention tips

Land on the midfoot then with the heel. Landing on the heel on slippery icy snow is an accident waiting to happen, as it’s a matter of when not if your heel will slip forward

North facing hills can be more treacherous and icy. Along some roads the conditions of the pavement can be completely different on opposite sides of the road

North facing pavement can be dangerous while the south facing pavement can be safer to run on

Train at the warmest part of the day. Temperatures plummet at night so don’t venture too far from home. Run multiple laps and you’ll soon discover that what was once crunchy is now like an ice rink

Use your eyes to constantly look ahead then in front of you for slippery spots and exposed obstructions

When planning a run session in snow reduce the time in training by 25% because running in the snow is demanding on muscles joints and ligaments

Don’t stay in wet clothes in cold conditions as this will lower your body temperature

Cold air can cause an asthma attack or chest pain. See your doctor to check for any medical condition that may prevent you from exercising outside.

‘What-if’ sessions

A ‘what-if’ session should be a safe alternative workout:

Off-road mountain biking can use up to 25% more calories per hour so a planned 100-minute road ride can be substituted for a 75-minute mountain bike ride.

Don’t underestimate a long walk in the snow; it’s a great fat burning stamina work out, especially for people that find it hard to keep your heart rate below 70% when training If you’re unable to bike and run then use all that extra energy and go swimming. Have a good leg work out instead, use a swim kick board and complete lots of kicking interspersed with swimming and ditch that pull buoy for a change.

Improve your core fitness with a Swiss ball.

Don’t forget the good old fashioned home work-out. Press ups, sits up lay on your back leg raises, walking up and downstairs and squat thrusts.

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(Photo Credit: Wojciech Gajda/Dreamstime)