With Jack Frost nipping at our toes, Canadian runners are contemplating one of two things – either hang the shoes up for the winter, or figure out how to maintain a training program over the winter months. The later is definitely a preference, however, there are innate concerns that runners may have regarding the snowy, icy and blustery conditions that we Canadians can experience.
By: Dr. Lowell Greib MSc ND CISSN
One of the largest concerns that The SportLab hears leading into this season, is that regarding proper footing on our winter roads. This leads to the question as to whether a runner can prepare themselves for Canadian winter roads and potentially reduce their risk of injury? There are definitely some easy tips that can improve runners stability and balance while simultaneously decreasing the risk of injuring an ankle or a knee.
ONE: Increase your volume of off road running. By training in the summer months on smooth, paved surfaces, we have conditioned our bodies to have the expectation of a perfect foot strike against the road each time we take a stride. As we enter the winter season, take some time to run on grass, do some cross country or trail running. The undulations of the terrain and varying angles of the ground, will help strengthen the muscles, that otherwise, may be used minimally in road running.
TWO: Work on your balance in movement. Call up one of your construction friends and have an eight foot length of 2×4 delivered to your house! Once you have this high tech piece of training equipment, you can work through three progressions. Lay the piece of timber on the ground with the 4” surface facing upward. Walk the ‘plank’, heel-to-toe, from one end to the other, turn around, and repeat. If you are able to complete the exercise with your eyes open, progress to doing the same thing with one eye open and ultimately work towards walking the plank with your eyes closed. In working through these progressions you will be creating input into your nervous system that will ultimately improve balance and decrease your risk of falling and becoming injured.
THREE: Practice stationary stability. Time to track down another piece of high tech training equipment – a pillow. For this exercise you will stand, on one foot, on the pillow (an uneven surface). Aim for successful completion of 30 seconds on each foot. In order to progress, do the same exercise with one eye open and the final progression is being able to complete the 30 seconds with both eyes closed. It may take a few weeks to become an ‘expert’ at this!
By implementing the tips above, a runner can be well prepared for changes outdoors that may present themselves over the course of the winter. Through good preparation, we will be able to enjoy the great outdoors, decrease our risk of injury and show Old Man Winter that no matter what he throws at us, we are hearty Canadians that will continue to do what we love. Or, go jump on a treadmill for the next 6 months.