Winter Running: How to Train in Snow

March 01, 2021

rabbitPRO Adam Kimble is consistently one of the first names you see cross the finish line at major trail races. The key to Adam's success? A smart approach to winter training. Although Lake Tahoe is a favorable running location during the summer months, the winter months is a different story. Read Adam's tips on how he gets through those snowy, cold months. 

After the first major snowfall of 2021, I was once again reminded of the fact that winter running can be challenging when there is so much snow on the ground.  As a professional ultrarunner, I’m always prioritizing running even in the midst of all the other great winter activities at my disposal.  It’s all part of the life of a runner living in a place with four seasons; getting creative is part of the process!  During the five winters that I have lived in Lake Tahoe, my running regimen has continually evolved to incorporate a wider range of options.  Every year my goal is to get outside of my comfort zone and find some more interesting ways to keep training fun and exciting.  Here are a few of my favorite recommendations for making the most of running during the winter:

  1. Snowshoe running. Who says snowshoeing means hiking only?  Purchasing my first pair of Atlas Snowshoes was a game-changer for me.  I used to have a much bulkier pair of snowshoes that I never would have run in, but with the lightweight aluminum of a robust snowshoe designed specifically for running, my desire to run on big powder days has increased significantly.  The kicker?  This is an incredible cross-training workout and helps to build overall strength as well as any exercise I can think of!  Generally, it feels to me like a snowshoe run is equivalent to two times the effort of a normal run.  Keep that in mind if it feels more challenging than you expected.  Side note: snowshoe running tends to kick up a lot of snow, so the rabbit tightz 2.0 are super helpful for keeping your legs warm!
  1. Traction devices. Thankfully, I have access to several great bike paths and paved trails where people can recreate in the winter.  Even when the paved options are clear of snow, however, they are often still scattered with ice.  There are several great traction products to keep you safely running on pavement even when it’s slick.  Most of them (e.g., nanospikes, microspikes, Yaktrax, etc.) are products that fit over your shoes, and give you the added protection you need when traction is unsafe.  If you’re a DIY-type person, you can even add screws to your running shoes for traction as well!  In any case, it’s one less thing to worry about and an added reason to get out and run on a winter day.  Just be sure to equip yourself with a lightweight jacket that keeps you warm to start without overheating after you get moving.  For me it’s the rabbit swish!
  1. Snowmobile trails. The beautiful thing about snowmobile (or other groomed) trails is that they are packed down incredibly well and much firmer for running (thanks, snowmobilers!).  In fact, they are so packed down that I will run on these trails without any snowshoes or traction devices.  I love this option because it allows you to get in a true trail run at a time when the snow would be too deep otherwise.  It’s the perfect compromise for a trail runner in the winter, especially one who wants more minimalism and isn’t keen on securing snowshoes or traction devices to their shoes.  If you live closer to a city where snowmobile trails aren’t common, then perhaps you could search for less-traveled dirt roads or double-track trails to provide the same effect.

 

Regardless of which option you choose, keep in mind that snow running is a different beast, and as such you must adjust your expectations.  This requires the recognition that it’s more challenging than a typical run and can sometimes feel more like a full-body workout.  It also means that you need to pay attention to the surface conditions, and adjust your speed and gait as needed to run safely. 

So, the next time you think “it’s impossible to run in the winter,” think again!  There are plenty of fun options to get you out the door and enjoying running when conditions are tough.  Some of them require additional gear, but most of that equipment is quite affordable. Of course, the treadmill works too, but if you don’t have that option or you’re looking for a little more scenery, it may be time to add a couple new activities to your repertoire!





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