Our thanks to Alpine Physical Therapy super star and running expert, Kristi Moore, MSPT, for this article.
If you are someone who chooses to run outdoors in the winter instead of on a treadmill there are many differences from running in the other seasons outdoors. This is especially true if you do trail running in the winter months when there can be snow, ice, puddles and significant uneven terrain you are dealing with. You may find that your feet get tired quicker than usual; that your hip muscles tense up more and that you have to slow down to keep yourself upright at times.
It is helpful to have something on your shoes to help with traction, but you will still get some slight slipping if you are on ice or small motions of your feet in the snow. It is a constant balance workout to do this type of running; which requires different muscle recruitment than running on firm dry ground. Our balance reactions start at our foot and ankle, then work up the chain to our knees, then hips.
You can help improve your balance reactions by doing balance type of exercises daily. It can be as simple as standing on one leg while brushing your teeth, maybe even standing on a pillow on one leg while tossing a ball with someone. You can work on the small muscles in your feet with towel scrunches or picking up marbles. You can work on hip strength with side stepping using an exercise band or side shuffles for a warm up, also make sure you stretch your hips good after running (thread the needle/figure 4 stretch).
Running outdoors in the winter can be beautiful and very peaceful when there is a fresh snowfall, but know you will be working your body slightly different, which can be a good thing!
Alpine Physical Therapy, North
2965 Stockyard Rd.
Missoula, MT 59808
Brent Dodge is the founding owner of Alpine Physical Therapy and is a board certified orthopedic specialist. He holds additional certifications in Functional Dry Needling, Manual Physical Therapy, and Strength and Conditioning.
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