There’s no doubt that Canadian runners are a tough bunch. Even in the dead of winter when there’s snow covering the ground, it’s dark by 4 p.m. and the temperature has dropped into the negative 20s and 30s, we still lace up our shoes, put on our thermals and head out the door. Still, there are some times when running just isn’t possible and even the most dedicated runners are forced to change their plans. When this happens (and it inevitably will), there are many great alternatives to running that not only help you get a great workout, but they can even make you a better runner.
If you live in an apartment building or have access to a long set of indoor stairs, use them. Similar to hill training, stairs can improve your cardio, strength, power and endurance. In fact, since stairs are often steeper than hills, they can provide an even more challenging workout than one you would get outdoors.
Strength train with at-home workouts
Being stuck indoors during a blizzard is the perfect time to do some strength training. Adding resistance work into your weekly routine can help you to improve your running form, strengthen your bones and ligaments to prevent injuries and strengthen your muscles to make you a more powerful (and faster) runner. There is no better time to get into a strength training routine when the weather outside is less inviting.
Sometimes instead of hiding from the elements, it’s better to embrace them. Shovelling snow is one of Canada’s most necessary pastimes, and it can double as a great workout, too. It’s important to keep safety in mind when shovelling, which means being careful to not lift too much snow at once, and lifting with your knees rather than your back. If you want to get an extra workout in, you can offer to shovel your neighbour’s driveway, too.
Some might say cross-country skiing is the ultimate winter alternative to running. It’s a fantastic cardio workout, and it’s much lower-impact than running, so it gives your body a break from the pounding. This allows you to maintain your endurance fitness, but it has a much lower risk for injuries. Of course, not everyone has skis or easy access to ski trails, but if you can get your hands on a pair it is a fun way to enjoy some outdoor winter activity.
Like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing is an excellent cardiovascular activity that embraces the snow rather than battles against it. The upside to snowshoeing is that the equipment tends to be a bit cheaper, making it a more accessible activity for many people. It also doesn’t require the same open trails as skiing does, so you can do it just about anywhere there’s snow.
Many of us have fond memories of tobogganing when we were kids, but who says you have to give it up when you become an adult? Not only is it a fun way to embrace winter and get some fresh air, having to get back up that hill after every run can provide you with a great workout — bonus points if you run up the hill each time.
As runners, we tend to push our bodies pretty hard, often neglecting important aspects of training such as mobility exercises and stretching. If you’re snowed in for the day, that’s the perfect time to slow down and do an activity like yoga that provides plenty of benefits while being much gentler on your body.
Of course, we’re not advocating that you give up on your running and fitness routine for the entire winter season, but if you have a one-off day when it’s blizzarding outside, there’s nothing wrong with taking an extra rest day. While running provides a lot of benefits to your health, it can be very hard on the body, and an additional day off can give your body an extra chance to recover if you need it.