As the weather gets colder and the footing gets less sure, it’s important to be alert and ready for running in slippery conditions. Here are some ways to stay safe this winter.
1) Try to land your footfalls directly beneath your hips.
Not only is this a good injury prevention technique, as over-striding is particularly tough on your hip flexor muscles, but it also makes you less likely to wipe out while running in slippery conditions.
2) Wear your good shoes (even if it’s slushy).
Many of us opt to wear an older pair of kicks when the weather is gross, to keep our nice shoes in prime condition. The older the shoe, the less effective the tread will be at gripping surfaces, so if you want to remain upright, sacrifice the shiny new shoe look.
3) Plan your route wisely.
Look for a route that you know will be cleared. Most university campuses are vigilant about salting and keeping sidewalks clear. Most cemeteries also guarantee a cleared pathway. Finding a safe route may mean getting creative and breaking out of your regular routines, but sometimes that can be invigorating.
4) Work on your balance.
There is a reason that doctors advise older people to work on their balance — it significantly reduces the likelihood of falling. Just because you’re not elderly doesn’t mean you can neglect this aspect of training — especially in wintertime’s slippery conditions.
5) Fall properly.
Running is not a sport like gymnastics, where young participants are taught at the very beginning how to fall properly. Proper form when falling can reduce the risk of injury. When falling backwards, bend knees and bring arms into chest while tucking your chin down to protect your neck. When falling forward, tuck your chin into the bottom of your neck and place your arms forward. Try to brace yourself down to the ground like you’re performing a push-up, to prevent hitting your head. You will want to bend your knees slightly, but try to avoid allowing any joint to absorb maximum impact. As runners, we tend to fall forwards or backwards due to the direction of our momentum, however falling on your side usually results in the least amount of injury.
6) Be realistic about the conditions.
No matter how hard-core you are, sometimes there are days when it is simply too slippery. Rather than be a martyr (that will likely end up belly up on the sidewalk), consider taking a cross-training day, whether that be the gym, or trying out a new winter activity.
You likely wear mittens or gloves in the winter to keep your hands warm. These hand-coverings can also prevent cuts and scrapes from possible falls. Tip: Wear a thin glove layer under your mittens, so that even if you heat up and want to shed a layer, you can keep your hands covered.
8) Run with a buddy.
Running with a partner in the winter means having two sets of eyes on the sidewalk/road/trail, rather than one, which means double the chance of spotting that slippery patch before a fall happens.
9) Don’t be a hero.
If you do fall, don’t try and be tough and play it off. Take a moment and assess that everything feels okay before starting to run again.
We often associate sunglasses with warm temperatures, but they can be essential to making sure you’re able to see what you’re stepping on. A hat with a brim can also prevent snow from blocking your vision.