6 cross-training tips for avid runners during the winter season

December 15, 2014

Winter brings frigid, sometimes treacherous conditions for runners, but a little snow on the trail or slick pavement shouldn't stop you from getting a workout. The following are a few alternative activities for runners to maintain fitness during the snowy months or to simply inject variety into your fitness routine.

6 cross-training tips for avid runners during the winter season

1. Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a simple endeavour that anyone who can walk can master. It engages many of the same muscles as running, while boosting overall aerobic capacity. Running, as opposed to hiking on snowshoes, requires some practice, however, so begin with short workouts to slowly introduce your muscles to the differences. As with any winter activity, dress in layers so you can adjust clothing according to your effort and weather conditions.

2. Cross country and skate skiing

Both classic kick-and-glide skiing and skate skiing are ideal cross-training activities that engage many of the same muscles as running. In addition to working your lower body, these low-impact pastimes also work your arms, shoulders, core and back. Stride onto groomed ski trails or tracks, or hit the backcountry for long-distance sessions. If you're new to the disciplines, seek lessons, clothing, safety tips and rental equipment at a nearby winter sports centre.

3. Indoor rock climbing

Adding indoor rock climbing to your training schedule can improve upper body and core strength. It can also boost leg and hip flexibility and strengthen foot muscles. Climb, rent equipment and learn proper techniques at indoor climbing gyms in your area.

4. Indoor cycling

The benefits of this non-impact sport include improvement in stride cadence, in aerobic capacity, and in quad, calf, hip and butt strength. Try a spin class at a local fitness centre or hop on a stationary bike on your own at the gym.

5. Yoga

Downward Dog, Forward Fold, Reclining Pigeon, Bridge, Hero and Seated Spiral Twist are among the many beneficial poses for runners. Yoga can enhance core strength, mental focus, balance, flexibility and recovery. It also improves breathing awareness and injury prevention, but be careful not to stretch to the point of pain, and take care to practice good form. Choose form over difficulty to prevent muscle or joint strain.

6. Nothing beats running

Some days, regardless of weather, you just want to run. To make frosty conditions less perilous, fit ice cleats onto your running shoes. Install studs yourself or research the various brands available. Keep in mind that some ice cleats are better for road running while others work better on trails.

It may be cold outside, but that doesn't mean you have to stay immobile on the couch. With flexibility and an open mind, you can build aerobic endurance, maintain fitness, and be ready to run again come spring.

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