Experts provide advice on running in the winter
January 30, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The opening of Steamboat Marathon registration has locals on their toes, running the cold streets and trails in Routt County.
Training in the winter months for a marathon isn’t ideal, but it is doable with some helpful tips from the experts.
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The most common injuries UCHealth SportsMed Clinics physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist Alyssa Hornbrook sees during the winter months are tendonitis in the calf and knees.
“Living in a cold climate, we don't always run as freely as we do in the summertime. You're a little more tense when you're trying to run,” Hornbrook said. “You’re picking your foot up instead of pushing off and relying on other muscles — that tends to get people.”
The picking-up motion is due to the harder or more slick surfaces people run in during the winter. Runners aren’t able to push off on those surfaces.
Proper preparation and equipment can help prevent these injuries, along with added variety in training.
Avery Collins, sales associate at Twisted Trails and local ultra runner, believes that waterproof gear, along with proper footwear, go a long way.
“What people don't realize is waterproof gear is phenomenal in the winter,” Collins said. “It traps heat and allows you to wear a lot less clothing.”
Collins suggests a base layer along with a waterproof top. Accessories like gloves and socks also can go a long way. People like a varying thickness of glove depending on their own body temperature tendencies.
Hornbrook said avid runners tend to forget about the proper glove in the heat of adrenaline, which poses dangers for frostbite on the fingertips.
“Waterproof shoes, their purpose is to serve as a heat trapper,” Collins said. “Personally, for me, the wool sock is more important and for people who get cold feet.”
When it comes to the proper footwear, micro spikes are encouraged for running up the mountain and nano spikes are good for the core trail. YakTrax are also a cleat that runners can slip on their running shoes for extra traction on the trails.
Steamboat Running Series director and ultra runner Cara Marrs believes that YakTrax, although good for beginners, are not her preference for winter because of their bulk. Marrs uses trail running as opposed to road running shoes for extra traction, but if needed, she’ll add spikes or screws.
“I’m not a huge fan of wearing traction on my feet like YakTrax,” Marrs said. “But a lot of people wear those, and I think that if you're starting out winter running, it's great to use them.”
Marrs said that in her 23 years of living in Steamboat Springs, it took her 21 years to also invest in a treadmill. Running outside in the cold isn’t always ideal, so she likes to have the alternative.
But the treadmill can be mentally challenging without the change of scenery and varying surfaces. Marrs has developed her own method to motivate her to run up to 20 miles on the treadmill.
“My husband built me a shelf to put my laptop, I put my laptop over it, and I watch running movies and different things to get me motivated,” Marrs said. “If your sport is trail running, there’s always some hiking, so if I'm going to do something longer on the treadmill, I would incorporate hiking a half-mile to a mile to start and then run a few miles. When my mind starts breaking, I do a mile downhill and break it up. I was thinking at first that that seems like cheating, but that's really what mimics running around here. The Steamboat Marathon has hills.”
Any and all kinds of skiing are also encouraged by both Marrs and Hornbrook. Skinning up the mountain provides cardiovascular training while downhill builds up quad-muscle strength. Cross-country skiing and even fat biking are also reliable sources of cardio that are also less taxing on the joints.
Marrs added that yoga is also a source of strength training that people can often overlook.
While living in a place that isn’t always conducive to running in the winter, Marrs believes Steamboat Springs is the perfect place to train for a marathon, or any upcoming spring races in the running series.
“The people that I know that have more running injuries are people who live in warm states and the Front Range,” Marrs said. “I think it's really nice we have such a break of seasons, so people can do different things.”
In addition to the Steamboat Marathon, the Steamboat Running Series also has opened up its registration for its upcoming races, starting with the Luck of the Irish 7K on Saturday, March 16.