This is how runners survive the winter

14. November 2017

Running in the cold

When the temperatures are below zero, the following particularly applies: only a warm muscle is capable of performing! When the temperatures are icy, it’s best to boost your circulatory system and warm your muscles by doing a few gymnastic exercises inside in the warmth. And when you start running, take it slowly and pace yourself. It makes most sense to do longer and not too rigorous training units. When you run at a moderate tempo, your pulse remains low and the inhalation of cold air is kept within limits, thus protecting your respiratory tract. When doing long runs, take food and drink with you, if need be, because running in low temperatures requires more energy in the form of carbohydrates. Those wanting to train rigorously should make sure that the intensive phases are kept short, and then put on dry and warm clothes as quickly as possible and only start stretching in the warmth.

Running on snow

From a tactile perspective, running on soft snow taxes the muscles in a totally different way than when running on tar. When your foot sinks into the snow, you need to carefully gain a firm footing first, so you don’t slip. Thus, the ground contact time is significantly longer than on solid ground and the body needs to be stabilised over a longer period of time, which places more demands on the muscles. Compact snow also puts the body under particular strain. The sensation here is similar to running through the forest on a single trail interspersed with roots, which challenges the foot muscles as well as the entire leg and core muscles. Because the foot does not land on flat ground and therefore has no firm foothold, it tilts with each step and needs to be stabilised. As a result, the risk of slipping or tripping is greater. A run in the snow should therefore be predominantly viewed from the standpoint of adventure, variety, and boosting your physical fitness. Units with specific requirements such as distance, tempo and content in the form of intervals, tempo runs, or running technique, for instance, should not be done on snow.

Layer principle

Anyone who is constantly out and about in the cold should adapt their shoes and clothing to the conditions: for secure footing on snow, the shoe should be as straight-lasted as possible with a flat sole and lower heel-toe offset, have a good profile, and even spikes are useful if need be. The shoe should also have a good heel grip and a sturdy or even water-resistant upper material. Thus, specific trail shoes are also usually good for running on snow.

As far as clothing is concerned, you can also get warm very quickly in the winter so opt to wear layers that can be shed during training and tied around your waist. Exposed areas, such as hands and the head, should be kept warm from the outset. A warm torso and protected lumbar region are also important. In the sun and snow, don’t forget to wear sun cream and sunglasses – especially if you are running in the mountains.




Sports in the dark

See and be seen, is the motto. Anyone who runs in the city needs to ensure visibility first and foremost by wearing reflective bands, vests, and running lights, etc. And anyone who is out and about in the complete dark should run with a headlamp. Advancements in design now enable you to run with a tiny headlamp that can turn night into day. A luminosity of 200 lumens is recommended as standard. Headlamps should sit well on the head and be as unnoticeable as possible. This means that they not only need to be lightweight and compact, but should also have an elastic, broad, and easily adjustable headband so the lamp neither wobbles nor slips. You can buy a good headlamp for as little as around CHF 50.

Alternative sports

Running in winter is also one of the most efficient types of sports because it is always possible wherever you are, even when you don’t have much time. Nevertheless, you should extend your exercise repertoire in winter and adopt a more versatile approach when working on your basic training. How about a cross-country skiing circuit or an extensive snowshoe or ski tour? Cross-country skiing in the skating style is one of the most challenging and demanding winter sports of all, but most people are not able do it for hours. You can differentiate the training by adapting it to the classic style of cross-country skiing, whose motion sequence is far more similar to running than the skating style.

Snowshoe tours are perfect for doing several hours of basic training. They don’t require any special preparation and if you keep to the snowshoe trail markings, which are specially signposted in various regions, they are safe when the weather conditions are good, even in the deeper regions. Ski tours also offer the perfect winter training for endurance athletes. However, for the off-piste routes you either require the appropriate know-how, or should link up with a guided group. When embarking on activities in higher altitudes, make sure that you drink enough, protect yourself from the sun, and adapt to the intensity because the air becomes thinner the higher you go.




On dull and wet winter days, we recommend swimming, group fitness training, athletic exercises, stretching, riding on the roller or ergometer, indoor rowing, and of course running on the treadmill for all those who either don’t want to stop running or have specific training guidelines to prepare themselves for a goal in the Spring.

Sports and illness

Do not train if you have the flu! If you have a fever, athletic training is an absolute taboo – not just for one day but for as long as you have a fever! Fever is the body's response to an infection and the body therefore needs time to recover. When you have a cold, moderate physical activity is allowed, however, this should be considered more as movement and not training. A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract that makes itself felt through a runny nose, and/or cough and sore throat, but does not entail any fever. While the flu is also an acute infection of the respiratory tract, it has the additional symptoms of a sudden high fever, pain in the joints and limbs, a sore throat, and a dry cough.