If you live in Florida or Southern California, please leave now. You’ll find nothing of use here unless you want to give tips to your northern friends. In that case though, just share this article and go for a run in your 70 degrees!
Everyone else, this is just another post to help you think about the slick stuff a little differently. Last weekend, and often in Colorado this time of year we hit the trails. Up high above 7000 feet is packed powder, mid-mountain is refrozen and still melting ice, and near the bottom is an ice-mud mix. My pace was suffering but it wasn’t about pace, it was about finding a way to manage all of the unique terrain on this one 9 mile trail run.
These 8 tips will help you attack and relax next time you get out on the trail, or anywhere with ice and snow!
8 For Ice
- Short and quick: Working on bombing the downhills and powering the uphills is not a great idea on ice. Focus on short, quick, choppy steps and keep your feet under your body weight as much as you can. Think: agility ladder. That visual helps keep the balance and agility needed to master slick trails.
- Lift: There is nothing wrong with driving your feet into the ground, especially on speed days, but you really want to focus on landing light and lifting your feet off the ground as quick as possible. The less time your feet spend on the ice, the less you are slipping.
- Don’t try to avoid all ice, relax and embrace it: Ever have a friend from Florida or Southern California visit during winter? (we can talk about them now) They avoid ice like the plague. Contorting and pussy footing around like one touch will send them 50 m away in an instant. Yeah, don’t do THAT! Embrace the ice. Practice running on and over it with the tips in this article and eventually the stress of the terrain will go away. A tense runner is a bad runner.
- Run with light: As in daylight or flashlight. Black ice at dawn and dusk is the worst. Keep light on your terrain to avoid any surprises.
- Use treaded gear: There are tons of products and DIY projects to make your shoes mini tankers. Try them out. The traction will give you piece of mind and you can go places you were always nervous about before.
- Know the difference: Packed powder, powder, wet snow, melting snow, refrozen, ice-mud mix. All of these different types of snow and ice and mud run differently. I feel like packed powder is an invite to open it up and bomb it where the ice-mud mix for me, is the worst. You’ll learn how to navigate based on the feel of the ground. Then it becomes innate!
- Fall smart: You are probably going to fall eventually. Thinking about how to fall is important. Curling up verses putting a hand down might save a broken arm. Last week I slipped on the ice but I knew I still had some weight on my feet so I put one arm to the ground like a running back just to catch myself. It worked. On the other hand, a couple years ago I was just starting on a trail, tripped on a rock and in slow motion was falling face first into a cactus. I knew a hand couldn’t save me so I dove over the cactus, tucked and rolled. I got a couple scratches, but nothing that would keep me from running. I’m not saying practice this but I am saying, think about how you would land or fall in different situations. It may save you a visit to the ER.
- Embrace the pace: To get out in some of these conditions is a gift unto itself. Don’t ruin it by trying to keep your normal pace on some sketchy terrain. Slow down and enjoy and if you do need to think about your training take solace that the energy to stabilize and move with more agility will be closer to the workload you are used to anyway.
And there you go. Use a few of these on your next icy run and let us know what YOU do to run better on the ice!
Scott C. Jones (M.S.) is a coach and founder of Becoming Ultra. He has been sliding around the trails of Colorado for 13 years, the same time he has been training and coaching runners of all levels!