I have a confession to make: I’ve come to the realization that I’m not a true winter runner. I don’t love running on the road at the best of times, and, alas, I like it less in the winter.
Trail runs in the winter can be a lot of fun. And running with snowshoes is a blast, especially with the dogs. But I have to admit, neither is likely going to be part of my routine. And running day after day on the roads just doesn’t do it for me. Several nagging injuries related to running on frozen asphalt probably has something to do with this association, but I think it’s as much about boredom, avoiding cars (and ski-doos) and being bogged down in snow and ice underfoot that has led me to question the enjoyment factor.
For sure, it’s a bit of an existential crisis. After all, we sell running shoes and gear…including stuff to help you run in the winter. So, shouldn’t I be embracing running 24/7/365?
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m a great supporter of people who do like running in the winter. And we are supporters of winter running events like the Snowflake Series in Orillia (which I have run in). I love the fact that others enjoy winter running – or at least aren’t deterred by the conditions. But I just don’t think it’s for me.
But my confession doesn’t extend to “I hate winter.” On the contrary, I love winter. However, winter for me is, ideally, about snow – lots of it. And running in that – especially on the road – seems like the wrong activity. Instead, come early December, my feet seem to want to have cross-country skis attached to them more than runners. Not that I’m a great skier, but I absolutely love cross-country skiing. And this year, I’ve been able to get out more than previous years, so the realization that I have another love interest has become even more pronounced.
A big reason is that skiing puts me back on the trails in the woods in a different way. My favourite place. Another aspect that I really enjoy is the technical elements. For sure, there are technical aspects to trail running, but cross-country skiing – especially skate skiing – takes that up a couple of notches. This is particularly true for people like me who are still learning the intricacies of the sport, from the different techniques to equipment to waxing.
Some might question whether skiing will set you back for returning to running in the spring. However, I think it can be a great opportunity to give your body a break from the pounding (especially on frozen ground), build up other muscle groups (including arms and shoulders from polling), and stimulate the brain with another activity. And if you’re as inefficient a skier as I am, there is an amazing cardio workout to be obtained that easily matches running. (Have you ever seen the V02 Max scores for elite cross-country skiers?!) Cross-country skiing also improves flexibility and balance, both of which are necessary for trail running. (If you’re interested, click here to read a brief article on the benefits of cross-country skiing for runners).
I recently heard an interview with Kilian Jornet, one of the world’s best trail and mountain runners. He said that he didn’t run in the winter but focused on another of his passions – skiing. Although I think he was referring to mountain skiing (after climbing up the mountain!), I took that as support for my change of focus from running to cross-country skiing. Yes, I’m pretty sure my training regimen is Kilian-approved.
So there you have it. My confessional out on the trail for all to see. And if you’re like me and are feeling the desire (and guilt?) to decrease your winter running in favour of skiing, let me know. I’m starting a support group…we’ll meet at the ski chalet.