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4 benefits of sticking with outdoor winter running


For those of us in the colder, snowier climates, this season has packed quite a punch. And even some areas often spared this sort of weather-madness have not been immune. (If you haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with winter running, you can emulate it to get a taste — here’s how!) Even I finally had my moment where I went from loving winter running and being all hardcore to absolutely hating it and wishing I had 24/7 access to a treadmill.

I ran 10 miles yesterday as part of my training plan. Or, rather, I fought for 90 minutes with slush and ice until I couldn’t take it any longer. The sun was shining, which was a welcomed change from all the clouds, and — despite the extra effort to propel myself forward — it got me thinking on the positive side of things.

Here are four benefits of running tough through this harsh winter:

Enhanced mental and physical strength
Do you notice how running on slush is, well, the hardest thing . . . ever? Quite literally, those of us slipping and sliding on sidewalks day after day after snowy day are using all our muscles (including our brains!) together to get balance and tread and forward motion. In addition, treadmill running simply can’t replicate outdoor conditions (hills, wind resistance, etc.), which are ultimately what we find ourselves dealing with on race day. When it all melts, watch out — the snow bunnies will be faster than ever!

Less chance of overuse injury
Running on soft snow is easy on the joints, there’s no denying it (though be careful, you don’t want to eat the pavement like this Portland runner recently did!). Plus, avoiding the treadmill keeps overuse injuries at bay. Since treadmills keep conditions relatively static, over time “this can target too much loading stress on the same body locations over and over again, not giving them time to heal.” Eliminating the treadmill from our routines and favoring the great outdoors might mean healthier legs for spring racing.

Boosted dose of vitamin D
I can’t say I’m good about sticking to all my workouts all of the time. However, if I didn’t have running, I can tell you that I probably wouldn’t have gone outside much last month. I figure I get about 5 hours of outdoor time through running each week, definitely upping my natural vitamin D absorption. After all, I don’t want to miss all the benefits, which include lower rates of cancer, bone fractures, diabetes, heart disease, and even anxiety and depression.

Bragging rights
Honestly, I think those of us sticking it out through the cold and snow are entitled to a prize. Or at least the right to brag a little when our wimpy — er, indoor-loving — treadmill runner friends are around. We bundle up or slap on snowshoes and run even when the temperatures plummet below zero. But let’s be honest and kind, anyone who is making an effort to stay active in this weather, whether driving to a gym or lacing up to hurdle over snowbanks, should be proud and keep at it.

Only a few months left, right?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.

Related The WalkJogRun Guide to Winter Running