Does Running in the Snow Slow You Down?

We’ve finally reached that time of year, despite my shorts well, because I’m inside. It’s actually pretty cold outside, and is threatening snow at the moment. So, you like me might be wondering, does running on snow actually slow you down?
Does Running in the Snow Slow You Down?

We’ve finally reached that time of year, despite my shorts well, because I’m inside. It’s actually pretty cold outside, and is threatening snow at the moment. So, you like me might be wondering, does running on snow actually slow you down?

This is something I face every year as a person living in the Midwest. No matter where you are, geographically, if you’re dealing with snow, you know, it’s probably going to be some kind of an issue when you go to run. If there’s too much of it, if you live up north from where I am, then you may not simply be able to get out at all, and you’re stuck on the treadmill, which I’ve got other videos about that if you stick around to the end. I’ll link you to the treadmill videos, all the questions you have about treadmills there.

But what you want to know is if you go out and run in the snow, does it actually slow you down? And the answer I would say unequivocally is yes, it absolutely is going to slow you down. That slowing down, though, doesn’t just come from saying, well, it’s snow, and it has some magical ability to slow us down. It actually comes from a few areas.

We already know that optimal running temperature is really probably going to be somewhere around 50 to 60 degrees. So, if there’s snow on the ground, it is clearly much colder than that. And so there’s a kind of slowing effect that comes with just simply it being cold. But snow, in particular, actually doesn’t allow us to get full traction on the ground.

Now the more snow there is, and depending on what kind of snow, whether it’s dry or wet, that’s going to change things as well. But if there’s snow on the ground, we’re not getting full traction as we would compared to say a solid surface or a track. Think about this just in less slippery conditions. So, you go run on a gravel road or crushed gravel, something powdery, anything powdery.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s snow or not, you know that there’s not going to be as much friction between your foot and the surface as something that’s solid. So, just because of the simple physics of snow being a powder, you’re not going to get all the traction that you’re going to want when you want to go full speed.

Consequently, what happens is that you have to adjust your running gait a little bit early. Or at least, I find myself adjusting my running gait. And from there, I slow down simply because I’m not pushing off as much. So, when you actually go out to do those runs, hopefully, you’re not actually trying to do anything other than a long run, you’re not trying to do any speed work.

There is a time in college, I remember our coach had us do a mile on a snow-packed track. And I was upset, I didn’t break five minutes. I was the only person who brought spikes with me. Anyway, the point being, it’s not very productive. As it wasn’t for pretty much everybody, myself included to do speed work on the snow. There’s also a higher risk of injury because of the lack of traction, as I’ve already mentioned. And because of this change in biomechanics.

When you have a lack of traction, you tend to shorten up your stride and you don’t push off quite the same. Your touchdown is slightly different so that you don’t slide. So, you kind of got this shortened a little more ambling gait when you run in the snow. Is it still going to be good for your cardiovascular system? Well, yes, you’re still getting out for a long run, you’re still working your cardio system for a period of time.

So, you’re still getting that benefit in direct correlation to your running fitness because you are still running. But much like when you’re on the treadmill only, there’s a certain firing pattern, a certain kind of muscular activation that we’re using when we’re running in the snow that isn’t directly applicable to our fastest speeds.

So, you have to know that yes, running is gonna slow down in the snow and we’re not gonna have the exact same fitness, exact same muscle firing pattern as we would if we were on a better surface. But it does still have benefit for us so it, you know, in lieu of staying inside and going - crazy it’s actually good to get outside if you can. You have a nice controlled area, trails, something where you’re staying away from traffic that is sliding around. Get out, run, still enjoy it but know you’re going to slow down.

For me, in particular, I noticed 45 seconds to a minute per mile often is where I’m going to slow down if there’s a couple inches at least of snow. But from there Don’t worry about it. If you spend time with me at all on this channel and if not, hit that subscribe button. But if you spend any time with me you know I talk about rate of perceived exertion, RPE all the time.

That’s what you want to focus on when you’re going out to run in the snow. You don’t want to really worry about hey, it’s this mileage or that mileage. Maybe trying to adjust your regular miles into time. So, if you’re going to go out for a seven-mile run and you normally run eight-minute miles, you know you want a 56-minute run. Okay?

So, then just say I’m going to go out and run for 56 minutes today instead of running for eight miles because your effort is going to be similar. You’re just not going to get as much traction and actually go that distance. So, that’s my advice for you. Yes, you will slow down but I think it is still worth it to go out if you have a safe area to run in. So, I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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