Yes, winter activities can benefit your running! Although we would like to hibernate like bears in the winter and spend all of our time by the fireplace roasting marshmallows and staying warm with hot chocolate and blankets, winter activities can be quite beneficial to your fall and spring race schedule!
Ice skating, skiing, snow-shoeing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing can all provide benefits for improving cardiovascular fitness during the winter months, and they can provide some great opportunities for cross training. Incorporating these exercises into your life allows other muscles to strengthen, and stabilizes muscles that running does not normally target but are required for optimal performance.
Keeping any workout regimen, even if it’s indoors—through boot camp classes, spinning, yoga, or Pilates—will maintain your strength and flexibility, and it can prevent running-related injuries once the ice melts. Ramping up running in the spring can be much easier with a baseline cardiovascular fitness level, and having that baseline level can prevent the injuries caused by doing “too much too soon.”
The key is consistency with exercise. Developing and maintaining a schedule of exercise can help keep the habit of exercise a priority in your life despite the blizzard or freezing rain. The most important thing is staying active and healthy, no matter if you enjoy bundling up for the outdoor adventures or staying warm inside a yoga studio.
Leigh-Ann Plack is a physical therapist with Hospital for Special Surgery Rehabilitation. She received her doctorate in physical therapy at Northeastern University. Her clinical interests include gait mechanics and running injuries. She is currently working on her doctorate in education in applied exercise physiology at Columbia University.