Updated: Feb 21
A brisk breeze was blowing again for my morning three-miler today (hence the crazy hair) and the ground underfoot on the path around Clissold Park in Hackney was particularly interesting - ranging from mildly muddy to full-on bog.
Running conditions in the winter can be unpredictable, even on paved routes, but rather than retreat back indoors to that tempting cup of tea, you could see the slippery, muddy and windy conditions as a challenge. They force us to come out of our comfort zones and run in a slightly different way - and in my opinion, anything that challenges our habit has the potential to bring about new discoveries that can make us better runners.
So here are three tips to play around with to help you find more stability, control and even enjoyment at this time of year.
1. Yield to the wind, don't fight it
It's easy to fall into the trap of tensing up our bodies to fight the wind but this will only burn more energy and tire you out more quickly. Instead, make a conscious effort to relax into your running, noticing if your shoulders are tight, your jaw and fists are clenched and your stomach and legs are held. If they are, gently let them go and enjoy the extra flow this can bring to your running and freedom it can bring to your breathing.
2. Imagine a white line
In windy or slippery conditions, more stability is a very useful tool and there's a simple way to find this. Before you set off, notice how you are standing on your feet. Is the weight more on your toes or heels? Left side or right side? On the insides or outsides of your feet?
Now bring your feet into a parallel position with the outsides of lining up with the outsides of your pelvis and aim to find balance through your feet. You should now notice that you have more of your foot contacting the ground than before, which is a pretty useful thing to have when looking for more stability.
Now to take this into running... Simply set off and imagine you are running along the side of a football pitch, with one foot landing one side of the white line and the other foot landing on the other. This extra width brings a greater sense of connection with the ground, makes you less likely to be affected by the wind and also gives your big toes more opportunity to power your foot off the ground. Win-win!
3. Work on your lean
Running into a head-wind is never fun but when you're faced with one, think about your body position. Are you running upright or with a backwards lean, or are you leaning into the wind? A forward lean will have less resistance and make you go a little quicker. Just remember, we're after a whole-body lean in one long line from the ankles, not a bend from the waist which doesn't activate our very important glute muscles.