Olympian Julia Bleasdale, one of our #Run1000Miles ambassadors, tells us about her wondrous new surroundings and offers advice on running in wintry conditions
Let's have a fantastic year of #Run1000Miles together in 2018!
It is wonderfully different to begin the year in the Swiss Alps with a deep covering of snow as opposed to previous years, which were spent training in warmer climates as a professional athlete.
Marathoner Mara Yamauchi introduced me to St Moritz in the Engadin Valley while she was training for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Little did I know that 10 years later I would find myself at home in neighbouring Pontresina, a picturesque town and absolute haven for trail running!
I am relishing the accentuated seasons over here; the contrast, beauty, opportunities and challenges that each bring.
Winter is considered a notoriously difficult time for running and training gains, but believe it or not, generally the winter running out here is superb. The Engadin Valley has more than 150km of maintained winter hiking trails, which when freshly prepared are a little like running on a carpet of corduroy made from compacted snow.
Okay, so it is not quite as fast as a trail in the summer time but the surface is soft and with every step you know that the additional resistance is building deep leg strength. Come the summer months and the perseverance will pay off - it is all about adventure and diversity from the norm right now.
My training has been going really well and running has been magical with the frost and fresh snow layer glistening in the sunshine. Yes, this valley gets 320 days of sunshine a year!
When it is icy, one has to be a little more careful. Given the UK’s recent winter flurry I thought I could offer a few tips on keeping going in snow and icy conditions:
- When in doubt, walk through an icy stretch. It beats getting injured slipping. If you feel yourself starting to slide on ice or compacted snow, try not to brake your momentum completely but follow your body’s movement while trying to steady yourself.
- Do not solely rely on grip from your trainers but really try to sense the ground and adjust your step accordingly. Concentrate on your centre of gravity and balance. Add ankle stability work to your exercise routine if you do not already do any.
- If it is really icy, consider using a lightweight running crampon. There are some great options on the market right now that just slip on over your trainers.
- Shorten your running stride slightly and do not let your feet go too far from the ground. This way you will run more efficiently and reduce the risk of slipping, falling or pulling muscles.
- On the most challenging winter days, throw out your planned schedule and find a cross-training alternative.
- Running in snow and ice requires your stabilising muscles on the inner and outer legs to work harder as they try to keep you upright. Focus on flexibility exercises and ease your way into winter running to avoid possible overload.
Have fun and stay safe out on the trails!
Julia Bleasdale finished eighth in both the 5000m and 10,000 at the 2012 Olympics.