Blog Courtesy of Joanne Dowds (chartered physiotherapist, MISCP)
Doing the same thing day in day out should be admired for its consistency. Bit unimaginative though. Running during the recent extreme weather can on one hand be seen as battling adversity and demonstrates persistence. On the other hand it can be seen as not taking full advantage of the change in circumstances. There are lots of other more novel activities in the snow which can generate a training effect. Shovelling snow is considered strenuous physical work, it also has the added bonus of being useful for the community. Building snow men is great fun for all ages requires aerobic and strength work (obviously dependent on the size of your snow balls). Nordic cross country skiers are regularly reported as having the highest levels of cardiovascular fitness due to their use of all major muscle groups in propelling themselves across the tundra.
Hopefully we all got through the recent extreme weather with only some inconvenience and no snow related injuries. Exercising in the cold and wet is very different from snow and ice; the hazards of slipping, serious injury including broken bones is very real. Running on fresh snow is a different prospect to running on surfaces where fallen snow has been trodden down to sheets of ice. There is a misconception that the most common age profile for injuries in this weather are the elderly but upper limb fractures from falls with a hand outstretched or ankle fractures from misplaced steps are more common.
I wasn’t sedentary during the cold stretch, I schlepped into and out of work, clocking up my daily target of 15,000 steps those days in the commute alone. I did have a fleeting thought about continuing to cycle but last time I did that on a snowy day, I ended up sliding under someone’s car bonnet. My bike was little beaten up, I was completely unharmed, however, the driver was fairly convinced she had squished me. During or after snow fall you can’t see the surface you are running or cycling on, it is covered in a blanket of flat shadow less all white snow; unless you know where the pot holes or curbs are- you could be in trouble. Walking in fresh snow is a visceral experience, it can be great fun, but it takes serious work to cover any ground. I was frozen, had sore legs and was knackered by the time I got home.
Exposure to extreme cold can offer some benefits. Many sportspeople have regular ice baths as a mechanism to enhance recovery, it is well known to reduce swelling after an acute injury. I prefer my ice in cubes in a G + T. Recently it has been found that a 15 second blast of cold water at the end of your morning shower reduces sick leave. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t reduce rate of illness or improve participant’s sense of wellbeing but it appears to build hardiness. Physical resilience; the ability to tolerate being physically uncomfortable but to be able to continue to function. .
I always thought I could easily hibernate, a day on the couch with continuous carbs and uninterrupted Netflix would be my idea of heaven but when it was enforced on me, I was resentful and keen to exercise. I was so disgruntled I actually cleaned- depending on what your doing housework can be determined as mild (dusting) to moderate physical activity (hovering). I thoroughly scrubbed the house, Marie Kondoed my wardrobe, sorted out my recycling, even washed my makeup brushes, it kept me occupied for a few hours while being safe and warm. The house is not quite so pristine now, but I still have the memories!
Leaving the house for supplies I had bread – sourdough no less – so I ventured out in search of the one thing I was missing. Cheese, one of the few things I would walk into a blizzard for and even more impressively stand in a queue for 30 mins to purchase. I also trotted to friends houses and down to the local for some apres ski in my wellies, some even skied down the road to get there. I managed at least my normal levels of exercise just in at different intensities and activities. I used the snow.
I adapted to my environment. Any commitment to doing some form of exercise during a red weather warning is only be applauded. Very few people I have spoken to spent the few days double screening under a blanket; building snow men, snowball fights, sledding, clearing paths, pushing cars even skiing to the pub are all varieties of snow based physical activity/exercise. Routine can become monotonous. Snow isn’t normal in Ireland, it is novel, why not use it.
Variety can be the spice of life.