Fitness enthusitasts face hard pavement and harsh weather in search of runner’s high 

Spring is finally in the air and for many Calgarians it means pulling the sneakers from hibernation and heading out the door for a run.

But, even though the city boasts impressive lengths of pathways and a thriving running community, there are some obstacles for enthusiasts of this universal sport.

The pathways

The first thing runners may notice is that many of the pathways throughout the city are paved.

 While great for walking and biking this poses a problem for runners.

Runners must face Calgary’s harsh weather which can turn even a spring day cold and snowy. It may be worth the extra effort to find a trail to complement a running schedule that mostly includes paved surfaces.

Photo by Evan Manconi 

Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic, says that when running on a hard surface “you have a higher impact force or shockwave that travels through your body and that shockwave needs to be absorbed by muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments and there is a relatively higher risk of injury.”

Melody Switzer, president of Calgary Roadrunners, says that she started as a road runner but now prefers mountain trails.

Switzer says that she finds she can run on those trails for two to three hours and only get a little tired. By comparison, she comes home sore after running on the paved pathways by her house in Chestermere.

“I find definitely there is a difference in the running surfaces and how the body responds,” Switzer says.

Still Ferber says, “there is no utopian scenario for preventing injuries,” as the body does a wonderful job of adapting to the various surfaces.

He adds it is important to mix it up. It may be worth the extra effort to find a trail to complement a running schedule that mostly includes paved surfaces.

The weather

But those surfaces might not be the greatest challenge facing Calgary runners, some of whom find it difficult to find the motivation to lace up their shoes because of the winter weather.

Lindsay Neufeld, co-founder of the running group Calgary Natural High, is one of them.

“Getting up at 6 a.m. is way easier in the summer time. It’s pretty difficult to throw on a headlamp and put on four layers just to get your run,” says Neufeld, who used to live in Vancouver.

The bad weather isn’t the only difficulty runner’s face.

Ferber says, “Because we have these wild shifts in weather it actually precipitates training errors.”

He explains runners may go for a run on a beautiful day and over exert themselves because the weather is favorable. These training errors occur when a person does too much, too fast, too soon.

Running in Calgary’s conditions can be challenging but there are many pathways and ways to beat the elements.

Photo courtesy of Dave Carruth/Flickr.com 

The next day it might snow. But instead of training continuously they need to change what, he says, are their fundamental mechanics and the overall way they run. In slippery conditions a person needs to take shorter stride lengths, have a wider stance for stability and generally lean farther forward.

He says by changing the way a person runs while keeping the mileage the same the person has committed a training error and is more likely to cause injuries.

Overcoming

Even though Calgary may not have the most favorable conditions for runners, there is no shortage of passionate people willing to brave the elements in search of that runner’s high.

Neufeld says that some of the reward of running in the city comes from the challenge.

“I always feel more accomplished when I finish a run if there were a few factors holding me back from getting out the door like putting a few layers on. I came back from a run in -32 C and I think I felt more badass than any other day this year.”

She says, “Staying positive and motivated comes easily when you are running with other people. When you have somebody else to help you get out the door you almost don’t even have to think about it anymore.”

emanconi@cjournal.ca