When snow strikes the UK most of us are happy to abandon our plans to run, or at least retreat to the treadmill until warmer weather returns. And there’s nothing wrong with that – snow runs can be magical affairs with epic views, but they can also be slippery, freezing nightmares.
However, one man who never says no to a bit of snow is Dr Andrew Murray, an ultramarathon runner and Merrell ambassador. Murray is a two-time Genghis Khan Ice Marathon champion and even temperatures below -40℃ don’t stop him from lacing up.
Coach asked Murray about his experiences running in the extreme cold and, more importantly, why on earth he chooses to do so.
How and why did you start running ice marathons?
Running is my way of seeing the world. I’ve enjoyed running in all conditions, from the jungles of Indonesia, to the mighty Namib, Gobi and Sahara deserts, as well as all sorts of cold places. I actually like the cold the most. The sun and I don’t mix that well – perhaps because I’m Scottish and have ginger hair! Places like far north Canada in winter are epic because of the Northern Lights, and Outer Mongolia in winter is an experience I’ll never forget, with more huskies than vehicles.
What’s your PB?
I’ve run 3hr 7min on ice. The conditions were actually pretty decent, with mostly ankle-deep snow and it being relatively warm at -25℃ that day. Ankle-deep snow is way easier than either deep snow or sheet ice – deep snow just saps your energy and on sheet ice it’s difficult to get much purchase.
Do you do any specific training to prepare for running in those conditions?
During the winter in Scotland you can get cracking cold conditions in the hills. It’s all pretty accessible – within an hour of Glasgow or two from Edinburgh – and it’s pretty cool to get out there and see familiar hills in the snow, then grab a hot chocolate or tomato soup at the bottom to defrost.
How do you stay warm?
It depends how cold it is, but once you are beyond -40℃ it’s definitely hard work. The general principles are to wrap up in lots of thin layers so they can be added or removed, rather than wearing one big layer. Ensure you have hat, balaclava, gloves and spare gloves. You can always buy commercial hand and foot warmers too. I tend to run in the Merrell Gore-Tex range with Sealskinz socks, both of which keep the heat in.
What extra equipment do you use?
Essentially I’ll have leggings and a long-sleeved top – one or two of each – a midlayer top, a balaclava, a buff, warm gloves, a compass, a map, a fully charged phone, some money and often some ski goggles. I also carry some food and something to drink – in something designed to keep it from freezing – plus emergency clothing in case I fall and break an ankle or something.
Do you slip over a lot?
It depends how the conditions are in terms of the ice and what I’m wearing on my feet. Having raced a few times on ice I’ve worked out what to wear on my feet, so probably less than most!
REVEALED! The UK’s Fastest City According To Strava
It’s the most magical time of the year. Christmas trees are popping up all over the nation, festive light displays line the high streets of every city, town and village, and Strava has released its end-of-year stats.
With 36 million members logging activities in 195 countries, Strava is in a unique position to show what the world is doing when it comes to running and cycling. You can use that info to work out the best ways to motivate yourself to move more – people who exercise with others exercise more, for example – or you can just use it to find out who has the bragging rights for being the fastest runners and cyclists in the UK. And it’s Northern Ireland.
Let’s start by tipping our hats to the runners of Londonderry, because they averaged a sprightly 5min 13sec per kilometre throughout 2018. That’s a lot quicker than any other city, with Antrim and Glasgow the next fastest at 5min 24sec per km. The fastest English city was London at 5min 31sec per km, while Cardiff was Wales’s speediest at 5min 33sec per km.
Overall, Northern Ireland was the fastest nation of the UK at 5min 59sec per km, with Scotland second at 6min 8sec per km, England third at 6min 12sec per km and Wales lagging well behind at 6min 28sec per km.
For England, Scotland and Wales, Strava has broken down the fastest cycling spots by area, although it has stuck with cities in Northern Ireland, making it tough to crown one winner. However, when it comes to the overall rankings, Northern Irish eyes are smiling once again. Northern Ireland tops the overall nation charts with an average speed of 23.6km/h, with England second at 22.1km/h, Wales third (21.4km/h) and Scotland bottom (21km/h).
Ballymoney is the speediest spot in Northern Ireland, with an average of 26.1km/h, while Dungannon and Omagh are joint-second at 25.7km/h.
Elsewhere in the UK Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Warwickshire all come in at 23.6km/h, making those areas the fastest counties in England. Anglesey tops the Welsh charts at 23.3km/h, while North Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire share the Scottish spoils at 22.7km/h.
In case you’re thinking that Northern Ireland’s success is due to some canny exercisers only recording sprints, think again – its Strava users have the longest average rides and runs at 38.9km and 7.9km respectively. The Welsh are second when it comes to ride length, England third and Scotland fourth, while Scotland has the second-longest average runs with England and Wales tied in third.
Here are the full speed rankings for running and cycling.
1. Northern Ireland 5min 59sec per km
2. Scotland 6min 8sec per km
3. England 6min 12sec per km
4. Wales 6min 28sec per km
1. London 5min 31sec per km
2=. Brighton and Hove 5min 33sec per km
2=. Bristol 5min 33sec per km
1. Londonderry 5min 13sec per km
2. Antrim 5min 24sec per km
3. Belfast 5min 27sec per km
1. Glasgow 5min 24sec per km
2=. Edinburgh 5min 30sec per km
2=. Inverclyde 5min 30sec per /km
1. Cardiff 5min 33sec per km
2=. Conwy 5min 50sec per km
2=. Flintshire 5min 50sec per km
1. Northern Ireland 23.6km/h
2. England 22.1km/h
3. Wales 21.4km/h
4. Scotland 21km/h
1=. Lincolnshire 23.6km/h
1=. Warwickshire 23.6km/h
1=. Suffolk 23.6km/h
1. Ballymoney 26.1km/h
2. Dungannon 25.6km/h
3. Omagh 25.8km/h
1=. North Lanarkshire 22.7km/h
1=. Renfrewshire 22.7km/h
3. Inverclyde 22.5km/h
1. Anglesey 23.3km/h
2=. Pembrokeshire 23km/h
2=. Wrexham 23km/h
Up The Intensity With This Full-Body Workout
One of the benefits of heading to an exercise class at the gym is that you can be sure you’re not going to be wasting any time there. It’s all too easy to spend longer than needed drifting between machines or extending your rest breaks when you’re working out solo, but head to a class and you’re getting full value for every minute.
That’s certainly the case at new London fitness studio Victus Soul, which offers two workouts concepts – HIIT & Run and HIIT & Box. Both these high-intensity sessions involve pushing yourself to the max, and you’ll leave the building absolutely certain you haven’t wasted any time in the gym.
To get a taste of the sessions at Victus Soul we enlisted Lyanne Hodson, master trainer at the studio, for a workout. In a typical Victus Soul class this workout would be combined with a boxing routine, so if you know what you’re doing on the bags, feel free to add that aspect in yourself. And if you’re unsure of your boxing skills, you can always head to Victus Soul to try a HIIT & Box class with a trainer guiding you through every punch.
Perform each of the following exercises once for one minute back to back. Aside from taking 30 seconds to grab some dumbbells before the alternating lunges, don’t rest between exercises.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, roll down through your spine and then walk your hands along the floor until you’re in a press-up position. Then walk your hands back towards your feet and roll back up.
2 Dive-bomber press-up
From a top press-up position, push your hips up as high as possible so that your legs and arms are straight and your body forms a triangle. This is your starting position. Keeping your legs straight, allow your arms to bend and attempt to get your nose as close to the floor as possible as you push forwards so your chest nearly grazes the floor. Press back through your hands to full arm extension and repeat.
3 Lunge with rotation
From a standing position take a big step forwards and lower your back knee so that your legs are bent at 90°. As you do this extend your arms out in front and then rotate your torso over your front leg. Return back to centre and then to standing. Alternate sides.
Grasp a medium set of dumbbells – around 5kg-8kg – and stand with your feet hip-width apart holding the dumbbells by your sides. Step forwards with one leg and lower your back knee, making sure both legs are bent at 90°. Push back up through your front foot to the starting position. Alternate sides.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly turned out, holding dumbbells by your shoulders with your palms facing. Brace your core, then send your hips back while bending your knees to squat down. Drive through your heels, squeezing your glutes, to come back to standing and then push both weights up above your head, making sure your arms are in line with your ears.
6 Renegade row press-up
Get into a top press-up position holding dumbbells. Keeping your hips level, row the right dumbbell up until your elbow is in line with or a little higher than your waist. Lower it and row the left dumbbell up. Finally, lower into a press-up – full or with your knees down – and push back up. That’s one rep.
7 Weighted burpee
Stand holding dumbbells by your sides. Drop down, put the dumbbells on the floor and kick your feet out behind you so you’re in a press-up position. Then jump your feet back up to your hands, stand up and jump straight up.
In this next section you will do six minutes of strength work using one heavy dumbbell (8kg-12kg). Spend a minute on each exercise and complete two rounds without rest. In the first round use your right arm for the dumbbell snatch and row, and in the second round use your left arm.
1 1¼ goblet squat
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slightly turned out, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Drop into a squat, then drive a quarter of the way back up, then go back down before pushing all the way back up.
2 Dumbbell snatch
Stand with a dumbbell between your feet. Squat down and grasp the dumbbell with your right hand. In this bottom position make sure your shoulders are pulled back, your back is straight and your arm is locked out.
Stand up by driving through your heels and snapping your hips forwards, simultaneously pulling the dumbbell up in front of your body and then pushing it over head until your arm is straight, making sure to keep your arm in line with your ear.
Place your left knee and hand on a bench, making sure your hand is directly under your left shoulder and your back is flat. Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, start with your arm fully extended down to the floor, then bring your elbow up towards your waist, drawing your shoulder blade in to keep your arm close to your body.
Last up is a short EMOM finisher. Set a timer for three minutes and at the start of every minute complete the reps below – the quicker you do it, the more rest you get for that minute.
From a top press-up position, spring your legs forwards to the outside of your hands and take your hands off the floor. Then put them back down and jump the legs back to the start position.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a slight bend in your knees and your hips slightly back. Swing your arms forwards and jump onto the box. Once on the box stand up fully, squeeze your glutes and then step back down.
Running To Work Might Be Faster Than Your Current Commute
Some of the benefits of running to work are obvious. You get your exercise done while doing a journey that you’d need to do anyway, meaning you don’t have sacrifice any leisure time to fit in a spot of cardio. You also get some valuable time to yourself away from the irritations of a standard commute, whether that’s the crush of packed public transport or the stress of navigating traffic in a car, so you arrive at work or at home in the evening in a more peaceful state of mind.
Your journey is also free, which is a nice bonus, but the real cherry on top could be that it may actually be faster to run to work than it would be to drive or take the bus. Fitness app Strava has compared its data on 4.6 million run commutes logged on the app in 2018 with information on declining traffic speeds in cities to estimate that, if the trends continue, run commuting will be faster than using motor vehicles by 2020. Run commuters in London manage an average speed of 6.7mph (10.8km/h), which is still slower than the 7.7mph (12.4km/h) average speed of traffic, but the latter is declining and Strava projects it will fall below running speed by 2020.
Scoff if you will, but it’s not so outlandish given that Strava found that getting to work on two feet is already quicker than road transport in certain parts of the UK. For example, the number 11 bus in London from Fulham to Liverpool Street averages 5.4mph (8.7km/h) during peak times.
Other cities in the UK where run commuting can be a faster option than taking the bus or driving include Aberdeen and Belfast. Congestion in those cities slows traffic to an average of just 4.8mph (7.7km/h) in Aberdeen and 3.3mph (5.3km/h) in Belfast in peak times.
Clearly whether run commuting is a valid option, let alone a faster one, depends on the commute in question. If you live in the countryside or your home and work are right by Tube stops on the same line in London, for example, then the odds are you’re not going to be faster (although very speedy types might disagree).
However, the Strava data does highlight the fact that run commuting might not add as much time to your trip to work as you might think, making it a great way for the time-starved to fit exercise into their day. Even if it takes 15 minutes longer to run, for example, you’re still ahead in the time stakes if you’d otherwise have to dedicate 30-45 minutes to a standalone workout later. It’s also worth considering running just part of your journey. If you start out in the suburbs but finish in the centre of a city, the later stages of your trip might be faster on foot. It certainly beats waiting to squash yourself into a packed bus.
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