Hi Zeke: An indoor track sure would be nice to have available right now. Early on in the winter, I took two hours to shovel off the local outdoor track with a light plastic shovel so as not to damage the surface. I only got one speed workout session out of the effort since more snow came in the next day and the track surface was never seen again. Oh, well, it was two hours of cross training.
Yes, the downhill running on gentle grades does give on a chance to stretch it out. People have asked on this site what is the best way to run the downhills ... a smooth glide with moderate exertion keeping off the heels ... and, keeping the elbows up but in a comfortable position helps to keep one off the heels and on the balls of the feet.
Speaking of which, uphill running is also a way to improve running form because it forces one to run on the balls of the feet instead of flat footed. This winter short stride running to prevent slipping also involves running more flat footed or with more heel strike ... with corresponding loss of form and efficient muscle use. Uphill running done with proper foot strike and with good exertion on dry surfaces is actually a kind of speed running and can be used for anaerobic workouts when other surfaces for anaerobic workouts are not available at this time. On average, humans have approximately 50% fast twitch and 50% slow twitch muscle fibers in most of the muscles used for movement. In order to keep the running system well balanced, one has to do training that conditions both muscle fiber types. Wikipedia has a good detailed discussion of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle firer differences. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_twitch_muscle
The slow winter running problem is compounded by not being able to use a minimalist running shoe. The heavier more rigid clod hoppers that tend to have better traction just do not work well for speed training. Yaktrax work well in hard pack snow, but they do not work on slush and ice completely.
I love running in a snow blizzard embracing and overcoming the elements ... but, if would be much nicer if the snow would just stay off the roads.
Happy trails Zeke
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