The White Dragon Revisited
With the cold air and falling snow, it’s easy to want to go into hibernation in your house or go the gym and jump on a treadmill. But for people who love to walk or run outdoors, for whom just being outside is a joy, there’s no good reason not to lace up the shoes and go out the door. The Norwegians have a saying that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.
So we just need to make some adjustments when exercising on snow. Below is a whimsical story written a few years ago by one of the trainers at Cascade Boomer Fitness, when he blogged as the Tuff Old Jock, that has some good tips to remember when the snow comes, whether your run or walk.
The White Dragon
Early one morning, I was waiting at a gate in Denver International Airport for a flight to San Francisco that had been delayed because of snow. To pass the time, I was on my computer looking at running and exercise blogs. A man, whose hair was tied back in a long, dark braid, sat down beside me. He was wearing a black North Face jacket over some kind traditional garb tied by a colorful sash at his waist. He had knee-high boots that appeared to be made of wool.
I noticed he had a pair of brand new trail shoes tied to the handle of a brown canvas carry on bag. “You a runner?” I asked. His age was hard to guess. His Asian face was ruddy, lustrous, and weathered. His eyes, surrounded by deep crows feet, sparkled like black diamonds.
He nodded with a warm smile.
I asked him where he was going. “Home. Tibet,” he said.
“Wow, I bet that’s a tough place to run. The altitude,” I said.
He shrugged. “High, no bad. White Dragon. Yes.”
I thought about what he said. “White Dragon?” I asked, not understanding.
He grinned and pointed to the snow swirling around the airplane outside beyond the window.
“Ah, yes, now I understand. Yeah, snow can be tough.”
“White Dragon,” he offered.
I asked him what he meant. In his broken English he explained that his ancestors taught him that there is a White Dragon. Sometimes it lives in the sky, but when winter comes, it lives beneath the surface of the earth. Snow is its skin. I asked him to tell me more.
He paused as if to see if my interest was sincere, then continued. He said the White Dragon has laws. If you say a quick prayer to it before each outing and heed them , you can run safely all winter long.
First Law: White Snow Dragon Hides
There’s always some mystery when you run on snow because you don’t always know what is really under your feet. The snow may be thin, but hiding a layer of ice. Deep snow can conceal rocks, roots and curbs. Start slowly to get the feel of the snow and surface underneath, watch for lumps and dimples where you are about to step. Run more upright with short strides and come down more flat-footed than you do in dry conditions.
Second Law: Stay Quiet So White Snow Dragon Sleeps
Be light on your feet. Float like you are on thin ice. You will not slip as much, or break through hard crust. If the snow is more than a couple of inches deep, you take one successful stride at a time, not reach too far or gain the high forward momentum you attain in summer. If you slip, forward momentum will turn you into a comic figure.
Third Law: Fight White Dragon, White Snow Dragon Wins
You cannot overpower snow. If you push too hard with your foot, you will not turn the force of your muscles into kinetic energy, but dissipate it in the snow. That’s tiring and why when you run on snow you will never run the same distance as fast as you do when its dry. Plan on a shorter, slower run. If even the most powerful athlete tries to attack a run in deep snow , s/he will collapse with exhaustion within minutes. Relax and submit.
Fourth Law: White Dragon Centers All Beings
Find your balance by running with a low center of gravity. Stay upright in your core. If you are on ice or on a steep hill, keep your hands low and slightly away from your sides. The steeper, the lower. Enjoy the burn in your lower legs and ankles as they seek to find balance on an unstable surface.
Fifth Law: If White Dragon Wakes, Kiss the Earth
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will fall. Keep your upper body strong so you can use your slightly bent, outstretched arm to soften the impact of the ground and roll to minimize the shock to any one part. If you don’t hurt too bad, have a good laugh.
I had many more questions to ask him about the White Dragon, but they called to start boarding his flight. What about gear? What about different types of snows? What about wear and tear on the knees from the unstable surface? Are there exercises to prepare for being on snow?
I stood up to thank him for his advice and shake his hand. He was short, but sinewy and powerfully built.His grip was firm. I glanced down at the trail shoes dangling from his bag. They were heavily lugged and had a high cuff, perfect for the deep snow where he was headed.
I thought about giving him a tip that if he was going to run on ice a lot, he might want to get some 3/8 sheet metal screws and insert them around the outer edges of the shoe, maybe set them in a little Shoe Goo. That works as good a studded snow tires. But then I realized he might not have access to a hardware or running store, besides I didn’t really have anything to teach him he didn’t already know, and just said, “I hope you have many happy miles in those shoes and don’t wake the White Dragon.”
He smiled. “Oh, no, I sell shoes to tourist in Kathmandu for fifty bucks. Use these,” he said pointing to his wool boots with a Yak hide sole. “They hold on like snow leopard,” he said, walking away with one arm held high, his fingers spread wide.
As he disappeared down the jetway, I was still smiling.