All the advice on winter running is meant to motivate and help go out in the cold season, live a fit life and dare to go out.
Ideally even to learn to take on the challenge and the beauty of winter, which is an extreme situation, but not only an extreme.
Winter, Nothing to Avoid
All the more interesting to learn from people who really have to be out in extreme situations – for which Austria has an interesting example, in the form of the units of its military which have to do with mountain combat.
Soldiers do not share the advantage (and disadvantage) of sports people, after all: As a sportsperson you can and have to decide for yourself if the conditions are such that you can and want to go out.
That would be a touch difficult for a soldier, to just decide not to go…
The preparation must be all the better, the experience all the wider – and the insight into the training all the more interesting.
Contacting Military PR…
With that thought, I contacted the press service of the Austrian Bundesheer, soon got to a few planning calls on the phone, and found myself in Saalfelden, at the Wallner-Kaserne (barracks), home of the Center for Mountain Combat (Zentrum Gebirgskampf).
With Oberst Hofbauer as my guide, we went over to Hochfilzen to the military area there, where not only Austria’s biathletes but also many a soldier practice.
Two days, I was able to accompany the training for a bit – and it was an insight into a rather different approach to winter conditions, indeed.
I took quarters at the Kleintödlinggut, an old “Erbhof” (i.e., a heritage farmstead, handed down in a family since the Middle Ages, now also an organic farm and, as so often, offering guest rooms).
The owners found it respectable that I walked there from the railway station, walked to the military barracks the next morning…
… while the soldiers were busy, when we got there, building snow bivouacs after having spent the night before, in negative 20 degrees Celsius, outside.
In an emergency bivouac, meaning with just the clothing they had with them and a bivy bag.
For that, they were pretty fit and even in a great mood. I wasn’t sure I would have trusted my sleeping bag and bivy for sleeping outside in that cold (although, I have done that in freezing conditions before, actually)…
Day 2, I watched them practice mobility with snow shoes and sharp shooting in the truly wintry conditions in that area.
And we did the (second) interview you can hear in the video…
The way winter was approached here, with respect but also determination (and training), it felt pretty clear that we don’t need to let extremes like winter keep us from going outside – provided we prepare well, in knowledge and with gear.
Especially as we as ordinary citizens and extreme sports people – or just people who enjoy the outdoors – have an easier time avoiding certain dangers, we really should prepare appropriately for facing and enjoying them.
After all, we don’t have to climb mountain peaks in order to conquer and defend them.