For cross-country and road runners who have discovered snowshoe running, winter is a time to rejoice. Every well-known trail, loop, and course becomes new again with the ever-changing challenge of a blanket of snow to lay tracks on. Although speed is considerably sacrificed, the exhilaration that comes with the heightened focus required for each snowy stride gives new meaning to a “runner’s high”.
Snowshoeing for Winter Cross-Training
There are many benefits to switching it up a bit and strapping on snowshoes in the off-season.
With the added exertion of negotiating foot placement in the uneven surface and wading through varying snow depths, even the most physically fit runner will feel the burn quickly. The miles may pass slower but an elevated heart rate comes at you much faster compared to running on solid ground.
Because of the need for a higher leg lift, snowshoers engage more stabilizing and core muscles and build better overall leg strength. Running on snow is also a great way to prevent overuse issues or impact stress on joints and to recover from leg injuries. For snowboarders and skiers, it is a perfect strength-building activity to elevate fitness.
Getting Started with Snowshoe Running
The best advice is to take it slow at first. Forget about checking the time of your first mile. Day to day conditions are going to greatly affect speed, so just focus on the total amount of time spent running. If you are used to running 30 to 40 minutes, you might find that 20 minutes on the snow the first few times, to be more than enough.
Start somewhere like an athletic field or flat golf course. Find your groove on some hardpack trails that don’t require an exaggerated knee lift. Once you are comfortable with that, begin hopping off the beaten path and into the lung-busting deeper snow. Loopback onto the hardpack to bring your heart rate back down. Before long you will be breaking trail across fairways fresh with powder like a carefree Chocolate Lab chasing a stick.
The Snowshoe Race Scene
Perhaps you have no intention of taking an off-season for racing. Well, you are in luck. The United States Snowshoe Association is the governing body for snowshoe racing in the U.S. and promotes regional races as qualifiers for the National Championship each year. Local races can also be found at many snow resorts and Dion Snowshoes posts a race calendar for the Northeast region of the U.S.
However you get into snowshoe running, taking advantage of the change of seasons will and running on snow will certainly benefit your fitness and reinvigorate your love of running.