Snowshoe running is a perfect form of winter cross training for athletes in colder climates. Here's what you need to know to get started.
Whether you are still in the "offseason" mode or in full-time training mode, athletes in colder climates should welcome the winter weather and change things up a bit.
Get off the treadmill, remove yourself from the icy roads and trails, and strap on some snowshoes.
More: 4 Tips for an Effective Offseason
Benefits of Snowshoe Running
Snowshoe running provides a solid workout and helps strengthen the hamstrings, hip flexors, calves and other stabilizer muscles you never knew you had.
Since the snowy surface is fairly soft your body will take less of a beating, compared to running on pavement. It's an excellent form of cross-training and will greatly help build your aerobic engine.
More: Winter Marathoning Tips
Plus, snowshoe running is inexpensive and requires little experience. If you can walk or run you can snowshoe. It may feel a little weird at first, but with a little practice you'll soon be off running. And unlike a pair of running shoes, snowshoes will last for a few years.
Running with snowshoes can help correct inefficient running form and force you to run straight forward with your toes pointing ahead. If you don't run this way with snowshoes on, you will end up stepping on your shoes and clink and clank as your run.
Waterproofing Your Feet
Begin by running on packed or groomed trails. Cross country centers, golf courses and snowmobile trails are great places to unleash yourself.
Also, when you go snowshoe running you should wear running sneakers and not boots on your feet. Water proof running shoes and gaiters to help keep your feet dry. Tip: skip both of the suggestions above and use cycling shoe covers; neoprene works best.
Ease Into Training
It's best to track time and not distance, especially when you first get started. Don't get frustrated if you run for an hour and only find that you have covered three or four miles.
More: Train Smart This Winter: Base Training Basics
In order to keep things in perspective and prove to yourself you are getting in a serious workout, it's a good idea to use a heart rate monitor. You can expect your pace per mile to increase by three to five minutes compared to running on the road.
Because snowshoe running can be very challenging, it's smart to limit the time running in your shoes to 20 minutes.
You can slowly start to add time on to your runs once you start to build up your muscle and endurance required to run through the snow.
Finally, before you run off to buy some fancy new shoes make sure you buy run specific snowshoes. These are generally shorter, smaller, and lighter than your normal trekking shoe.
The "Atlas Run Snowshoe" is a good choice and can be bought on Amazon.com or at a place like Eastern Mountain Sports or REI.
You'll also want to use a pair of poles (similar to ski poles) that will help with balance, form, and making it up more challenging terrain. These can be purchased at the same place you buy your snowshoes.
For all those competitors among us or for those who want to try a new kind of race, there are snowshoe races. This is a great way to test your early season fitness and try something new.
More: How to Pick Offseason Races
Search for your next triathlon.