I have been snowshoeing for several years and just like the growth trend in all endurance activities (running, biking, triathlons,) snowshoeing is booming. It continues to receive a lot of press by all the various magazine and Internet sources. There are significant benefits to enhance overall body fitness and strength to complement your cycling and running.
Considerations for selecting a running snowshoe
1. Look for a lightweight snowshoe that offers stability (check the racer models)
2. Consider a snowshoe comparable for all conditions (heavy powder – breaking trail and hard pack/ice trails)
3. If possible test a few of the different models at a resort that offers snowshoes – also many of the snowshoe races allow model testing
4. Here are a few companies to check out their racing snowshoes (there are plenty of others):
a. Havlick Snowshoe Company (personally I love their snowshoes) www.havlicksnowshoe.com
b. Dion Snowshoes (I use their racing snowshoe for hardpack races) www.dionsnowshoes.com
c. Redfeather – www.redfeather.com
d. Atlas – www.atlassnowshoe.com
e. Crescent Moon Snowshoes – www.crescentmoonsnowshoes.com
f. Northern Lites – www.nothernlites.com
g. Tubbs Snowshoes – www.tubbssnowshoes.com
h. TSL Outdoors – www.tsloutdoor.com
I find that snowshoeing in heavy powder complements cycling and running as it uses the quads and lower abdominals to drive the legs through the snow. If the conditions are hard packed powder or ice/granular your running pace will increase because of the lack of resistance compared to heavy powder. Depending on conditions snowshoes may provide better overall traction without the slippage that sometimes occurs with the various types of running cleat systems (Yaktrax, Stableicers, or screws attached to the bottom of running shoes). An idea for a tougher workout is to add the use of poles for an overall upper/lower body workout. If you are using a heart rate monitor the increase in overall average heart rate can be dramatic especially with the addition of poles. Personally, my heart rate average for a longer (2 hours or more) snowshoe will be about 25% higher than without poles. The legs will feel heavy the first few times out in the powder but like all the other sports, gradually you will get the heart rate under control especially when running hills. You may want to consider using poles to replicate your hard running (interval) workout and for a more aerobic heart rate zone eliminate the poles. Snowshoe in the evening with a headlamp on trails is just priceless!
A good tip is to shorten the running stride similar to trail running. When running downhill’s focus landing with a midfoot strike (which will come more naturally than normal running) and it will allow the cleats to dig into the snow and will enable you to fly on the downhill’s. Downhill snowshoe running is a blast and provides a good complement to the “time gaining” advantage of downhill trail running. As many of us know with trail running races, it’s so important to learn how to run the downhill’s hard later into a race when the quads are crushed. It’s a great way to gain time against other competitors. Also, snowshoeing provides a great complement without the same impact of running hard dirt trails because of the benefits of the fluffy snow.
Looking for a challenge, try a snowshoe race and here are a few websites to check out for races and calendars:
1. www.peak.com (great tough snowshoe marathon!)
2. www.runwmac.com (snowshoe race series)
3. www.snowshoeracing.com (calendar)
6. www.snowshoemag.com (calendar)