"Snowshoeing is a great way to crosstrain and get out of the gym," says competitive snowshoer Dewey Peacock, ACE and ACSM certified personal trainer at The Ridge Athletic Club in Bozeman, Montana. "It not only provides super cardiovascular benefits without the impact of running, it can also help improve strength and performance in other activities."
An hour of snowshoeing can burn 400 to 1000 calories depending on your pace, the terrain and the gear you are carrying. Once you experience a snowshoe workout, you may find yourself pining for the winter months when you can trek up a trail.
Regardless of planned use, heavier users should plan on renting or buying larger snowshoes. A common formula for adequate support is for every pound of body weight, there should be one square inch of snowshoe surface. In addition, if you plan on wearing extra gear or backpacks or if the snow is deep and powdery, choose larger shoes.
Poles: Trekking poles are not necessary but can be useful in helping you keep your balance, especially if you are covering rough terrain or hiking up and down hilly trails. Trekking poles have a removable basket at the bottom, similar to ski poles. Some poles are adjustable, allowing you to find the right fit for your height and varying degrees of snow pack. In the summer months, poles can be used for walking or hiking.
Boots: Waterproof hiking boots are ideal for snowshoeing. The exception is if you plan on "running" – lighterweight running or walking shoes may be preferable. Ski boots are not usually an option because they will not fit properly in the bindings of the snowshoes.
Clothing: Peacock warns, "Your backside is likely to get wet from your shoes throwing snow up onto your calves and, possibly, thighs -- a pair of waterproof pants or gaiters can keep your legs dry." He also recommends wearing layers of breathable clothing in accordance with the weather conditions. "You will work up a sweat from the exercise, and layering gives you the ability to control your body temperature," he adds. If it is snowing or raining, cover up with a waterproof shell.
Also, www.Trails.com has downloadable detailed trailmaps (registration fee required).
Just make sure you know where you are going and you are aware of the weather conditions. The last thing you want is to get lost in the snow or have a heavy storm move in while you are miles from a trailhead.
There is no need to hibernate indoors during the cold weather months. Snowshoeing gives you the ideal opportunity to get your winter exercise and enjoy the great outdoors.
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