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Snowshoeing for winter exercise

If winter weather has you begrudgingly working out indoors, opt for getting your heart rate up and muscles pumped while breathing invigorating cool air and trekking along a beautiful snowy trail.

Snowshoeing Woman

Put your gym hours on ellipticals or gliders to real world use

Snowshoeing is the ultimate in winter workouts. If you walk or run, you will love the ability to maneuver across snow and ice (without the typically treacherous risk of slipping) that snowshoeing provides. And if you are fond of the elliptical or other cardio glider machines, snowshoeing gives you the chance to put your gym hours of exercise into real world use.
“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.

Getting the gear

Interested in getting ‘shoed but not sure you want to get your own? Peacock recommends trying before buying. He says, “Many resorts and recreation organizations offer snowshoe rentals and tours, giving you the chance to try the sport out before investing in a pair.” When you are ready to buy your own, visit your local sporting goods store or winter sports specialty store and ask about the snowshoes that will best suit your needs.

Snowshoes are divided into three types:

  • Aerobic/running – small and light, not intended for backcountry use
  • Recreational – a bit larger, use for gentle to moderate walks of up to five miles
  • Mountaineering – the largest, use for serious hill-climbing, long-distance trips and off-trail use

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.

Before heading out, do your research

Even before you put on your gear, pick up a trail or recreation map that provides local snowshoeing locations. Ski resorts, local and state parks, and national forests are all good choices to explore.
Also, 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.

For more information

How to choose snowshoeing boots
The basics of snowshoeing
First-timers guide to snowshoeing
And be sure to visit the Diet and Fitness Channel for more workouts and exercise and diet tips.

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