It’s March! The days are warming up and we’ve just turned the clocks forward so what to do with this extra daylight and Vitamin D? I know I’m looking forward to our annual trek to the mountains for some pre-Spring skiing and snowshoeing. What I love in particular about snowshoeing is that it’s a healthy, inexpensive workout. You can rent the equipment and all you need is a large flat or hilly area. Public golf courses, school grounds, parks often offer free areas. Or, you can go for the really scenic views and head to your closest mountains, like we do here in Colorado.
This week, it’s my pleasure to introduce Beccy Dreyling, a friend and neighbor, as my guest blogger. Beccy is the most active woman I know and finds ways to enjoy absolutely every season. She seemed like the best person to tell you about the many benefits of enjoying this winter activity. While she is a passionate competitor, she also values the time enjoying an activity for its health benefits and being out in nature.
Hi there! I am a health nut. I am a skiing, snowshoeing, Pilates and cycling fanatic and love great food! I have lived in Colorado for 18 years and was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. I work as a project manager in the software industry and dream of winning the lottery and opening a boutique designer shoe shop in Sienna, Italy.
Snowshoeing – My Favorite Winter Sport!
I have loved snowshoeing since I moved to Colorado in the late 1990s. The benefits – body, mind, and soul – cannot be beat!
What I did not know is that according to Dr. Ray Browning of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado’s Health Science Center and Vail Mountain Man champion “Snowshoeing is the best bang-for-your-buck, fat-burning workout in winter.”
According to an independent study conducted by the University of Vermont, snowshoers can burn 420-1000 calories per hour. And, according to Dr. Declan Connolly of the University of Vermont’s exercise physiology department, “Snowshoeing is an effective, low impact, and safe form of exercise to change body composition. It burns up to twice the number of calories as walking at the same speed.”
According to Connolly, snowshoers can vary the intensity of their workout, noting that they can burn fewer calories by taking an easy walk on flat packed terrain, or get a more intense workout, more than 1,000 calories burned per hour, if they snowshoe in powder on hilly terrain at a pace of three miles per hour.
“Snowshoeing utilizes major muscle groups which, when combined with a higher metabolic rate in cold weather and the added resistance of moving through snow, results in a higher energy activity,” Connolly added.
The table below shows the energy expenditure for different activities. Notice that snowshoeing a hilly trail can expend more calories than cycling through rolling hills! Now that is just what I am looking for to keep me in shape especially during the winter we are having this year!
If you want to try snowshoeing for the first time, here are the benefits:
- It’s a great workout
- You discover new terrain
- It’s inexpensive to rent equipment. Most rentals are under $20 per day.
- It’s a family, friend or group activity
- You have an opportunity to be outdoors and get lots of Vitamin D
- It’s a safe activity for those of all ages
If you want to try this fun winter sport, there are wonderful beginner snowshoes to be found at REI, or other retail stores focusing on the great outdoors. Two brands to start with are Tubbs and Atlas. Look for the sales to start as winter ends and spring begins.
Or, try something new… run a snowshoe race!
I’ve been an avid snowshoe-aholic for nearly 20 years, but only “discovered” snowshoe racing four years ago. I say discovered, but really, I was kind of talked into it by my friend Val. She happens to be a runner… and by runner, I mean marathon runner, half marathoner, 10k-er, etc. You know, one of those super competitive racers we all know and love. When she invited me along on this snowshoe adventure, my first thought was “but I’m not a runner! I can’t do a race!”
After about 10 seconds of consideration, I decided that the competition aspect didn’t really resonate for me, but the amazing workout I would get was all the motivation I needed. Believe me, it was quite the workout on one of the most beautiful snow-covered trails I had ever experienced. I was hooked! For those of you keeping track, I did the 10k and came in dead last! I did have the option of doing the 5k, but why not do the 10k?
Here are some more benefits from snowshoe racing!
- It’s a great workout – When you race, even if you are not the competitive type, you push your body more than you would because of the group environment. The additional cardiovascular workout does great things for your heart, lungs and legs.
- You discover new terrain – You let someone else plot the route for you. Snowshoe racecourses are well thought-out and meticulously planned by the race organizers. Most courses have a exhilarating mix of uphill and downhill, single track and open trail, deep and hard packed snow. I tend to select races at ski resorts and Nordic centers that I don’t typically frequent. And even if I do know the area, the courses always surprise me.
- Snowshoe racing is safe – Races always have support staff looking out for you. If you fall or break equipment, there is either a fellow competitor or volunteer who will ensure you will get back safely.
- Goodie bags! – Races almost always have a goodie bag for the competitors and if you actually finish in the top three in your age bracket you get a medal or plate or your name in lights! You also get lunch, which makes the low-cost entry fee well worth it! (Most races range from about $20 – $30.)
Can you run in snowshoes?
Yes you can! In fact there are several snowshoe brands that manufacture equipment just for running and racing! My personal favorite is the Atlas Run Snowshoe and they also make a super lightweight Race version, but that model is pretty expensive and really designed for serious racers.
For more information on running snowshoes, refer to Snowshoe Magazine’s top picks. http://www.snowshoemag.com/snowshoe-type/running-snowshoes/
What about the rest of the gear?
For footwear, I like to wear a lightweight waterproof hiking shoe or a trail running shoe. I also know people who wear waterproof cycling booties over the top of their shoes. Just make sure you wear something that will keep your feet dry, but not be as heavy / bulky as a backpacking or mountaineering boot that you would wear on a normal day out in the snow. Knee-high or ankle-high gators are a must. They keep your ankles and feet protected from the snow you that likely kicks up while you’re running. For clothing, think wind-proof and breathable and don’t forget a lightweight hat and gloves. You don’t need “snowshoe-specific clothing.” The same wind shell and tights you run or ride your bike in will work just fine.If you do not want to run or race-walk, it is perfectly fine to use full-size snowshoes and even poles. I see that all the time at the races I run in Colorado.
Why we love it!
You know why I love it, and here are a couple quotes from my friend Val who dragged me along, I mean, “encouraged me,” that first time:
“I love snowshoe racing because I feel like I’m flying downhill without fear of falling on rocks, stumps or pavement. They are all like giant marshmallows.”
“I also like when my heart beats so hard. Then I really feel alive!”
My favorite snowshoe races in Colorado:
Beaver Creek Snowshoe Series – http://www.beavercreek.com/events-and-activities/
Pedal Power Race Series – http://www.pedalpowerbike.com/pedal%20power%20events.html
For snowshoe races across the United States, check out Snowshoe Magazine Calendar – http://www.snowshoemag.com/calendar/
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