If you live in Florida or Southern California and feel like going for a run, you can do it any time of year. But winter in most of the rest of America means snow, even sometimes in Texas. In states like New York, Colorado, Utah and many others, running in winter is a near impossibility; there’s just too much of the white stuff. It gets down inside your running shoes and it’s too slippery to allow much traction.
But there’s a great way to run in winter, regardless of how deep the snow may be. Put on a pair of snowshoes, and run over the snow for a heart-pumping activity that will burn more calories than an ordinary run on concrete or asphalt.
Another good fact: you can wear regular athletic shoes, since the wide snowshoe platform holds you above the snow. You won’t have the discomfort of lumps of wet snow melting against your socks.
There are several reasons winter running burns more calories than warm weather running. The first is the nature of snowshoes — their webbing makes them springy, so you automatically step higher. That uses more energy, thus burning more calories. At the same time, your body is making heat to keep you warm, and that also requires calories for fuel. But the big plus of using snowshoes is that they make running fun again. Instead of the impact of your foot striking a hard surface, you’ll get a slight trampoline effect — a mini-bounce at each step. Most snowshoes have a crampon on the bottom that digs into snow or ice, so you can even run up an icy hill without the danger of slipping or sliding backward.
Going onto the more wild trails you run in summer is a wonderful way to spend a few hours; especially if the snow is pristine and untracked. Public parks with wooded areas become a whole new world when covered with a white fluffy layer of snow. If you plan on going into actual wilderness areas, you’ll need more caution. Check to see if there’s any possibility of snow slides or avalanches where you plan on going. Let a trusty friend know of your plans, and tell them when you expect to be back. You may see wildlife on your run; but never approach any animal. Even a fluffy bunny can bite, if it’s scared enough. Don’t go out just after a blizzard, wait a day for the snow to settle so you don’t risk getting buried in a pile of loose snow.
It’s a nice experience to try a familiar trail when it’s less crowded and more peaceful covered with snow. My personal favorite terrain for snowshoeing is a well-covered downhill slope. You can bound down it in great leaps; and it feels almost like a roller coaster. But beware: snowshoes are so much fun, you can push yourself harder than you realize.
I once ended up too exhausted to go any further, several miles away from my car. Since then, I do intervals on snowshoes; running until I start breathing hard, then slowing to a walk until my heart stops racing.
Snowshoes are inexpensive to rent from outdoor shops; the rental charge is far less than the cost of renting skis. They are easily adjustable, so they’ll fit any size foot. A good pair can be purchased for less than a hundred dollars, and since they don’t wear out, a used pair can often be found for bargain prices. You’ll use them for many years, and enjoy every calorie-burning outing.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly, adventuresportsweekly.com.