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Outdoor winter training: Snowshoe running

Snowshoeing really fits the bill - it allows you the opportunity to get outdoors and away from the dreaded treadmill

Hundreds of years ago, fur traders used snowshoes to navigate across the frozen tundra. Fast forward to the 2000s, and we find thousands of people in snow-bound countries strapping on snowshoes as a way to get outside and get some exercise in winter.

Snowshoeing really fits the bill – it allows you the opportunity to get outdoors and away from the dreaded treadmill.

Running on snowshoes is slower and requires considerably more effort than a regular run. A 40-minute run on snowshoes over snow-covered trails feels like a hard hour run. You work a lot harder and you are going quite a bit slower. When running in snowshoes you have to pick up your feet more and run with a wider stride to avoid tripping. You may find that you use your arms a lot more, making for a much more all-around workout.

Getting into snowshoe running involves an investment of about $250 to $300 for a pair of high-tech racing snowshoes and a good pair of trail shoes – preferably with high tops to avoid snow getting down by your ankles. The racing snowshoe is smaller than the walking version, and the binding has been engineered to facilitate running. Wearing clothing made of breathable fabric is advisable because you will sweat a lot from the effort. The equipment can be purchased at most sports stores that carry winter sports gear.

In terms of technique, snowshoeing is pretty simple to learn. Start with walking, then a slow jog, getting the feel of navigating the trail wearing snowshoes. Once you start getting more comfortable, pick up the speed until you are running at a pace you are comfortable with.

Finding a place to snowshoe is not that difficult. Most of the Nordic and downhill ski centres across the county have built snowshoe trails on their property and maintain them. In addition, most of the municipal, provincial and national parks have made provisions for snowshoe trails.

Ariane Carrier leads the early stages of the snowshoe race.

Snowshoe Canada hosts races throughout Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, from January to March.

Snowshoe Canada sanction the Ontario Cup series, which begins on Saturday, Jan. 26th, in Haliburton. They also sanction the Gatineau Loppet Snowshoe Race (Feb. 17th) and the Quebec Provincial Championships (Feb. 9th). The Canadian Snowshoe Championships and Ontario Cup Grand Final (Feb. 17th) will be hosted at Craigleith Ski Club, a two-hour drive from Toronto.