With cold temperatures and slick conditions, winter running in the Snow Belt can make maintaining year-round physical fitness a challenge. The trick to keeping runs exciting, instead of a chore to endure, comes in mixing up workouts.
One heart-pumping option is snowshoe running. The motion is basically the same as running on dry pavement or trail, but the added weight of the equipment and dynamic nature of uneven terrain means runners can burn up to 45 percent more calories per hour — great for fighting winter weight gain. And it’s easier on your joints. Spring hinges, deck float and the softness of snow compared to frozen pavement, make snowshoe running a lower impact option for putting in the miles.
According to a study conducted by the University of Vermont, snowshoeing can actually improve running fitness more than running alone. For the study one group spent the six-week test period running, while the other test group ran in snowshoes. The snowshoe group improved their VO2 max by 13 percent, compared to 7 percent for the runners.
If you’ve never strapped on a pair of snowshoes, you can try it at Winter Trails Day 2014 on Jan. 11. Events take place at trails and resorts across the country and include free rentals and trail access.
For those who think running is more fun with a racing incentive, sign up for one of these white-hot races to stay motivated throughout the season.
Beaver Creek Mountain Running Series Snowshoe Edition
Jan. 5, Feb. 2, March 2 — Beaver Creek, Colo.
With a kids’ run, 5K and 10K, plus free demos, this series keeps the fun rolling up, down and all around the resort. Each race has its own awards ceremony and raffle, and lunch is included with registration.
Bigfoot 5K & 10K Snowshoe Race
Jan. 18 — Traverse City, Mich.
Races take place at the Timber Ridge Resort, a few miles out of town, and take participants through plenty of local timber, up and down hills and over enough natural obstacles to make the trek exciting.
White River Snowshoe 4K & 8K
Jan. 19 — Mount Hood, Ore.
East of Portland, on the flanks of Mt. Hood, racers take to the trails on a narrow loop into White River Canyon, one lap for the 4K racers, two for the 8K contenders.
Big Foot Snowshoe Festival
Jan. 25 — Midway, Utah
With a 5K, 10K, 25K, marathon and 50K, there’s a distance for every runner! All racers start on a mellow golf course loop at Wasatch Mountain State Park before heading up into the hills. 10 to 50K racers complete multiple laps on a 10K golf course loop and 5K mountain loop.
Phillips Flurry Snowshoe Race
Jan. 25 — Phillips, Wis.
Get ready to run fast — the 10K event is the 2014 Wisconsin State Championship race, but everyone is welcome to toe the line. There is also a 5K course, with both races run on the groomed trails and packed single track through Phillips School Forest. Post-race, stay for the “chili feed,” before heading in town for the Phillips Winter Fest.
Twin Cities Snowshoe Shuffle
Feb. 1 — New Brighton, Minn.
An undulating and predominately single track course through woods, along Rush lake and up switchbacks, with 1,000+ feet of elevation gain and loss in the 10K, has participants flocking to this event, making it the largest snowshoe race in Minnesota. In addition to the 10K, there is a 5K route, 5K dog walk event and a fun course for kids. Come prepared with snowshoes and running shoes because events happen snow or no snow.
Northern Vermont Snowshoe Races and Family Snowshoe Festival
Feb. 9 — Jeffersonville, Vt.
Bring the family for a day of snowshoeing fun on the trails on the Smugglers Notch Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Adventure Center. There’s and 8K race on a hilly, loop route, plus a 3.5K fun run/walk and a 1/2K kids fun run, both on more beginner friendly terrain.
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Mount Shasta Snowshoe Races
Feb. 23 — Mount Shasta, Calif.
Head uphill on a winding route of groomed Nordic trails and off-piste powder through the forest, before topping out at about 1.5 miles out. Remember to enjoy the view before bombing back downhill. At the bottom, it’s time for 5K runners to sprint to the finish, as the 10K racers head out for one more loop of heart-pumping adventure.
14th Annual U.S. National Snowshoe Championship
March 1 — Prospect Mountain Ski Center, Woodford, Vt.
After watching some of the top racers in the country battle it out in the junior’s, men’s and women’s championship races, participants can run on parts of the very same courses in the 5K citizen’s race.
Rangeley Moose Dash
March 16 — Rangeley, Maine
Pick your distance (1K, 5K and 10K), and get ready to mix it up on the varied terrain. From flat to rolling hills, to lung-pumping ascents and quad burning descents, singletrack, to groomed ski trails to untracked snow, the courses at the Rangeley Lakes Trails Center will test your meddle.