It’s easy to stay fit in sunshine and good weather, but many men hibernate when faced with the wind, rain and snow of winter. They use bad weather and cold as excuses to cut back on exercise, which results in weight gain and decreased fitness. The resourceful man sees the snows of winter as an opportunity to promote fitness through exciting and enjoyable activities such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Until recently, only super-fit, hearty, experienced guys ventured out in the winter on snowshoes or cross-country skis. Equipment was large, cumbersome and difficult to use. Cross-country skiers needed a keen knowledge of how to match wax with specific snow conditions. Choose the wrong one and it was impossible to climb hills or glide down slopes easily.
Snowshoes weren’t much different. They consisted of 3- to 4-foot long wooden frames crisscrossed with rawhide that allowed travel in deep snow. Walking on them required extreme skill and fitness. The only people who used them were Inuits living in the arctic or forestry workers who needed to travel by foot in the snow. Almost nobody used them for exercise.
These sports went high-tech in the early 1990s, which made them a viable form of exercise for millions of people. Short, user-friendly snowshoes with step-in bindings made the sport accessible to almost anyone. Most people could have fun and get a terrific workout after only 10 minutes of practice. Snowshoeing was a way for runners and cyclists to gain aerobic fitness and leg power during the snowy winter months.
Cross-country skiing requires more skill than snowshoeing, but it has also benefited from technological innovation. New ski shapes make the sport accessible to more people and high-tech bases take the guesswork out of waxing. The physical load placed on upper and lower body muscles makes cross-country skiing the best aerobic exercise there is.
The Outdoor Holiday Fat-Burning Workout describes exercises you can do outside during the winter. While the program emphasizes snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for guys with access to snow, it also includes biking and hiking for people who live in warmer climates and don’t have access to snow. Don’t hibernate this winter; instead, venture out into the great outdoors, lose some fat and get fit.
You can snowshoe anywhere there’s snow. The sport is so user-friendly that even a novice can have a fun and challenging time the first day. In short, if you can walk, you can snowshoe.
Guys who live in snowy climates can do the sport in local parks and trails or on frozen lakes. Snowshoeing is particularly popular in state and national parks that have snow. Most ski resorts rent equipment and have special areas for snowshoers. Resorts catering to snowshoeing have sprung up across the United States and include scores of trails to challenge even the fittest endurance athlete. Snowshoe races attract some of the best endurance athletes in the world.
You don’t need much equipment to enjoy snowshoeing. All you need is a pair of snowshoes, hiking boots or waterproof running shoes, and clothes appropriate for the weather. A set of poles is a good idea when starting out, but might hinder serious runners who want to do high-quality workouts. Good snowshoes are fairly expensive, so you should rent first to see if you like the sport. After you get hooked, plan on spending about $150 to $300 for good-quality equipment.
Proper planning can help maximize enjoyment of the sport:
• Choose snowshoes appropriate for your skill level and fitness goals. Dedicated runners and cyclists who want to improve winter fitness should use smaller snowshoes, designed for running fast on packed trails. Recreational snowshoes are slightly larger and allow you to walk comfortably in deeper snow. For hardcore backcountry trekking, choose a specialized shoe with extra-traversing claws and larger surface area. Popular brands of showshoes include Crescent Moon, Atlas, MSR and Tubbs.
• Poles will help you go up and down hills and give beginners added support. Ski poles will do. Use poles that place your elbows at a 90° angle and your forearms parallel with the ground when planted in the snow.
• Dress in layers, with clothing appropriate for the weather. Wear an inner layer that keeps you warm, but wicks sweat from the skin. Wear padded socks and comfortable, waterproof hiking boots or running shoes that won’t give you blisters. Take along a backpack to store your clothes that you take on or off depending on the weather and exercise intensity.
• Wear sunglasses and sunscreen, particularly at high altitude. Ultraviolet rays from the sun bounce off the snow and can cause sunburn and eye damage.
• Stay hydrated. Low humidity and vigorous exercise can cause dehydration. Carry fluids on day trips and rehydrate adequately after going for a quick run in the park. It’s easy to forget about adequate fluid intake when it’s cold and snowy.
• Structure snowshoeing workouts like any other kind of exercise. Start off slowly and increase the volume and intensity of exercise gradually. Novices should begin by walking a mile or less during the first session and increasing the distance slightly each session.
• Don’t overtrain. Snowshoeing requires a wider-than-normal stance that places increased stress on the hips. Also, trudging through the snow requires leg power and can be physically exhausting. Serious runners or cyclists should look at snowshoeing the same way they do interval training. Excessive mileage can cause overuse injuries and increase susceptibility to colds and flu.