Off-Season Solution - Page 2
Get the Right Gear
Your only big expense will be a good pair of snowshoes, which range from $200 to $400 (we'll review several top models in the February 2009 issue of Trail Runner). While all snowshoes spread your bodyweight over a larger surface area, allowing you to "float" over the snow, running-specific snowshoes are narrower and smaller, have tapered tails that don't knock your ankles and are made of lightweight but durable aluminum and/or titanium.
A front crampon under your toe and parallel teeth under the decking below the heel provide traction, but the most important feature is an adjustable binding that cinches snugly around your running shoe. (Women with small feet may have trouble finding bindings that fit tightly enough.)
In wet snow, wear wool socks and gaiters to keep your feet dry and warm, and opt for trail-running shoes with a GORE-TEX, eVent or similar waterproof-breathable membrane. Nylon pants prevent kicked-up snow from sticking to your backside. Layer on sweat-wicking clothing, but don't overdress, as you'll quickly warm up.
No Lessons Required
If you can run, you can run in snowshoes—with a few adjustments. The primary difference is taking higher steps. "People try too hard when they should use a natural stride," says Ballengee. "Use the hip flexors to lift the foot rather than pushing off with the lower leg."
Your pace on snow will be slower than it is on trails because of the snowshoes' added weight (typically 15 ounces per shoe) and the snow's resistance. Realize too, that, the deeper the snow, the tougher the workout (see sidebar).
While learning, stick to packed trails. Many Nordic centers have groomed trails specifically for snowshoeing. Focus on balance by using the core muscles to stabilize your weight, especially when you move onto deep, ungroomed snow, where you must pull your foot straight up out of each sinkhole to avoid tripping.
To ascend hills, shift your weight forward onto your toes to engage the front crampon. On steep slopes, kick your toe into the snow to create steps. When descending packed snow, keep your weight centered over the shoe, but in deep snow, relax and lean back, letting the snowshoe slide over the snow like a ski.