Christmas shopping for a runner
If you still aren’t sure of what to get your favorite runner for Christmas, consider a pair of new snowshoes. Snowshoeing is the best way for people of all ages, shapes, sizes and levels of fitness to get outside, enjoy winter, and observe nature up close.
Snowshoes today are light, durable and easy to use. Unlike the ash and rawhide of Jack London’s time, they are now made from aircraft-grade aluminum, with Hypalon decking and neoprene bindings. Modern snowshoes are also narrower and offer more flotation than their predecessors. Waddling is now a thing of the past. New ‘shoes also come equipped with aggressive metal cleats on the bottom, perfect for giving you a safe and secure foothold in almost any snow condition. In fact, ‘shoeing is one of the safest winter sports thanks to the traction, stability and control provided by today’s snowshoes.
One of the advantages of ‘shoeing is that you can do it almost anywhere there is snow. Most of us can just open our back door and head off into the woods and meadows. If the mountains beckon, there are Sno-Parks at Taylor Creek, Echo Lakes, Echo Summit and Luther Pass. Use of the Sno-Parks requires a permit, which costs $3 per day or $20 per season. One of my favorite jaunts is the Echo Lakes area. Once the lakes are frozen solid, it becomes a winter wonderland for snowshoeing. The lake surface is great for running and the slopes surrounding the lake are perfect for practicing ascending and descending technique. If the wind is blowing, you can always stay on the lee, or upwind, shore to avoid the chill or move into the trees at the far end of the lake.
Cold temperatures rarely concern the ‘shoer because ‘shoeing is one of the easiest ways to stay warm. ‘Shoeing uses almost every major muscle group in your body, which generates a tremendous amount of heat and perspiration. For this reason it is important to dress in several light layers so that you can easily adjust your body temperature by adding or deleting a layer when necessary. Polypro tops, tights, hats and gloves work best because they wick perspiration away from your body, allowing it to evaporate. Running in snowshoes can kick up a lot of loose snow on the backs of your legs and rear, so the ideal pant to wear is one with a waterproof back and breathable front. Unfortunately, no one makes a pant like this so I usually opt for a pair of water-resistant windpants. Add a windshell and your outfit is almost complete. I prefer to wear running shoes while ‘shoeing because they allow my feet to flex. This helps keep my blood circulating, which ultimately keeps my feet and toes toasty. Running shoes are also a lot lighter than boots and easier to walk in. If you are concerned about wet feet, an easy solution is to use CoolMax socks for wicking and then slip a plastic bag over your socks before putting your shoes on. Always avoid cotton socks in the winter as they tend to soak up moisture and keep your feet wet. If the snow is really deep, I add a pair of neoprene booties and knee-high gaiters.
Unlike skiing, ‘shoeing doesn’t involve gliding or coasting, so you burn a lot of calories whenever you are on the move. This also makes ‘shoeing one of the best sports for building strength, endurance and aerobic capacity. For those not satisfied with snowshoe hiking, there is also competitive snowshoe racing.
If you haven’t tried snowshoeing, make plans to rent a pair of ‘shoes this winter and try it out. Pack a picnic lunch, a thermos of hot coffee or cocoa and take a stroll along Pope or Baldwin beaches or through the woods around Fallen Leaf Lake.
If you have questions about training, nutrition, shoes or anything else to do with running or fitness, call me at (530) 577-5073 or write to me care of this paper. For those runners on-line, my e-mail address is Wtough@oakweb.com
Run long and keep smiling!
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