Last Saturday, about 50 runners gathered on a crisp morning for a snowshoe race at Frontenac Provincial Park not far from Kingston, Ontario. Derrick Spafford, the owner of Spafford Health and Adventure put on the event. It's one of several he organizes in eastern Ontario.
Spafford says more and more runners are strapping on snowshoes as part of their running training in the winter. Spafford is an experienced ultra-runner who is sponsored by La Sportiva. He's also an avid believer in the benefits of snowshoeing.
"A winter of snowshoe running is a great way of building strength, and it's almost like doing a whole hill phase," Spafford says. "So you're developing that much more strength, that you're going to be able to carry over in your spring and summer season."
John McAlister agrees. He's a Salomon sponsored athlete and he came out to the Frontenac race. McAlister won the 6k event. "It definitely strengthens your legs," says McAlister. He adds: "it's also low impact, so even though you're getting a really strong workout, and your heart rate is getting up, you're not really pounding your body in the same way that doing a long run, or a hilly run would be on roads."
Other runners at the event say snowshoeing also provides a good mental boost. They say being outside with other runners and in nature breaks through the isolation that can accompany winter. John Warner, a fit and dedicated runner from Cornwall, Ont. says it's nice to get a break from the ultra-competitive running scene and have a little more fun. But Warner says the benefits of snowshoeing for running training are unmistakeable. "It's very much the same," says Warner. "The only thing is when you finish your recovery is five minutes instead of two days ... so it's like you feel great right after."
To get you going with what you need to know to get out snowshoes, we've put together this short video with tips from Derrick Spafford and other runners. If you've used snowshoeing as part of your winter training, let us know what you like about it and tips you may have for other runners by posting a note on our Facebook page.