Don’t just walk, run in your snowshoes

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Transitioning from walking in snowshoes to running in them can give you a new form of cross-training. Photo: Courtesy of Atlas Snow-Shoe Co.

You've probably walked in snowshoes, but have you ever considered the fun and fitness possibilities of running in them? Today, athletes like Adam Chase, a lawyer and endurance athlete from Boulder, Colorado, actually race in suped-up versions of traditional snowshoes.

For runners, bikers and any athlete looking for a winter sport that can quickly up their lung capacity and lactic acid threshold in a way that another kind of “run” involving a chairlift never could, then running in snowshoes is for you.

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The Atlas Snow-Shoe Co. team heads off for a speedy session on snow. Photo: Courtesy of Adam Chase

However, transitioning from walking in snowshoes to running in them takes a little know-how. For some sage advice, GrindTV caught up with Adam Chase, a member of the Atlas Snow-Shoe Co. team.

He shared these tips for anyone looking to step up their snowshoe training.

The snowshoes

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The Fitness model by Atlas is a nice starter pair when learning to run on snowshoes. Photo: Courtesy of Atlas Snow-Shoe Co.

Innovative technology has made snowshoes lighter, narrower, easier to maneuver and quicker to get on and off, especially with cold hands.

Some brands have even moved to spring-loaded systems that help keep snow off the snowshoe decking for a quick response, accompanied by the BOA Closure System for ratcheting straps quickly.

While Chase rocks the speedy new Atlas Run model, he says the Fitness would work just fine for most and offers a big dollar-per-fun ratio. Serious racing snowshoes give up a little flotation along with weight, and might not be necessary for the weekend snowshoer.

The stance

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/jwhwOX0Xmug” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> Even with the newer snowshoes' tapered teardrop shape that is meant to help you from blazing, bowlegged runners will have to adopt a slightly wider stance (about 2-3 inches wider than in running shoes) at first or risk nailing those sensitive inner ankles against the frame (a bloody sight that Chase has witnessed at more than one race).

“Over time you get used to it,” Chase says. “And it depends on how closely you naturally run and what sport you're coming from.”

The training

To help support your new snowshoe stance and the strength required to lift the shoes and power through the resistance of snow, it's important to work abductors, adductors and hip flexors in the gym.

Chase recommends lateral lunges and engaging those big leg muscles by using a variety of machines, cables and a medicine ball. Ice or inline skating also helps in developing those key muscles, as well as cycling.

The gear

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A snowshoer navigates some steeper terrain in Denali National Park. However, we don’t recommend the jeans. Photo: Courtesy of Wikicommons

In addition to having the right snowshoes, it's smart to don the right layers so you don't end up a sweaty, soggy mess the first time you go out.

“It's important not to overdress,” Chase says. “Snowshoeing is one of [the] highest calorie burns you can have, especially in fresh snow.”

RELATED: California already seeing more snow than all of last year

He recommends the following: a lightweight fleece beanie, which can protect the head from the snow you're kicking (yes, as high as your head); neck gaiter or buff that you can pull over your ears as necessary; a sweat-wicking base layer like one from Craft; a middle layer, ideally wool; windproof, water-resistant tights (full waterproof versions can become too hot); small, thin ankle gaiters (Chase likes Outdoor Research's low and endurance styles) or scree gaiters that won't add too much weight or slide down and bunch; and a microfiber outer layer up top.

Chase learned his lesson the hard way.

“I did a race in the Northwest Territory that was negative 39, the point at where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet, and I got hypothermic because I wore the wrong stuff.”

Photochromic lenses or sunglasses that can handle quick transitions from light to shadow in the trees are also helpful, but poles are totally unnecessary, according to Chase.

The first time

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Take a friend to help you break trail the first time around. Photo: Courtesy of Adam Chase

Running in snowshoes is not as easy as it sounds, especially when you add in altitude for you sea-level urbanites heading up to the mountains.

Start slow. Chase suggests finding a 1-kilometer trail loop where you can do laps, starting with a walking loop to tromp snow or working with a friend who you can alternate with to break trail, which takes a lot of energy.

Add some speed on your second loop when the snow is packed down, and build up to three or four, ending at a running pace to see how it feels.

“Remember to keep your weight slightly forward where the bigger crampons are,” says Chase. “Think about keeping that boxer-style, athletic stance all the time. That's where you want to be going up and down.”

It's also helpful to look forward rather than down at your snowshoes.

“Steep slopes work your calves a lot, and if you are traversing getting the snowshoe to track well can take some ankle strength,” Chase says. “Practice running aggressively and confidence will come with it.”

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