Snowshoe Training Without Snow?
Jan 22, 2020 at 9:45 am #3628272
Thought I’d put this to the BPL brain trust for ideas or relevant experiences….
I have an upcoming trip that will likely require some hard snowshoe miles. But living in Southern CA, my access to snow is somewhat limited…everything white and frozen is a bit far for regular training purposes. I’ll get in what I can but experience tells me specificity in training is king.
Wondering about training in the sand with a weighted pack and my MSR EVOs. I have access to beaches and dunes.
Thoughts? I don’t want to get smacked down on the trip because I lacked specificity in training….or am I worrying about it too much?Jan 22, 2020 at 11:39 am #3628284Mike BBPL Member
Snowshoes alter my gait and my step pattern. Time with them strapped on will be well spent.Jan 22, 2020 at 11:53 am #3628287Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
The only thing to practice before a first trip is getting in and out of the bindings. Everything else you’ll pick up in the first 10 minutes in the snow. At least that was my experience.Jan 22, 2020 at 12:02 pm #3628290
I agree with Todd. Practice putting them on and taking them off.. Really. Otherwise.. It’s just like walking.. One step in front of other.. After about 1/4 mile it should become natural and feel normal strides. Of course.. The deeper the snow will also make it a little more strenuous.. As will breaking trail. I would say.. Do more cardio!! It’s good for you anyway.. Good for your heart, good for your lungs, good for your body, good for your stamina, good for your mind..Jan 22, 2020 at 12:21 pm #3628293
Some good responses but the OP’s question is about specificity of snowshoe training.
I always am concerned about this before winter snow camping trips in the Sierra as well as I lack access to snow where I live. My solution has been to simply carry a heavier pack up the local hills which does nothing to train the hip muscles. These are the muscles that are stressed especially when breaking trail through deeper snow.
It might help to find a way to train those muscles in a gym setting; I’ve never actually tried this but I only think about it the week or two before my snowshoe trip…..Jan 22, 2020 at 12:32 pm #3628294
Hence.. Cardio . If you take 2 people who have never stepped foot in snow shoes before.. 1 of them is fairly fit, does cardio .. The other person is not fit, does no cardio at all ( other then trips to refrigerator from couch), …. Put them both in snow shoes and ask them to hike say, 5 miles. I’m pretty sure they will both be able to walk in the snow shoes.. Who will have the better stamina, lungs, heart rate and mental toughness to grit out the total 5 miles though? Just saying.. You want to train specifically for snow shoe walking with no snow… Take care of your body every day.. Do some physical exercise and training, do some cardio.. Make it part of your every day life ( minimum 4 days/week), and when it comes time for a strenuous hike or snow shoe, your body and your mind will be prepared for it.Jan 22, 2020 at 12:47 pm #3628297JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
I definitely notice the increased weight of the snowshoes compared to my normal trail runners. Maybe doing some hiking with extra heavy boots would help?Jan 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm #3628299Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
Ankle weights might help, especially on steep or rocky stuff so you have to lift your legs higher than when just walking.Jan 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm #3628303
If you know anything about the OP (from his many trip reports and posts here on BPL) he’s pretty obviously well conditioned (in other words he more than likely has a more than decent training base). What I think he’s after is specific training for snowshoeing. Having been in that same situation over the years, I find that snowshoeing in deep snow with a heavy back really stresses my hips which feel sore no matter how well conditioned I am otherwise.
No question that overall conditioning will help with any activity including snowshoeing…..Jan 22, 2020 at 1:08 pm #3628306David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
+1 on ankle weights, maybe 2 pounds each, worn around town in advance of the trip. Both to condition those muscles that lift up your foot, but also to get used to your feet moving slower. Walking on the flat and level is easy enough, but snag one snowshoe under a branch and try to catch your balance, and you’ll find your timing is off – it takes longer to move that heavier foot around.
+1 on trying them out on sand dunes. Not so much for practicing walking in them – it does come pretty easier for most people if you just adopt a wide stance (insert Larry Craig joke here), but to confirm that they work for you. Some snowshoes are harder to walk in than others and some bigger ones can be too big for people with shorter strides or narrower hips.
I have been on “snowshoe hikes” when it was easier to just strap them to my pack and walk in my snow boots. If it’s only 3 – 6 inches of snow, try it both ways and decide.
Also, if it’s really powdery, you need big snowshoes to not post-hole in. Even larger if you’re a big person or carrying a heavy load. At lot of the modern offerings are small in area and really only help on pretty dense snow (although the ice claw underneath helpful). Required Iditarod gear specifies “each snowshoe to be at least 252 square inches.”.Jan 22, 2020 at 1:20 pm #3628308jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
If the terrain is appropriate…I much prefer skis. But they can be a terror on wooded downhills on packed,rutted snow.Jan 22, 2020 at 1:24 pm #3628309David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I prefer skis when on an unplowed road. But in more mountainous terrain, someone who’s comfortable in snowshoes (and in great shape) can sometimes just go straight up or down the fall line and get there sooner.Jan 22, 2020 at 1:26 pm #3628310
@pedestrian, that’s pretty much the case…concerned about specificity of training for a hard trip. It’s not my first time using snowshoes, but I’m concerned about being adapted well enough for an event.
I generally find the same hip stress you mention, regardless of my overall cardio/fitness. Between the added weight and altering my gait, they change things vs. running or hiking. So mimicking specificity in training comes to mind.
David, I thought about the ankle weights, maybe I’ll see how that goes. I’ve wondered if the hip fatigue I get is from the weight or the gait or both.
I’m obviously going to get in as many miles in them on snow as I can, but I suspect our season here in So. CA is coming to a rapid closure and the event I hope to be doing is in the end of May. I don’t want to have to lay down big/steep snowshoe miles in May if I haven’t had them on since Feb. if you get my drift. So brainstorming ways to prevent possible trouble and stay in “snowshoe shape” if needed.
Hopefully I can sit at the back of the pack and let other people break trail and not even use them…but I suppose that’s also how you don’t get invited back to things ; )Jan 22, 2020 at 1:30 pm #3628312
For the record, if I do snowshoe laps on the beach, I’ll make sure to do so in my Speedo for style points.
Perhaps I’m overthinking the general fitness carryover, but again, in my experience snowshoes tend to wake up muscles I’m not used to stressing from hiking or running.Jan 22, 2020 at 1:43 pm #3628316rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
I wonder if ankle weights combined with high stepping could help. It seems to me that the reason your hips get sore is because of the extra length your leg travels when snowshoeing, not the gait in itself. You plunge a bit deeper because of the snow, and have to lift your leg higher to clear the snow for the next step. This is only a guess of course, but it seems to make sense.Jan 22, 2020 at 2:26 pm #3628319John PBPL Member
SoCal has had plenty of snow in the mountains.Jan 22, 2020 at 2:30 pm #3628321
“SoCal has had plenty of snow in the mountains.”
Yes it does! I’ll be in it for the next month or two as much as I can. But after that….Looking like it’s going to be a short season to me.Jan 22, 2020 at 2:33 pm #3628323
Makes sense to me Doug.Jan 22, 2020 at 2:46 pm #3628325Gary DunckelBPL Member
I think snowshoeing alters the gait somewhat, in that my legs are not as close together as when just hiking. So my vote would be, absent actual snow, would be to do some work on the beach. This should get your “hip muscles” used to that altered gait.
In years of frequent snowfall here in Boulder, I set up a track around my huge yard (11 laps to the mile). The first 3-4 runs leave my hip muscles crying for a beer/rest stop 1/2 way through the 11 laps. It gets better the more I do it. So yeah, getting those muscles in shape ahead of time would be good. Ankle weights likely will help, but the weight of the snowshoes does the same thing, and this also mimics the actual altered ergonomics of the hips of course.Jan 22, 2020 at 2:53 pm #3628327
I’d suggest caution when adding ankle weights (or wrist weights) – significant risk of tendon/ligament injury which could set you back and be counter productive. And those soft tissue injuries take a looong time to heal. Been there….not doing that again!Jan 22, 2020 at 3:46 pm #3628331
Still say, if you train and condition your body, at least 4 days a week.. 5 or 6 more like it.. You should be fine. Overall conditioning.. Including cardio. When I say training I don’t mean just curling and bench pressing.. I mean total body training and conditioning! Squatting.. Full leg training.. Upper and lower body and also core training. I have been doing it religiously 5-6 days a week sometimes 2 times a day, for the last 6 years and not only am I in the best physical shape of my entire life, at 45 years old.. But the few times I have gotten to snow shoe.. There was no pain or agony, no sore muscles .. Because I use them often, my body was not shocked .. Same when I go on backpacking trips .. Going up the mountains is a lot less stressful on my body. I’m not saying to become a body builder.. But if you use your muscles often and do the right things, there will be no “new soreness or shocks”.Jan 22, 2020 at 4:02 pm #3628332Tom KBPL Member
“Ankle weights might help, especially on steep or rocky stuff so you have to lift your legs higher than when just walking.”
+1 Better than nothing. Just don’t try to go fast, or too far, especially at first. Another technique is to anchor an elastic band loop to the floor or near the floor, slip your leg into it just above the knee and do repeat knee lifts to strengthen your hip flexors. Those muscles get a real workout when snowshoeing, if there is any significant snow on the ground, lifting the snowshoe up for the next step. You will need to adjust the length of the loop and the thickness of the band to provide significant and increasing resistance as you progress. It is worth noting that all of this is not meant to replace specificity of training. There is no substitute for strapping the snowshoes on and heading out for some good old fashioned pain and gain in the hills, but we are trying here to address a situation where that is not an option.Jan 22, 2020 at 4:08 pm #3628334jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
snow should be compact at the end of May…microspikes? All depends of course.Jan 22, 2020 at 6:04 pm #3628341Jeffs ElevenBPL Member
Carrying your bike. Snowshoes on sand.
Craig, man… lol
Do it, Brother! :)
for what its worth we threw on snowshoes and walked around crater lake on january with full packs and we werent any worse for the wear. we are not in shape eitherJan 22, 2020 at 7:49 pm #3628356
Thanks folks. Will get in as much as I can in the real stuff and probably shift to a few sand hikes or alternative in the in between months.
@dirtbag: yes, weights! I’m lifting 3 days/week in addition to cardio stuff. The strength training makes a big difference. I’m finding that as I age it (currently 43) it seems more important than ever to keep my strength up. I like the big lifts best (squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench) but mix other stuff in as well. I actually sunk a bunch of money into outfitting my garage with a Rogue olympic bar, 300# Ivanko plates, a rack, bench, and a few rubber horse stall mats. And I’ve got a few decent sized boulders in the yard for stone lifts. Pumping iron is somewhat new to me vs. calisthenics but I’m loving it. Turning on some music and grunting under iron in the garage has been really good for me, mentally and physically.
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