Two Winter Sport Honorable Mentions
In the last issue we looked at winter activities that are approximately equal to running at 10-minute mile pace (10 METs). Here are two “honorable mentions” to add to the list compiled in “Winter Sports That Match Running in METs,” from Nov/Dec.
1. SNOW SHOEING
Snow shoeing at a “vigorous effort” receives a MET value of 10.0 from the ACSM’s physical activities tracking guide. At some point in your fitness life, all ages and ability levels should consider walking on snow rather than skiing upon it.
Almost all of the Cross Country Ski Areas Association's cross country ski areas welcome snowshoers to their trails and lodges, but the CCSAA says it’s always good to call ahead and check with individual resorts and trails to see if snowshoeing is allowed. You will also very likely find that if snowshoeing is allowed, you can rent the gear you need there as well.
Footwork and Pole Position. To traverse the snow in snowshoes, if possible, walk in the steps made by the person in front of you. Do use your poles: Extend the downhill pole and shorten the uphill pole until they're even. Snowshoeing feels a bit like walking in sand, and in this way after a while you will feel the extra taxation on your calf muscles, and come to appreciate the poles for digging in.
Many snowshoes have crampons for gripping. To get the most out of the shoes’ crampons, remember these patterns of pressure application.
Walking Uphill. When snowshoeing uphill, you want to press down on the front of your boots and snowshoes to help the crampons under your toes grip the snow ahead of you. When you do this, the back of your snowshoes may be suspended in air. Bend your knees and take smaller strides to walk up the hill. Push the uphill side of each snowshoe into the slope to create a shelf as you move along. Keep your weight on the uphill snowshoe.
Walking Downhill. When going downhill, you’ll want to lean slightly back on your snowshoes and gradually slide down the hill while maintaining control of your descent. Again, bend your knees and take short steps. You’ll feel the snow give way underneath you. If you start to descend to quickly, just fall on your butt to stop yourself from sliding.
When Using Trails at a Ski Area:
- Snowshoe in designated areas
- Keep off groomed ski tracks
- Obey posted signs
- Give skiers the right of way
- Grooming vehicles may be on the trails—use caution
- Return to the lodge by closing
And Always, Anywhere:
- Choose trails appropriate to your ability and fitness
- Remove snowshoes at road crossings
- Never snowshoe alone
2. NORDIC WALKING
The Cooper Institute conducted one study that found pole walkers on flat terrain boosted calorie burn by 20 to 46% over regular walking. The ACSM breaks down the effort this way:
Walking, for exercise, 5.0 mph, with ski poles, Nordic walking, level, fast pace—9.5 METs.
Even if pace slows a bit from that very brisk 5.0 mph, if you consider performing this activity on snow, possibly uphill much of the time, it seems Nordic walking as a winter activity has the potential to well exceed 10 METs. (The activity was developed in Finland for training in the cross country skiing off-season.)
Basic Movement. To walk with Nordic poles, take long strides as you walk, keeping arms extended rather than bent at the elbow. The movement should come from the shoulders, not the elbows. Keeping your chin and shoulders level to the ground rather than listing as you walk, with each stride allow the long arm to pull your torso into a slight, controlled rotation. This assures back health as you step with your heels and roll through the toes to maximize stride length.
Get More Out of Winter—Get Functional
Here is great advice from the Cooper Institute on sport-specific training, in this case with particular relevance to some of the more extreme winter activities (e.g., alpine or Telemark skiing) that you may wish to attempt:
Functional training is best described as a form of multidirectional training, using movement patterns that are within the scope of the activity you ultimately wish to do. It works multiple muscle groups at one time rather than focusing on one group, and often occurs in a gym setting, where you have a good deal of control.
This is due in part to often beginning with some assistance to stabilize you, then slowly removing those aids and creating less stability. Doing so allows you to test yourself—skills, balance, etc.—in a safe environment before performing the particular sport or activity at full speed and in real time.
Skiing and snowboarding both work on the principal of lateral movement while maintaining a high level of dexterity within feet and legs. The better you can mimic these things in the training environment by using different apparatuses that might challenge your balance, but never trying to exceed your ability too quickly—the better you’ll be when you hit the slopes.
Some functional training exercises that might be used to train for sports like skiing and snowboarding include the exercises below.
- Burpees. Doing burpees trains the body to quickly pop off a surface, a skill used frequently by surfers, but helpful in snowboarding as well. The quicker the landing, the less displacement there will be on the board.
- Lunges. Lunge patterns are one of the most important patterns to maintain to keep from falling in a sport like skiing. Lunges also help work the dexterity of the feet.
- Agility ladders. Build your confidence, sure-footedness and dexterity of the feet with agility ladders.
Whether or not you have plans to ski, board, skate or ‘shoe this season, get out of your comfort zone and change things up in the gym with functional training. You might be surprised just how well your body responds to a change of pace and movement.