Sunday, November 9, 2008

Let it snow! Incorporating Winter Activities Into Your Training.

Nothing is more discouraging than having an established training routine only to have it disrupted by Mother Nature. It's so easy to hit the snooze button instead of waking up for that morning run when it's darker, colder, and perhaps snowier than when you began your regimen. What the winter can do however, is force us out of our comfort zones and try new activities. This will benefit your training program by reducing boredom, and training new muscle groups.

For those that live in regions where snow is prevalent, the possibilities are endless. This will be my first winter living where there is ample white stuff to play around in. Being a southern girl I did not grow up doing the family ski trip or participating in any winter sports. This year I am so excited to try all of these new activities.

Cross-Country Skiing

Remember Nordic Track? That cumbersome exercise machine from the 80's that seemed to be in every fitness enthusiasts spare bedroom? The idea behind it was to capitalize on the vast benefits of cross-country skiing all without having to go outside in the cold. XC Skiing is one of the most difficult endurance sports, utilizing every one of the major muscle groups. It also (along with running, swimming, and rowing) burns the most calories per hour of any sport--making it the perfect way to train for mountaineering. While many areas have hut systems with groomed trails, I've even seen people XC skiing on snowy running trails in cities like Boston and Milwaukee, making it a feasible undertaking anywhere there is a little white on the ground. Many shops (like ours...wink, wink) rent XC Ski packages to allow infrequent users or beginners to experience the sport using quality equipment without making a huge investment.

Be prepared to go only a short distance your first time out. The first time can mean a few falls while you are getting your "ski legs". But the benefits of this sport are so vast, that gliding along a snowy path while enjoying the quiet of the winter woods might just be a new way you decide to wait out the winter.


Snowshoeing is another great way to engage the whole body in a workout and continue a running or hiking routine when the trails become snow covered. Snowshoes help increase flotation across soft snow. Snowshoes are also widely used in the mountaineering world, so learning how to snowshoe or investing a pair of your own might be a great way to prepare for your climb. For tips on purchasing your first pair, or help learning about the different products available, call us at the shop.

If you can walk, you can snowshoe. Refining your snowshoeing technique to avoid exhausting yourself will be necessary, but in general snowshoes are very easy to use. Use snowshoes to hike your normal trails that have become buried in powder, or use them to access the backcountry to explore new terrain on your skis or snowboard.

One of the coolest things I have come across are new snowshoes designed specifically for running. Combined with a pair of Gore-Tex trail runners, racing snowshoes allow you to run safely across snowy trails with ease. There are also quite a few races out there for those who want to stay competitive while waiting for the spring race season to start up.

The training benefits of snowshoeing are the same as running or hiking. Snowshoeing provides excellent aerobic conditioning. Add a pack with some weight in it, and you can keep up your weekly mileage no matter what the weather brings.

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Aside from being totally fun, downhill skiing and snowboarding are great for strength training. Up the ante by skinning or snowshoeing up to your destination, but even if you take the lift, the ability to maneuver on skis or a snowboard requires tons of balance, core and leg strength and coordination. It will also help improve your anaerobic threshold, often requiring you to emit short bursts of energy while heading downhill.

Ice Skating

Most larger metropolitan areas have an indoor or outdoor rink to lace up some skates, and tap into our inner child. Ice skating, like running, is a great lower body workout. Make a few laps around the rink at a decent pace, and you will start to feel that heart rate rise. Ice skating is also low impact, so it gives your knees a break from running.

Tips for Success

Dressing appropriately for a winter activity is key for enjoyment. We here at Whittaker Mountaineering have a lot of experience dressing for all types of conditions. Feel free to give us a call and we can help you select not only the clothing for your upcoming climb, but clothing that will make your training more comfortable and enjoyable. There have been tons of advances in fabrics that allow us to play outside for long periods.

Softshell fabrics are great for winter aerobic activities because they breathe much better than waterproof fabrics, but are still highly water resistant--making them a great choice for the snow. Softshell is also stretchier than waterproof fabrics, and move with you making them more comfortable. They also come in a wide variety of weights. I prefer lighte rweight softshells for high aerobic activities like XC skiing, The Mountain Hardwear Tanglewood Jacket or the Mammut Ultimate Hoody are both light weight, extremely breathable, and water resistant.

Also, its very important in colder temps to eat and drink frequently. This will fuel your body to help keep you warm when the mercury drops, in addition to fueling your performance. Pack lots of high calorie snacks and water when venturing out in the snow.

Remember, while mountaineering is our specialty, we have the clothing and equipment to help you get through the training portion of your exciting adventure to climb Mt. Rainier. We are always happy to help you with your questions throughout the whole process. So don't hesitate to call. So bundle up, and get outside. You may just find a new sport that will carry you through a lifetime of fitness.

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