Recreation

If the (snow)shoe fits, get outdoors for some exercise

It's a little cold now, but plenty of snow to try something new

Snowshoeing is a fairly simple and fun outdoor winter activity. (The Gazette)
Snowshoeing is a fairly simple and fun outdoor winter activity. (The Gazette)
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It’s that time of year when many are wondering when spring will get here. Many others, however, are thankful for the deep snow that is covering our landscape.

This is for the latter group.

The snow has allowed many to enjoy winter outdoor activities, like sledding, cross country skiing, ice skating and building snowmen.

How about snowshoeing?

A snowshoe is described as “footwear for walking over snow.” That sounds pretty simple.

So if you’re tired of walking or jogging around ice patches on the road, unshoveled sidewalks or down that paved — and, hopefully clear — trail, snowshoeing may be a natural fix.

Snowshoes “work by distributing the weight of the person over a larger area so that the person’s foot does not sink completely into the snow, a quality called ‘flotation.’ Snowshoeing is a form of hiking.”

That’s according to Wikipedia.

Snowshoes were originally made of wood with rawhide lacings. You can still find those traditional shoes, but most today are made of lightweight metal with synthetic fabric.

“Snowshoes are generally raised at the toe for maneuverability. They must not accumulate snow, hence the latticework, and require bindings to attach them to the feet.”

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Bearfoot Theory calls snowshoeing and “easy, fun, and inexpensive” way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

“When the conditions on the ski hill aren’t great or maybe ice skating just isn’t your thing, grabbing a pair of snowshoes and a friend or two is a perfect way to help you get outside in the winter,” their website notes. “Not only does snowshoeing suit people of all ages and abilities, but it’s also a simple way to enjoy a beautiful winter day (even if you’re a winter hater!).”

Bearfoot Theory notes “snowshoeing isn’t hard.”

“It’s a great activity for people who can’t do more vigorous snow sports or are looking to take up a winter sport that isn’t as risky or physically demanding as, say, skiing or snowboarding. However, you can increase the difficulty by snowshoeing on steeper, more mountainous terrain. Flat and rolling terrain is much more suitable for beginners and is a great way to get used to snowshoeing since you’ll be using certain muscles differently than you might be used to.”

But it also is a good workout, according to Snowshoe Magazine.

“... snowshoeing has a multitude of physical health benefits. Snowshoeing may seem just like walking (and it is for the most part). However, breaking trail in fresh snow is tough! As an aerobic activity, snowshoeing will get your heart pumping, which speeds up blood flow to your muscles and lungs.”

It also is a good workout for your lower body, working your “quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. The extent to which your muscles are activated increases with the number of hills.”

Bearfoot Theory recommends you choose “snowshoes with a larger deck to float easily in deep, dry powder ... Many snowshoers like to use trekking poles for better stability and balance in rocky conditions. Make sure your poles have a basket at the bottom so they don’t sink into the snow.”

Learning to snowshoe is as easy as strapping them on and putting one foot in front of the other.

Like good walking and running shoes, however, make sure your snowshoes “fit snug and won’t come undone as you walk.”

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“... walk as you normally would with a more purposeful step,” according to Bearfoot Theory. “This ensures that you will have a good grip in slippery, snowy conditions or icy terrain and can easily adapt to unseen obstacles underfoot.

“You might feel a little awkward at first, but once you get into your groove, it will start to feel more natural.”

Finding a place to snowshoe also is simple. Most walking, hiking and biking trails are perfect for snowshoeing if, of course, they are covered in snow.

Most hiking, walking, and biking trails double as snowshoeing trails during the wintertime.

Alltrails.com lists three outstanding snowshoe trails in Eastern Iowa — Whitewater Canyon, Lake and Valley View and Terry Trueblood Recreation Area.

The Whitewater Canyon trail is a “562 acre wildlife management area of forest, upland, and riparian habitats is located just 5 miles east of Cascade in extreme northeast Jones County.” The “Lake and Valley View Trail Loop” near Oxford is “a 5 mile moderately trafficked loop trail ... that is best used from January until November.”

Terry Trueblood “is a 1.9-mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Iowa City ... The trail is good for all skill levels and offers a number of activity options.”

If you can’t beat the snow — which seems apparent right now — you might as well enjoy it.

Comments: (319) 398-8416; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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