Many folks from in and around Isle run the Isle Days Fun Run each year in July.  I am one of them.  In fact, I run and win several races each summer just to satisfy my competitive spirit, and I would like to run year round.  However, I am just not cut out for distance running in Minnesota winters, or below 50 degrees for that matter.  I ran a race in Wisconsin two years ago at 48 degrees, and even though I won in my age class, I got hypothermia in the process.  Running on a treadmill at a gym gets boring, even with the little TV’s that the gym treadmills now have.  Somehow watching a small TV screen while bobbing about on a treadmill gives me a little vertigo anyway.  So each year, I lose my distance running fitness level, and pretty much have to start all over when the weather warms up in May.  Just once, I would like to not have to start all over with my training regimen in the spring.

I recently merged my business in the Twin Cities with another firm, and now have my winter weekends off for the first time in 22 years.  I was very excited to finally have a continuum with distance running, but the treadmill blues set in quickly.  Then we had that huge 18inch dump of snow and I felt the call to get out my snow shoes and hit the woods.  Again, I had also never been to my cabin near Isle in mid to late winter because of work.  But this year I was coming up every weekend.  I strapped on the snow shoes and hit the woods.

Whoa, whoa whoa!

Two miles later, I dragged my tired keester back to camp with a wonderful revelation:  Snow shoeing in a decent depth of snow was darn near as hard of a work out as running a 5K at a moderate pace.  I got aerobic, stayed there, and got the same endorphin runner’s high that I love.  It takes me two hours to do a full 5K on snow shoes.  I was hooked.  However, I am also a carrot motivated person.  My Blue Cross health plan gives me a discount on my gym membership if I work out three times a week.   I was now snow shoeing part of the time, and getting a better workout doing that, than running on their treadmill.

The next time I was at the gym, I talked to the director and explained.  She smiled, saying no one would make up a story about snow shoeing for exercise, and said that as long as I checked in and noted the days I snow shoed, she would mark me down as having worked out.  What a plan!

Snow shoeing has some added benefits besides fitness too.  I was now observing winter deer patterns for the first time since owning my land.  The deer were pawing up my food plots to get to the greenery that was left under the snow.  I was also shed hunting for the first time in my life, and although I was not finding any sheds yet, it sure was an adventure going into thick areas and swamps that in summer I had never been able to traverse before.  I found literally hundreds of deer beds in the most amazing places, nooks and crannies.

On one shoeing trip, I made a great discovery.  During deer firearms season last fall, my son was walking out of the woods 2nd weekend, jumped a couple of does and took an off hand shot that he was sure was a kill shot.  We all went and looked for the doe in an area I call “the sanctuary” because of how thick it is and because I never step foot there so deer will bed and feel safe there.  There was a blood trail but the boys lost it.  My son, Matt, and his buddy never found that deer after looking for it for a couple of hours - not long enough in my opinion.  We were all disappointed.  After an hour snow shoeing in that area, I stumbled across a skeleton partially exposed in the snow, in the direct flight path of that deer.  It was the doe Matt shot, or the back bone, skull and ribs of the doe anyway.  I chiseled it out of the snow with a knife and took it back to camp, text messaging my son about the news.  He tried to call me many times but I do not get cell reception, so he text messaged me back saying “CALL ME, FOO!”.  We kiddingly use Ebonics at times, FOO meaning FOOL.  He was pretty stoked, and immediately called all his friends, feeling vindicated that he had actually killed the animal.

I emailed him back later from the cabin saying “Congrats on the deer... next time spend more time tracking what you kill, FOO!”

Snow shoeing, along with snowmobiling, have become new passions for me this winter.  Shoeing has opened up a whole new world, a new season to explore the woods and to get some awesome physical exercise.   I personally own cast aluminum snow shoes, one set by Tubbs, the other by Atlas, but any snow shoes will do the trick.  If December parties and Super Bowl food fests have you carrying a few extra pounds around this winter, find a pair of snow shoes, and hit the woods.  I guarantee that this fitness pursuit won’t be boring!


© April 2008