How to Train for your First Snowshoe Race

How to train for your first snowshoe race _ Sarah Canney (2).png

In case you missed it, check out 5 Tips for Snowshoe Running Newbies to help you get started.

Snowshoe running is like road running, right? Yes and no. Yes it's running, but on many levels it is different. Running through snow while wearing snowshoes involves an exaggerated running motion. You're lifting your legs higher, using your arms more and calling on your core to maintain your balance much more so than on the road. Another important factor to consider is the uneven terrain and the fact that snow is a slippery surface. Your balance will be tested, as will the strength of your calf muscles and all the stabilizing muscles in your legs. So if you're eyeing a snowshoe race this winter, you may want to consider these training tips to help you make the most of your snowshoe racing experience.


Some races are run on groomed surfaces. Many take you through un-groomed trails in the woods. Because of the uneven terrain, snowshoe running is more like trail running than road running. During my first snowshoe race I landed on my ass in the snow pretty frequently. I slipped, I tripped, I slid. My core wasn't ready for the demands I was placing on it careening through uneven terrain. Taking the time to strengthen you core a few times a week will really help when it comes to race day. Here are a few simple moves that will help you get ready:

Skaters. Similar to a speed skating movement, hop in a half squat position from one leg to the other. Use your arms to gain momentum in your hop and help maintain balance. Stabilize your body (no wobbling) before hoping to the opposite leg. For added difficulty try to widen your hope from side to side. This video is a good demonstration.

Single Leg Hops. Similar to the skaters, hop from one leg to the other but instead of focusing on distance side to side, focus on height. Hop as high as you can and land on one foot. Stabilize before hoping to the opposite foot. This video demonstrates the exercise on a BOSU ball, which would provide added difficulty and increased stabilization. If you don't have a BOSU, focus on height for added difficulty.

Plank Twists. Assume the plank position on hands and feet. Ensure that you hips are low and you body is in a nice straight line. Engage your ab muscles and pull your belly button in while extending back through the legs and heel of the foot. Tip your pelvis forward to further engage your core. Now bring your right knee to your left elbow, repeat on the opposite side. This video is a good demonstration.

Train your Calves

I noticed after my first snowshoe race that my calf muscles were incredibly sore. Because of the way your foot functions in the snowshoes you use your calf muscles a lot more to create power in each step. Taking the time to strengthen, stretch and foam roll them will greatly benefit you come race day.

Calf Raises.  A simple calf raise on the stairs is a great way to focus on your calves. Switch to a single leg calf raise for added resistance.

Eccentric Calf Raise. Eccentric calf raises can be a helpful way to strengthen the calf muscle. Check out this helpful video for a demonstration.

Training Runs

If you're training for a snowshoe race, not every run has to be in snowshoes. If you can get out on the trails or fields at least 2-3 times a week in your snowshoes, you'll be more than prepared come race day. And you don't have to be on groomed trails either. The added difficulty of running through fresh powder can only benefit you.

Great places to run in snowshoes are along snowmobile trails, open fields, power line paths and wooded trails. Many ski areas also have snowshoeing trails that are groomed, so if there's a ski area nearby check to see if they have groomed (or un-groomed) trails you can test your mettle on. As I mentioned in my previous post, you don't need to have running snowshoes to get started, check to see if you can rent running snowshoes on race day and simply run your training runs in whatever snowshoes are available. It's a good way to get started.

Add drills like high knees, toe taps and butt kicks. They will help increase your stride rate and help with the change in stride once you start snowshoe running.

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Sarah is a certified running coach with the RRCA and USATF. She and her husband Mark Canney, CPT CSCS collaborate in coaching clients of all ages and abilities to help them reach their running goals. You can learn more about their coaching services HERE.

Have you signed up for a snowshoe race this winter? What questions do you have?


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