The Outsider: The challenge of winter cardio upkeep

During the Whistler’s summer months it’s never really that hard to get your heart rate up.

Simply look around and point to the top of a mountain and there’s likely a trail that you can run, bike, hike or scramble to get there.

article continues below

When the average local’s lung capacity hovers somewhere in the stratosphere, being suddenly surrounded by snow banks and icy trails means you can’t really rely on your mountain bike or running shoes for that cardio kick-in-the-pants.

So what can we do to keep fitness in peak condition (or at least not let it deteriorate until the spring) without setting foot on the dreaded hamster wheels that are treadmills and spin classes?

The most obvious choice for winter is Nordic skiing. It works the entire body, has low impact on the body’s joints (allowing you to do it until a ripe old age) and it’s actually kind of fun once you figure out the technique. It doesn’t have the out-of-the-door convenience of running or cycling, but hey, it’s winter. It does require another set of boots and skis and an additional season pass, but all that is relatively inexpensive compared to alpine skiing and the gear takes up about half as much room in the storage unit/living room.

My favourite winter workout is ski touring. It can get you to some amazing backcountry locations high in the alpine, rewards you with powder turns on the way down (most of the time) and if you’re really into it, you can attempt speed records for traverses and enchainments (linking skiable faces with fast ski touring travel). The barrier of entry here is the gear — which can get both expensive and specialized — as well as the hazards of backcountry travel like avalanches and crevasses. That said, once you make the investment in the gear and the education, there’s no limit to how far, how high or how rowdy you want to get. Just do it safely.

One option I’ve seen my athlete friends take is the training camp vacation. This is when you take a week or two off winter and head south to somewhere like California for the purpose of training. It’s especially popular with cross country mountain bikers and road cyclists, but you could do it for any outside summer sport. Given the expense of travel (and seemingly ever-stronger US dollar), I’d keep this option reserved for when training for competition or a special endurance event.

If you aren’t into any of the above options, you can always try your luck heading out the door with a pair of running shoes. The issue with running in variable snow is that it uses up your strength before your body starts to properly fire up the cardiovascular system.

For safety, pick up a pair of running cleats (small spikes that attach to your shoes) so you don’t end your season suddenly from a fall. Find a low to medium grade hill and hit the intervals (a series of high-intensity workouts with short rest/relief periods in between).

The gluttonous holidays are fast approaching, so make a plan to give your cardio that sorely-needed heave in the new year.

Vince Shuley’s legs are feeling it after breaking trail this past weekend. For questions, comments or suggestions to The Outsider email or Twitter @vinceshuley.

© Copyright Whistler Question


NOTE: To post a comment you must have an account with at least one of the following services: Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ You may then login using your account credentials for that service. If you do not already have an account you may register a new profile with Disqus by first clicking the "Post as" button and then the link: "Don't have one? Register a new profile".

The Whistler Question welcomes your opinions and comments. We do not allow personal attacks, offensive language or unsubstantiated allegations. We reserve the right to edit comments for length, style, legality and taste and reproduce them in print, electronic or otherwise. For further information, please contact the editor or publisher, or see our Terms and Conditions.

comments powered by Disqus

Question POLL

Do you plan to celebrate Canada Day?

or  view results

Popular Columnists