Snowshoeing When You Have Diabetes
Health Guide November 25, 2007
Just because it’s getting colder and in much of the country snow has begun to fall doesn’t mean that we have to stay indoors. We can still get the exercise that everyone needs outside where it’s a lot more pleasant.
Those of us who have diabetes especially need to get our regular exercise. A brisk workout helps us control our blood glucose levels, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, strengthen muscles, reduce stress, and much more.
Last winter I got my exercise on the treadmill. Even when I listened to music or a book on my iPod, it was frankly boring.
Several months ago I determined to do better this winter. Back in August I wrote here that I planned to get snowshoes so I would be able to continue hiking even after the first snow of winter fell here.
Last month I bought my snowshoes. We can rent snowshoes in most of the country, but I wanted to make a commitment to what would be a new sport for me.
A couple of days ago we got the first snow of the season here in Boulder, Colorado. The three or four inches of powder that covered everything gave me my first opportunity to try out my snowshoes.
Learning to snowshoe proved to be a flat learning curve. Within 15 minutes I was confident on the big footing that they gave me. Trekking poles and gaiters are optional.
The snow was so dry that I couldn’t form a decent snowball. It would have been more of a challenge if it I were wearing backcountry snowshhoes with built in heavy duty crampons for the ice, as my friend Gretchen Becker just wrote me.
“I needed a day with crusty ice so I could test their ability to get me up hills,” Gretchen wrote. “They worked like a charm, and I was soon at the top of my steep pasture. But then, of course, I wanted to get back down again before summer came.
“It occurred to me that the crampons wouldn’t work going downhill, as they're facing in the wrong direction. So I decided to sit down and slide, using my ski poles as brakes. That worked great…for about a yard, and then the poles slipped out and I started accelerating down the hill. There was no way I could stop or slow down.
“I was headed for the side of the house, and I figured I’d probably hit my head and get killed. Or I’d miss the house, go over the steep embankment at the front of the house and land on the highway in front of a logging truck and get killed anyway. Oh well. So this was it.
“Then I veered toward a tree. Oh well. Might as well die in a puddle of frozen apples.
“But it turned out the snow in front of the apple tree hadn’t iced over because of the protection of the tree. I sank into the soft snow and stopped.
“I haven’t used the snowshoes since then,” Gretchen concluded.
Since I don’t even own crampons, I have been able to avoid such interesting adventures. My snowshoes have built-in serrated claws that gave me such confidence in their traction that I easily walked up and down embankments that I had never otherwise considered hiking.
You can take classes or seminars about learning to snowshoe in much of the country. I haven’t bothered. I did buy and study an excellent book, Snowshoeing: From Novice to Master, by Gene Prater (fifth edition edited by Dave Felkley, the Mountaineers Books, 2002). But even that is not really necessary for most folks. You can find excellent onlines resources for information about snowshoes.
Snowshoeing is nothing more than walking with long, wide boots, especially if you start out on pretty level terrain. It’s a lot easier on old bones than Alpine or even cross-country skiing. I am really looking forward to snow this winter.