I’m not a runner, at least not first. First, I’m a snowboarder.
Then, summertime rolls around. Luckily I live in Portland, with Timberline’s 11 month winter only a short drive away.
Winter may be fun for a little while, but it never lasts. Plus, a little summer break filled with warm-weather fun helps refresh me for that time when the powder piles up again.
That’s why every summer the snowboard boots hit the closet and the running shoes come out. Running and snowboarding are hardly antagonistic activities. They support each other amazingly. Snowboarding makes heavy demands on your body, chiefly on the lungs and lower body. Real running is just the tool to develop those qualities.
Six hours of intervals
When I start running more in the spring the first place I notice it is in my lungs, and I notice it quickly. No surprise there, right? I let a chairlift do most of my winter work. It’s only my effort about half the time and then I still get a big boost from gravity. The thing is, when I snowboard a six-hour day is average. That’s a lot of laps! When was the last time you did six hours of sprint intervals? A different take is hiking, snowshoeing or splitboarding to the tops of lines. The biggest effort grants the biggest reward. In that scenario, a few hours of uphill might grant one, 10-minute run. I vary my running to mimic this. Most of my training consists of interval work in the one to two minute range with a full recovery. A couple times a month, I’ll add in longer efforts.
Getting my feet out of clunky snowboard boots and into svelte, zero-drop runners is akin to removing the casts from freshly healed feet. It takes time every spring to get used to it, but the reward of stronger feet is unmatched. Make no mistake, snowboarders’ feet are not invincible inside their boots. They’re subject to serious damage from heel bruises to broken ankles. Also, check out the calves, half crammed into the same footwear. Same story. Snowboarders’ calves put in work every turn. Just like real running where the midfoot strike builds the foot, ankle and calf with every stride. My first few sessions in the spring leave my calves barking.
In the upper-leg department, snowboarding is more quad-dominant than real running, which favors the hamstring. Cross training with running provides some nice balance to an area that can get imbalanced if a rider decides to snowboard year-round. This balance is crucial to not only your leg musculature, but your hip and knee health as well.
Have a near snowboarding experience!
Speaking of balance, snowboarding is heavily dependent on that skill. The best snowboarders always have impeccable balance. I was once in a packed bus full of snowboarders – in various states of intoxication – when the driver suddenly hit the brakes. Not one of them even wobbled. One way we can train this critical quality in the summer is through trail running. If you’ve ever found yourself blazing a steep downhill section of trail with trees blurring past on either side, picking up more speed than you know what to do with, you’ve had a near-snowboarding experience! You better know where your feet are and be able to react to the varying rocks, roots and branches or you’ll end up eyeball to eyeball with the slugs before you know it.
At the end of your training day, just think about what a day snowboarding looks like to your body. In those six hours you go through hundreds of squats, calf raises, jumps, twists and landings with the occasional violent crash if you’re not careful. There isn’t any single exercise that can get you ready for that. But if you have a solid base from real running in a variety of speeds, distances and terrains, your body will thank you with peak performance in your powdery paradise.
Not only does running in lower profile and flexible shoes help activities such as snowboarding, but it benefits all aspect of our lives. Physical activity strengthens our bones and muscles, improves balance and general well-being.
So go out, Run Real and enjoy life!
Graham is a SKORA Ambassador and helps represent the brand in and around our home of Portland, Oregon.
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