• Climber Tim

Snowshoe Running

COVID and Mental Health and Missed Opportunities



The Dad-Tow or doing laps with the little guys...


COVID has given us an opportunity (though, at tremendous cost) to really take stock of our lives and prioritize what is most important. Unfortunately, while I had hoped this would be more of a 'coming together' I've really witnessed, instead, even further divisions, the rise of 'COVID-denialism' and 'COVID-shaming' with zealous, often violent consequences, and a sudden onslaught of consumer materialism that has enriched Big Tech and indebted many Canadians.


What a world, eh?


Perhaps, all this crazy could be quite simply explained in this list:

  1. Too much internet. Way too much Social Media (ugh, barf...)

  2. Too much isolation. Way too much CNN/FoxNews/NYT/CBC...

  3. Government funding and massive printing of money.

  4. Loneliness. Depression. Anxiety.

Who knows? I spend a good 3 minutes every morning reading the news, I have an Instagram account that I check once a week to see what other climbers are doing, and I've long since abandoned the chicanery of Facebook, Twitter (...etc).


I start early


It's 5:30 AM while I write this, having indulged in my 3 minutes of news and gulped down my 500mL of water. I have a Paper Journal that outlines my day - everything from money spent, what to do with the kids, what's for dinner, projects (upcoming, and ongoing) and, very importantly, fitness.


Admittedly, I was a fitness app addict. I believed the hype- that having a Strava account, a TrainerRoad account, and a Training Peaks account would motivate me to get out more. These are legacy apps for when I thought apps would solve my motivation problems. I've always been a 'couple days a week' runner, and hoped that structured training would make me fitter. The fact is, I realized that I was was not that guy.


The Types Of Athlete Motivation ( or, my anecdotal observations of athletes I know who are really fit, pretty fit and not-very-fit-at-all )


My theory is that there are different types of athlete motivations. Athlete and training motivation is interesting to me because I'm not a lazy guy. I'm an age-group top 5 in trail running, and stay active most of the day. Nonetheless, when I tried to hit that Tuesday-Thursday-Friday-Saturday training schedule I almost always failed.


So, what are the athlete motivations? I have absolutely no scientific evidence of this, but what I see are:


The Extrinsic Athlete

  1. The Vanity Athlete.

  2. The Competitive Athlete.

  3. The Race Day Athlete

  4. The Industrial Athlete

The Intrinsic Athlete

  1. The Clear-Head Athlete

  2. The Adventure Athlete

  3. The Enlightened Athlete.

  4. The Metrics Athlete

For example, Dave is a vanity athlete. He goes to the gym 4 days a week to work out. He spends a fair amount of time at the gym checking out the ladies, and he spends a fair amount of time, at home, looking in the mirror. He runs in pretty stylish stuff - his endurance gear always new, bright, and matching. He is motivated to train because he is really motivated to look good.


James, on the other hand, is a competitive athlete. He's going to have a training schedule, that he follows to the letter. He will mash a trainer in a dark basement, forgo group rides to hit his Power Intervals, and make his virtual (or real-life) coach proud. He may spend 2 hours doing intervals up the same hill, on the same road fixed on his Garmin Headset. He's also fast as heck, excels at his sport, and is likely an age-group competitor or better.


A race day athlete is someone who will train only if there is a race on their schedule, the closer the more intense. They're kind-of-like a less together version of a competitive athlete. Motivated to minimize embarrassment - another chink in my armor. I'm not even that. I raced a 50 mile mountain trail run, a few years back, in August... it was literally my 3rd run that year.


Needless to say, I was in alot of pain.


On the Intrinsic Side, the clear-head athlete will run almost purely for mental health reasons. A bad day at the office, or stress at home? They're out the door in running shoes and an iPod. The use the endorphin rush and snap-back-to-perspective of physicality to forget the stress of the artificial world most of us live in.


The enlightened athlete carries neither a watch, nor wears an iPod. She is not worried about metrics, doesn't sign up for races (or if they do, not too many) and is sporting the latest gear from the nearest Thift Store... or the 90's. Think cyclist on a steel framed, stanchion-ed mountain bike, ripping through the trails in a state of zen. Cut-off jean shorts.


Metrics athlete, on the other hand, are really motivated by personal metrics and numbers. He most certainly has a Training Peaks account, measures fatigue/CTL and really geeks out about hrRSS scores. He can quote his resting heart rate, his zones, and how much time that week he trained in all of them. Likely, he rides an ultra-light super bike, complete with various power meters, headsets, and electric shifting. It's all about the data...


I've dabbled in all of these motivations, and by all of these I've failed. I'm not that into data, I'm not exactly a zen-type guy, and working as a Climbing Arborist keeps my head clear, for the most part. I'm not vain, I'm not particuarly competitive, and when I do sign up for races, I often don't really train anyway.


I'm not lazy though. I train a few days a week, so what is my athlete motivation?


Which gets me to my personal type of 'training' and motivation. Basically, I feel I'm the kind of guy who trains because my work demands it ( hence industrial ) and because I like adventure.


So, I'm a hybrid - an adventuro-industrial athlete.


It's been a cold winter, up here in Mulmur Hills. We have a good 2 feet of snow in the bush, with more coming today. I was really jazzed about our big Christmas Snowfalls, and managed to get out on my 15 year old XC Skis a couple of days before my boot sole detached from my boot.


Dang it.


The problem with 15 year old gear (well, my 15 year old gear) is that it has been discontinued. The SNS Profil is no longer a thing- and so I couldn't find any boots to go with my skis. Even if they were available, COVID has impacted supply lines and XC Ski equipment is very hard to come by and painfully expensive.


However, rummaging through some Rubber Maid tote I dug up a pair of old, MSR Snowshoes. They are those solid, red plastic ones that were a thing ten years ago. Anyway, they've been collecting dust but, necessity being the mother of invention (and compromise) I dusted them off, and went for a Snowshoe run.


I'll use the term run loosely. It's really more of a power-hike. We have a lot of snow here, and at least 8-12 inches of crystalline powder snow on top of a slab, on top of another foot underneath. In the bush, it would be very difficult to move without skis or snowshoes- I would be post-holing to my thighs. However, the snowshoes let me move, with effort, fairly efficiently. I carry a weighted, 10KG backpack (firewood), and try to do all the hills on the property. I try running on the downs, and hammering the hills, and climbing the steepest bits possible.


It feels like an adventure. Snowshoes allow me to move through slash, mash down briars, bridge streams and pick over fallen trees. They're like the 4x4 monster truck of human-powered snow gear. It's actually a hoot! I've been going out 4 days a week. It gets use as my primary vehicle for tow-dad, where I tow my 6 year old up the hills, so he can practice his downhill skiiing (the resort are closed). They are cheap, don't require grooming or track-set, nor much in the way of other gear ( I use my XC Ski Poles and work boots!).


The Adventuro-Industrial Athlete


So, for the winter, it seems my training motivation has been solved. I've been getting out lots which, combined with working as a Climbing Arborist, has allowed me to keep off the winter pounds (well, most of them) and enjoy a healthy, adventurous past-time. Being an off-piste tool, the snowshoes allow me to always enjoy fresh powder (or, at least, untrodden snow) and the low impact is friendly on the knees and joints, which take a somewhat pounding in the Summer.


I find, however, it's the motivation of adventure. Voyageur-like tracking deer and coyote, moving through forest, scrambling up hills and over fallen logs- it keeps training interesting, and I benefit from the overall physicality of it. If you're having trouble getting motivated for training, I would recommend you consider what type of training motivation appeals most to you. If you are, like me, an adventure athlete, give snowshoe running a try. Off trail, somewhere (preferably) with lots of trees and (of course) lots of snow, it is really a wonderful experience. It might help to pull you out of the COVID funk, and improve your overall health and well-being.

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