In the midst of the forever-wild Adirondacks, there is a grand entrance to The Fitness Trail, located in Newcomb, New York, just off of Route 28N. It's a great tune-up trail for your body and mind to prepare for the winter running season.
If the trailhead is not plowed you can take the turn into the nearby boat launch to find a parking spot.
The Fitness Trailhead parking lot might not be plowed.
Tune-up for Winter
No matter how conditioned and in running shape you may be, winter trail-running involves ever-changing and unpredictable terrain because essentially, you’re running on a trail with footing you can't see.
While its beauty may be undeniable, questions arise: how deep is the snow, is it packed, is there a rock jutting out or a bulging root just beneath the surface of this freshly-fallen blanket? Being early in the season, it’s the terrain underneath this natural crystalline magic that we’ll be running on today.
For me, The Fitness Trail is short and sweet but throws at you just about every type of terrain you can encounter even on an extended run — which is why I refer to it as a tune-up.
It's a reminder to me and my body that running with an informed intelligence of the terrain in tandem with proper footwear can tip the overall experience in your favor for enjoyment, exercise, and safety for both the novice or expert trail runner.
Upon exiting my vehicle, the first thing I do is inspect the conditions — underneath this powder in the parking area is a thin layer of ice. Now, to a point, our body’s design allows for the many deviations in terrain like uneven surfaces, loose rock, the many twists and turns, and slippage. But with a simple addition of equipment like a traction cleat you can reinforce and enhance natural body preparedness into super-human confidence with no bulkiness to hamper your natural stride.
This is the bottom of the traction cleat.
There are many different brands of traction cleats that slip on and off fairly easily and have ample elasticity to slip over your favorite running or hiking shoes. Today, the snow is not deep, so I opt for my summer running shoes, but I have hiking/running shoes on standby in my trunk just in case. I prefer the type of traction cleat that includes velcro strips for adjusting and tightening. In this in-between time of year, these will suffice, but snowshoe weather is quickly approaching.
Suit up and gear up
The proper apparel, clothing, and equipment make for a safe and enjoyable adventure, my backpack is always filled with backup; dry socks, gloves, lip balm, water, beef jerky, cell phone, etc. Teeming with visitors and locals alike in summer and fall, you may find you have the trail all to yourself — as I do today.
Warm-ups and being focused and ready are taken seriously on The Fitness Trail.
These signboards demonstrate the warm-up exercises.
You want your body and mind hitting on all cylinders. These exercise tablets with instructions remind me of the importance to stretch, and prepare the body and mind, so I decided to err on the side of caution and walk the first part of the trail informing myself of trail conditions before full gallop.
You’ll come to a side road at the start of the trail, slow up, and remember to look both ways before crossing.
Meltwater can turn to ice and lurk beneath the snow.
Pictured above on the right, meltwater creates small rivulets underneath the surface of the snow. I saw it mid-stride and was able to miss it, but as I have forewarned, what you see is not always what you get when winter trail running. To the left in my overcompensation to miss the water, I hit a small patch of ice — only my traction cleat kept me from falling.
The blur of beauty as I pick up the pace.
The traction cleat gives you just enough bite into the terrain without hindering your stride. Next test... We’ve all seen the road signs warning us, “Bridge Freezes First.”
My traction cleats keep me upright and running over an icy bridge.
Footbridges are no exception. Here, in full stride, I felt my footfalls shimmy and slip on contact, a sheet of ice under the snow. Luckily my underconfidence told me to slip on my cleats which kept just enough positive traction with the icy surface.
The trail opens up to views of Lake Harris shortly after the footbridge.
Here the cleats bite in and liftsup the snow almost taking the terrain with me.
My second trip around the loop and I can eat hills like candy! I'm going out of my way to find obstacles and hurdles to jump over. Beast mode, anyone?
I elect to jump over fallen tree debris rather than run around it.
After this tune-up, I know the conditions are not ever going to be perfect, but my clothing and apparel decisions and my equipment choices give me a distinct terrain advantage and confidence, but never overconfident.
I run back to my vehicle and set the GPS to discover one of the many trails for an extended run just down the road!
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