Fit & Fast

Cross country skiing’s the perfect winter workout to keep you on top of your game

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Fit and Fast
Photo: Bill Bain

Winter can pose a challenge for cyclists and runners to maintain fitness. Cross country skiing is an excellent training option that will boost aerobic conditioning and cardiovascular fitness. Unlike most endurance sports, it is relatively easy on the joints, with no hard pounding or prolonged static positions.

Here are a couple of workout options to get you in the XC ski game: Each workout starts with a 15-minute warm-up and ends with a 15-minute cooldown.

Intensity Intervals – Pyramid

Great for classic and free-style/skate style

Interval training is a critical element of any cardio endurance training. XC trails often have undulating terrain that makes for the perfect interval training ground. You raise the intensity on uphills and rest on downhills.

  • Interval periods: 3-4-5-4-3 minutes,with an easy ski for 2 minutes between each
  • Intensity: 90% of max heart rate;Easy ski @ 60% of max heart rate
  • Repeat 2 to 3 times

Ski Strength – Upper/Lower

Best with classic style

The upper body component of XC skiing makes it a great aerobic workout and core strength builder.

  • 15 minutes upper body only – double poling only
  • 5 minutes easy ski
  • 15 minutes legs only
  • Intensity: 70-80% of max heart rate; easy ski at 60% of max heart rate
  • Repeat 3 to 5 times

Varying Techniques

There are several arm techniques in XC skiing, in both the skate (freestyle) and classic style. Consider variations on different days or different terrains to gain maximum benefits.

From most intense to least intense:

  • Double poling with freestyle or classic skiing – arms alone are used to propel you forward (legs glide)
  • Double pole with freestyle technique – double pole with every leg stride
  • Alternative poling with classic skiing – opposite arm and leg works together.

XC Ski Tips

  • Good technique is critical to ensure you are efficient, maximizing your gains and avoiding injury. Consider booking a coaching session.
  • Make sure you have good skis and boots that fit properly.
  • The right ski wax ensures great glide and performance. Wax choice varies with temperature and snow type. Take a clinic to learn about wax options and application.
  • Dress for the conditions to ensure you stay dry and warm.
  • Try a XC ski race this winter – a great training motivator.

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