A blog by runners. For runners.

All about cross-country skiing for runners

cross-country-skiingAre you in the athletic spirit with the winter Olympics in full swing? We sure are. So, let’s keep our thoughts on cold-weather sports! Along with snowshoe running and even snowshoe racing, another winter sport that is excellent cross-training for runners is cross-country skiing. In fact, if you don’t have a gym membership this snow season, there might be times when slapping on a pair of skis is actually a better workout than sliding around in your running shoes on the slick sidewalks and roadways.

Cross-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing, is performed one of two styles: Classic or skate. With the classic form, the focus is on “kicking and gliding in a forward-leaning motion” whereas with skate, it’s more of a “push off each ski in a V pattern, resembling rollerblading or ice-skating.”

Whatever style you choose, though, this activity will burn 400 up to an impressive 1,000 calories an hour! (Source)

Surprisingly enough, Nordic skiing can “help you increase your oxygen intake beyond what your running does.” In addition, the motion of either classic or skate uses different muscles and “stretches your hamstrings, calves and lower-back muscles,” allowing you to gain flexibility, balance, and even strengthen those areas where you previously didn’t have much strength before. (Source)

Another physical benefit is that you can gain all of this fitness without the impact on joints that running entails. So, if you’re injured or feeling like you’re heading in that direction, taking to the groomed trails could be a great first defense. However, don’t get too carried away. Like with any new activity, it’s best to ease in a little at a time.

I have experienced a less quantifiable, though undeniable mental benefit with heading off the roads and onto the trails. Being in nature, just like with trail running, gives us a whole different perspective. The still and quiet can offer respite and calm, so if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, whether by training or just life, cross-country skiing might do the trick.

If you haven’t suited up before, get excited! Cross-country skiing is an intense, total body workout. And according to recent studies, the magic could be in the involvement of the arms. For runners who neglect upper-body workouts and strength exercises, using the different techniques — like double-poling — can take fitness to a whole different level.

Many parks and resorts offer skis and poles to rent at low prices. To find a spot near you, check out the Cross Country Ski Areas Association database, complete with trail conditions for locations across the United States and Canada. And though not as good as the real thing, there are probably even a few ski machines (NordicTrack sound familiar?) at your local gym.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.