A blog by runners. For runners.

Running helps athletes excel in these winter Olympic sports


Who is watching the winter Olympics? I always find the games so inspiring. As a runner who regularly trains for and runs distance events, I enjoy hearing about the grueling training regimens of Olympic athletes. Their regular work day puts my proudest marathon training days to shame. But it turns out that recreational runners and some winter Olympic athletes may have more in common than meets the eye.

Olympic bobsledders, speed skaters, and cross-country skiers are quite familiar with running workouts, and some athletes do them regularly as part of their training.

If you’ve ever watched a bobsledding competition, you know the bobsledders run… for about two seconds before hopping into their sled. But bobsledding requires a lot of speed and muscle to launch the sled. That’s why many bobsledders are former runners.

Army Captain Chris Fogt, who is competing with the four-man U.S. bobsled team in Sochi, was recruited for bobsled when he was running track in college. According to Captain Fogt, the U.S. team does sprint drills twice a week as part of their training.

Speed skating
In speed skating, athletes race each other around a track. Speed skating requires a strong lower body, while short-track speed skaters focus on speed and long-track speed skaters work on endurance. This sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s probably no surprise that running and speed skating have a lot of overlap.

Eddy Alvarez, a short-track U.S. speed skater competing in Sochi, says that the team’s off-ice cardio of choice is running or cycling. Alvarez says that U.S. speed skaters run or bike for 45 minutes to one hour three times per week.

Cross-country skiing
Cross-country skiers are the only athletes who consistently have a higher VO2 max than runners. Still, there are plenty of similarities between cross country skiing and running. Many recreation runners cross country ski in the winter for cross-training, and many cross country skiers come from running backgrounds.

U.S. Olympic cross-country skier Andy Newell says his off-season training regimen includes regular runs – he sticks with skiing once the season starts. Cross-country coaches and pros recommend that amateurs be in good shape before giving cross-country skiing a go since it’s so physically demanding. One of the best cardio backgrounds for cross-country skiing? You guessed it: running.

Athletes from other Olympic winter sports run for training, too – for instance, ice hockey players run to boost stamina. Plenty of retired Olympians continue to run for fun as well – Apolo Ohno, two-time Olympic gold medalist in short-track speed skating, ran the New York City marathon in 2011 in an impressive 3:25:14.

For fun: if you could compete in any winter Olympic sport, which would you choose? Speed skating looks like a blast to me!

 Written by Jen Matz.