Cross-country skiing: a winter activity for a healthy mind, body and soul
We are entering the thick of “blue January” and many of us may be looking for ways to avoid the seasonal blues.
Now that we have some snow, participating in winter activities can be a great way to achieve this and stay in shape during the winter months. A wide variety of snow sports exist so you won’t get bored; some examples include snowshoeing, skating, and several varieties of skiing. But if you’re tired of the queues and costs associated with activities like downhill skiing, you might want to consider trying skinny skiing’s sister sport, cross-country (xc) skiing! PLUS, Arrowhead Provincial Park and Limberlost Wildlife Preserve recently opened their trails. (YAY! Is the dance happy.)
There are many reasons why you should consider cross-country skis this year.
It’s a full body workout. Xc skiing works the upper and lower body as well as our trunk with synchronized pushing and pulling movements. It works everything from your glutes, quads, and calves to your pecs, lats, triceps, and more.
It burns a lot of calories. At the recreational level, you can expect to burn around 400-600 calories/hour.
Improved cardiovascular fitness. A sustained high heart rate while cross-country skiing allows your heart to become stronger and more efficient at supplying your body with freshly oxygenated blood. In fact, cross-country skiers are the athletes with the highest VO2 max, yes even more so than marathon runners. (For runners, this makes cross-country skiing ideal for cross-training!) Overall, you can expect an increase in stamina and stamina, even in other areas of your life. .
Reduced impact on hips and knees. The gliding action of Xc skiing causes minimal impact on the feet, knees and hips compared to racing sports such as football, rugby or soccer.
Socialize OR enjoy the solitude. Cross-country skiing can be done in large or small groups. it’s the perfect way to exercise and catch up with your friends. On the other hand, maybe you crave a bit of silence in nature – being outside among the trees and the fresh air is a perfect way to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Go outside. Need I say more?
Can I get injured cross-country skiing?
Cross-country skiing has a very low injury rate compared to downhill sports like downhill skiing and snowboarding. Typically, most of the injuries I see related to cross-country skiing are overuse injuries, which usually develop as a result of training errors like doing too much too soon or poor technique. Common injuries in elite or recreational athletes include tendinitis, muscle strains, shin splints, shoulder impingement, and compartment syndrome. But don’t worry, there are tons of ways to prevent cross-country skiing injuries.
Dryland training (before the ski season). Use this time to improve your stamina; cycling, hiking, running, walking, roller skiing (for experienced skiers) several times a week. Include strength training for your upper and lower body as well as your core. AND don’t forget balance training, which is often overlooked by many.
Appropriate equipment. Make sure your gear fits properly; equipment that is too small or too large can lead to poor biomechanics (movement pattern) and can lead to injury. Dress appropriately, it can be cold outside but when we move we warm up quickly. Wear moisture-wicking layers with a waterproof exterior. If your muscles cool down, injuries are more likely to occur.
Warming up before training. Cold muscles are more prone to injury, so it’s important to do a warm-up. Note that a warm-up may be different depending on your level of experience. Nevertheless, it should include a general warm-up, dynamic stretching and technical exercises.
The general warm-up should last 5-10 minutes. The goal is to circulate the blood to all parts of the body. This can include good easy skiing on flat ground, light jogging, jumping jacks or a combination.
Dynamic stretches should be done directly after your general warm-up and can include movements such as arm circles, leg swings, lunges, butt kicks, etc.
Technical drills are usually more cross-country specific, such as double pole, single pole, or no pole drills. More elite skiers can include speed work in this section of their warm-up.
Technical. Proper technique decreases stress on your body and can help prevent injury. Beginners should consider taking classes to learn proper body alignment and skills to help reduce injury. Even the most elite athletes have coaches for this reason.
Arrowhead Nordic here in town offers great group, small group, or private lessons to master the technique; and if your kids want to join classes, they can even be assigned to my class.
Take breaks. We are at increased risk of injury when we become fatigued. It is important during the first skis of the season to take breaks and slowly increase our time on skis. If you feel tired, take a break.
Recovery after training. Cooling allows our body to gradually return to its resting state. It allows any waste products that have built up during exercise (eg lactic acid) to dissipate and may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (otherwise known as DOMS).
Cool down by gradually reducing the intensity: slow down your skiing pace accordingly. Alternatively, once you’ve stripped off your gear, walking is a great way to cool off. Similar to our warm-up, 5-10 minutes should be enough.
Static stretches should be completed after cooling down, but before the muscles have completely cooled down. It is a stretch that is held and maintained for a duration of 30s-1min and allows to lengthen and improve the flexibility of the muscles used.
Due to the integral nature of cross-country skiing, there are many different exercises that can be useful in terms of pre-season, pre-ski warm-up, and post-ski recovery. Pre-season exercises may include pole walking, strengthening such as bridging, squats, triceps pull-ups, rotator cuff, core and flexibility training. The pre-ski warm-up can include dynamic movements such as plyometric skaters, lunges, arm circles/swings, etc. Specific training drills may depend more on your technical weakness or what you need to focus on that day. Recovery after skiing should include full body stretches such as calves, hip flexors, lateral hip musculature, back, and triceps, to name a few.
Cross-country skiing, although sometimes difficult to master due to the coordination, strength and endurance required, is a fun and active way to enjoy winter with a low incidence of injury compared to other sports . By following these prevention tips, you should have a safe and enjoyable ski season.
In addition to being a licensed physiotherapist, Stephanie is a youth and high school cross-country ski coach and is part of the Integrated Support Team (as a physiotherapist) with Cross Country Ski Ontario. If you are interested in more specific programming to improve your stride, prevent or rehabilitate following an injury, I will be happy to help you in the clinic and/or on the trails.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 705-380-3312 or visit website. State-of-the-art physiotherapy is located at 33 King William Street, Suite 204, Huntsville. Office hours are flexible with evening appointments available (three times a week). Email: [email protected]
Stéphanie Bourbeau is a bilingual physiotherapist registered with the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a practical and personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stéphanie, originally from the community of Huntsville, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, Nordic skiing and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic during high school and college.
Stephanie pursued her passion for healthcare by attending McGill University and completing her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. During her Master of Health Sciences in Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed rotations in orthopedic clinics, hospitals, home care and neurology centers.