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Getting in Shape

Susan Mulvihill, November 2010


To get maximum enjoyment out of Nordic (cross country) skiing this winter, we should do what we can now to be ready to hit the trails. If you've been cycling and running and working out all summer long, however, you probably don't need to read this.

     A friend of mine once said "Cross-country skiing prepares you for everything, but nothing prepares you for cross-country skiing."

     It's a very true statement. For the first month or so of skiing, we're gasping while we try to get up those hills and feeling like we have zip for endurance.

     Here are some things we can do between now and the start of ski season:

     My favorite pieces of exercise equipment are the elliptical trainer and the Nordic Track ski machine. That's because they imitate some of the motions we go through while skiing. They give us a back-and-forth arm swing while our legs are working. If you have an elliptical trainer, put in some serious time on it and increase the resistance as you go.

     If that's not an option, how about Nordic walking? This involves brisk walking with Nordic poles so that your arms really get a workout and not just your legs. This increases your cardiovascular endurance and also gives your arms increased weight-bearing, which is good for bone density.

     There are poles made specifically for Nordic walking -- I have a pair of Leki poles with rubber tips on them -- but you can use regular Nordic poles, provided you don't mind having the tips hit the ground repeatedly.

     The only problem with Nordic walking is that my neighbors like to rib me, saying "There's no snow yet, Sue!" Or, “aren’t you forgetting something, Sue?” That's OK, though; I can handle it.

     Here's an exercise to increase your quad strength that doesn't require any special equipment at all: stand with your back to a wall and your feet about a shoe-length away from the base of the wall. Slide down the wall until your body looks like it's a chair, with your knees flexed at about 90 degrees. Now hold that position for as long as you can. Do this a few times a day. It sounds simple enough but, believe me, your quads will be screaming at you quickly enough!

     Another simple exercise is wall squats, again with your back to the wall and your foot about a shoe-length away from the wall. This time, however, you will slide down the wall but never so low that your knees bend beyond where you can see your toes. Come back up, and repeat this in three sets of 10.

     Lunges are also an excellent exercise to increase muscle strength. Don't let your knees bend beyond where you can see your toes. You can start out without any weights, then add in either free weights in each hand or a weighted bar across your shoulders.

     Early in the ski season, I find all that poling tends to make my shoulders com-plain a bit. If you have an elastic exercise band - and no shoulder issues to be concerned about -- try doing biceps curls, triceps extensions and shoulder extensions. If you have free weights on hand, you can use them to do the same exercises. If you don't have exercise bands or free weights, try these exercises with cans of soup.

     If you have any knee issues or other injuries that these exercises will exacerbate, discontinue them. You should consult with your doctor and/or a physical therapist to find the exercises that will work best for you.

     One last thing: while we’re all doing our exercises, let’s think snow!

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