Nothing beats gliding along freshly groomed snow as brisk mountain air hits your lungs. Soaring through snow covered trees as you skate ski down a trail. In the fall, when it’s grey and cold out, skiers dream of the upcoming season and skiing down freshly groomed alpine lined trails. Getting in shape for Nordic skiing is key to making those dreams a reality.

Are you worried about trying to make it up that first small hill and having to stop to catch your breath? Or having to cut your ski shorter than you want because you are exhausted? What about waking up the next morning with burning muscles, making that first ski a little less enjoyable? If you start your winter training now, your winter skiing will be a more enjoyable experience with a lot less misery. Here are our favorite tips to get in shape for Nordic skiing.

How to get in shape for Nordic skiing

Aerobic: Long and slow, work on your endurance

Nordic skiing is the definition of a cardio workout. In order to cover all the kilometers you’d like, without having to strop frequently to catch your breath, working on your cardio endurance is key. Low heart rate endurance workouts are essential for creating a solid base for the season. The key for building long term endurance is long and slow. 

Workout ideas: Long hikes (be sure to add some hills in) are a great way to increase your aerobic endurance. Additionally, roller skiing, mountain biking, trail running and anything that gets you moving and breathing at a conversational pace are great conditioning ideas. Running is a great way to train without having roller skis. If you are looking to work your way into running, try slowly working your way up by going on a walk/run. Start with a walk-run (1 min run, 1 min walk) then slowly work up to running more and for a longer period of time.

Where to go: Start your preseason workout on classic local trails in Jackson Hole like Hagen, Game Creek, or along the Snake River on the Emily’s Pond Levee.

Anaerobic: Devote time to high intensity training 

Are you really looking to get in shape for Nordic skiing this season? A high intensity interval workout schedule is essential. A high intensity workout is where you push your body to a level higher than what you are comfortable with, over and over. The key to interval training is consistency. 

Workout Ideas: Choose a time, 5 minutes to start and push yourself at around 80 percent capacity for that length of time. Then, take a small break (less than that five minute time) and do it again. As you get better, try increasing your intervals or the length of time you are sustaining that high intensity.

Working on balance is essential

In order to be a good nordic skier you must be efficient. Being efficient means having great form, and great form means having good balance to maximize glide time. Balance is the secret to being a great skier.

Workout ideas: Yoga, core strengthening, and stretching are all great ways to improve your balance. Slacklining is, also, a fun way to try a new skill and get that balance practice in.

Where to go: Inversion Yoga, Akasha Yoga, Pursue, Core Pilates, Teton Yoga Shala

Don’t forget the upper body

Nordic skiing is one of the most, if not the most, hardcore endurance sport. Nordic skiing is a WHOLE body sport. In order to get in shape for Nordic skiing, you need arm strength to power your pull/push. If you think about it, anytime you get to a hill your arms, abs, back, and shoulders are doing the brunt of the work.

Workout Ideas: To get your upper body ready, aim for 10-20 pushups and arm dips a day. Additionally, try to incorporate some arm strengthening into your weekly exercise routine.

Get in shape for Nordic skiing - Image of a smiling nordic skiier

Strength workouts for nordic skiing

Core: Trunk Circuits

The three fundamentals of cross country skiing are balance, weight shift, and timing. The first two depend on strength training.  A solid upper body that stays stable as you stride over the legs is dependent on a strong core. 

In an effort to get in shape for Nordic skiing, try holding each of the following for 30 seconds to a minute increasing the time as you get stronger.

Plank, Side Plank, Bridge, and Superman circuits

Leg strength: single leg squats 

Balance is one of the most fundamental parks of skiing. Whether it be classic, skate, backcountry, or even downhill, the core skill is balancing on skis. In almost all forms of skiing you are doing some sort of squat.  Leg strength is essential for balancing on moving skis. Single leg squats are a perfect way to practice this skill. 

Single Leg squats, Side lunges, Squats, Step ups

Arm Strength: powerful pull

As discussed earlier, having a strong upper body is essential for being a strong nordic skier. Working on your pushups, pull ups and dips are a great way to get stronger. 

Get in shape for Nordic skiing - image of a female planking
Image of a man and woman doing dips off a park bench
Get in shape for Nordic skiing - Image of a nordic skiier celebrating at a race finish line

In the fall, when its grey and cold out, we all know it’s hard to get off the couch and out the door. Make the commitment to get out for a daily workout now so it becomes a habit once the ski season hits. Once you get in the groove, it becomes so much easier and will make getting out the door to skiing this winter a breeze!

Explore JH Nordic



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