This winter workout combines snowy meadows, quiet country lanes, and elegant gliding movements. It’s also a great aerobic exercise that uses most of the major muscle groups.
Think of cross-country skiing as a balancing act. It takes some practice to get used to the long, skinny skis and the fact that the boots are secured at the toe only, leaving the heel free to rise and fall. Before you begin, get the feel of the skis. Walk-in them. Bend your knees just enough to keep yourself stable over the center of the ski. Your weight should rest a little more on the balls of your feet than on the heels. Use your poles for balance. Push off with them, gliding forward first with one ski and then the other.
Start off with a lesson, if you’ve never tried cross-country skiing before. Otherwise, you probably won’t get a complete workout.
THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
If you’re going to hit the trails only a few times each season, consider renting skis and poles; it would take years to get your money’s worth purchasing good equipment. When you are ready to buy, be willing to spend a little more for better equipment. Bargain prices aren’t a bargain if the skis are unusable. Find a knowledgeable person to help you fit your skis.
You can choose between waxless or waxable: waxless skis require less care and generally perform well for non-competitive skiers.
If you are going to create your own trails, choose off-track skis, which have metal edges that grip ice and hardened snow. If you follow trails, track skis are your best bet. Off-track boots are warmer and sturdier than track-skiing boots. Besides handling well on hardened snow, off-track skis also provide the extra control you need for gliding through fresh snow.
Choose poles that are made of aluminum or fiberglass. They should reach to the underside of your outstretched arms or nearly to the top of your shoulder. Pole straps should be adjustable and should be wide where they wrap around your wrist. The poles’ grips should be made of porous plastic, cork, or leather.
KICK AND GLIDE
There are two steps to cross-country skiing: kicking and gliding. Kick by pressing the center section of the ski into the snow for grip and pushing off. Then let yourself glide, balancing your weight between the skis. As the right ski moves forward, the left pole goes back.
Once you’ve pushed off, relax your grip on the pole so that your arm is free to move forward and plant the pole again. Remember that when done correctly, cross-country skiing has little in common with walking. While this sport’s stride may look like a typical strolling gait, the emphasis should be on smooth kick-and-glide movements.
Although using a ski machine offers many of the same benefits as cross-country skiing, doing well on a machine doesn’t translate into proficiency on snow. The skis on machines are too short for kicking and gliding, and the poles are pulled rather than pushed.
TIPS ON TECHNIQUE
Going up hills is easier if you know the “herringbone” technique. Think of making a fish skeleton in the snow with your skis. Point your toes outward one at a time and use poles for support.
When slowing or stopping, do just the opposite. Point your ski tips inward with the tails apart and the inside edges of your skis on an outward angle.
Whether going uphill, downhill, or skiing on level ground, stay relaxed. Lean over your skis and keep your eyes looking forward Cone sure way to fall is to watch your skis). Even with falls, though, cross-country skiers generally suffer few injuries.
As a beginner, it’s best to avoid hills. But if you can’t, don’t ski down them. Instead, take your skis off and walk down.
WHAT TO WEAR
It’s important to dress resourcefully when cross-country skiing. When it’s -lO°F on the thermometer, your body temperature may be pushing 1000 plus, as your muscles burn enormous quantities of energy, much of it for heat production. Cross-country skiing generates as much heat as competitive running.
Use layering to keep cold out and remove sweat. Clothes nearest the body should be snug, but not tight. Natural fibers, such as silk, wool, or cotton, work well. Polypropylene is a favorite because it carries sweat away from the body.
Middle-layer clothing is usually wool or down.
Outer clothing should be both waterproof and breathable. A windbreaker would be a good choice.
The tights that are popular with runners and cyclists can also be used for skiing. Depending on the temperature, tights may be worn alone or underpants.
Windpants are favored by many skiers as protection from the cold. Pants with a full side zipper allow you to put them on and take them off without removing your skis.
Always wear a hat-the head is the source of most heat loss. Consider wearing earmuffs or a headband, too.
Mittens are warmer than gloves and easier to remove, but gloves will give you more flexibility.
Sunglasses that reflect the snow’s glare are a must. Avoid metal frames, which can blister your cheeks on a cold day.
|Things to Bring|
| Stay safe and warm on the trails. Carrying the following items won’t add much weight and will keep you prepared for nearly any situation. |
1) A plastic water bottle
2) Some high-calorie snacks
3) Sunscreen (with a protection factor of 15 or higher) for your skin and lips
5) A trail map
7) Small first aid items
8) A trusty knife
9) A windbreaker