Cross country skiers need to go for dryland training to improve their technical abilities, strength, and endurance. Since dryland training does not rely on snow or ski slopes, you can do that at any time of the year. However, you need proper shoes to get the maximum results out of it.
Your dryland training shoes need to comfortable, breathable, and lightweight. Also, they should have good stability and traction factor so that your off-season training can benefit your cross-country skiing skills.
Off-season Training for Cross-Country Skiing
Most skiers normally get from one to three weeks of skiing per year. This is a bit unfair for these athletes as many other sports such as Tennis and Golf give year-round practice opportunities to its players. What you have is an off-season training program that prepares you for the toughest climate and terrain. Your dryland training shoes are not just any shoes that you can use in the gym. They need to keep up with your high endurance training as well as provide good grip and traction when your body is on the move.
Here are some of the dryland training options for you to polish up your skiing skills. While some of these training exercises may not be directly teaching you how to ski better, they provide you with the techniques, endurance, strength, and stamina that will keep you active on the slopes in the ski season.
Endurance training with Running and Ski Walking
Most of the activities involved in endurance training focus on low-intensity movements for a longer time duration. Endurance training as part of your dryland training routine includes running, ski walking, biking, and many other activities that require you to put on comfortable and sturdy training shoes and go through your activities for a longer time. It is better to start for an hour of your endurance training, and then increase the time to as high as three hours (for expert skiers). You must also do the endurance training for at least 2 to 3 sessions per week, or even more if you like.
Running trains your leg muscles for classic striding on snow and is a great way to tone your body and make it ready for skiing without using much of any equipment. To make sure your running helps you with the skiing, press your toes and ball of your feet and push off with your toes while you run.
Glide is a very important factor for skiers and running does not help in that aspect. Also, you do not have any problems in getting the grip or keeping your balance while you run, but you may have this issue when you try to balance yourself on the slopes. But you can practice uphill running to sharpen your skiing skills. It really helps if you go for huge strides. A big bound in an uphill run is quite similar in technique to climbing uphill while skiing. This bounding style when you run uphill is often referred to as hill bounds or moose-hoofs.
To further help yourself, you can focus on emphasizing weight transfer from one side to the other and push off with your ball of the foot and toe while you continue to run. Some skiers while they go through dryland training prefer holding ski poles while they run to mimic the skiing posture and using body muscles accordingly.
It is better to start this type of dryland training with less vigorous motion and for a shorter time interval. Gradually, keep on increasing the time limit and add more variations in running so different muscles are used at a varying angle.
A disadvantage of running by skiers who opt for dryland training is that running vigorously – especially downhill – negatively impacts your joints, tendons, and ligaments. When your foot lands on the ground, your body undergoes an impact which could lead to short-term injuries and if you keep on doing it, it may lead to the degradation of connective tissues and joints.
You need to go for shock-absorbing training shoes that are stable and provide you with good traction. The last thing you want while running downhill is to hurt your joints and miss the coming ski season.
Walking at your normal pace is a great way to train your leg muscles for shuffling techniques for your skiing. When you walk at a faster pace, you train your leg muscles for classic striding. To make your walking a bit more similar to classic striding, go for an uphill ski walk.
Ski walking is a classic dryland drill and helps you become a classic strider. You can also use ski poles while you are doing so. Ski poles not just mimic your skiing posture while you ski walk, they also reduce the jerk that negatively impacts your ankles and knees while you ski walk downhill.
Many pro skiers who vouch for dryland training believe that uphill ski walking provides your body with a better training mechanism than running. Start with simple ski walking for a shorter duration and then keep on adding variations into it and increase the time. You will notice that your endurance level will slowly improve, and you will be able to notice the changes as early as in a couple of weeks.
The Correct Legwork on Dry Ground
Your legwork is crucial in skiing, so you need to include it in your dryland training. The most important factor is your coordination. Both your feet should work in coordination and support each other to make you glide seamlessly on the snow while you ski. Not only that, your correct legwork will directly impact your pace on the slopes, and for this reason, you must focus on legwork training in the off-season.
Walking at your normal pace is quite beneficial for your leg muscles in order to train them for shuffling techniques on the ski. Focus on drills that involve the following:
Controlling your leg symmetry is crucial. In skiing, the skier ideally needs to keep his/ her legs symmetrical without opening them wider than they are required. Test your symmetry when you jump from one side to the other, for instance, from left to right and repeat.
You also need to work on improving your flex pattern. If you do not have a good flex pattern, you end up having too much knee flex and poor ankle flex. This puts your entire body weight on the skis which could injure your knees. To work on this, test your flex patterns when you jump from one side to the other and be aware of your flexing ankle. Try reducing flexing your knees.
Increasing your leg power can go a long way. Many skiers use arms to propel their bodies when they encounter a turn while skiing. This could have worked for you but when you use arms to do the work that the leg muscles are supposed to do, this means you are rotating your upper body and redistributing your body weight. It is not technically correct to have a skier wave his/ her arm all around the place when skiing. You need a proper legwork to make sure your feet know how to work on those turns.
How to Choose the Correct Footwear for Training?
To choose the right footwear for your dryland training, you need to consider some important factors that determine how wearable your shoes are for your off-season workouts. Of course, your shoe color and manufacturer may have an impact on your decision making, make sure your dryland training footwear has the following factors:
Stability and traction
You need stability and traction based shoes for endurance training. Such footwear helps you immensely if you prefer running as a dryland activity. If your foot muscles are not as strong to provide a sturdy and stable base for your body, these shoes help your body in making up for the deficiency. However, your aim of the dryland training is to work those muscles and strengthen them, and footwear with good stability factor assists your overall body.
You must have noticed a grainy texture at the bottom of many training shoes. This is extremely useful in order to improve grip and traction. There are traction pads that work to ensure that the bottom of your shoes add friction and have a sticky feel when you hit your gym floor. This traction will not cause any hindrance in your movements but will provide you with the right kind of friction that would prevent you from sliding and slipping. This is not only beneficial for adding value to your workout but will also save you from many types of slipping injuries.
An example of training shoes with good traction is the Salomon XA Elevate that has an aggressively lugged sole for providing you with great traction even on wet surfaces. This rugged sole is also the reason the training shoe showcases stability even when you move fast on rocky and uneven terrain. The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX also provides you with the stability and traction that may come in quite handy when you go on hiking and training on mountainous areas.
The highly durable 5.11 XPRT 3.0 Waterproof 6in Boot, which may not be light in weight or low in price, is a great military boot ideal for dryland training on surfaces that require grip. The Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX are great traction-based mountain trainers that are great for training around the mud, rocks, and wet surfaces.
Comfort and Breathability
Dryland training can be quite long and tiring, and your body will be sweating a lot. For this reason, you need comfortable and breathable shoes that you can wear for long intervals without getting the feeling of taking them off and letting your feet breathe.
You must go for training footwear made with breathable material that allows your feet to get air, hence keeping you cool and dry. If your training shoes are airy and breathable, your feet won’t sweat and slip – something that many novice athletes go through.
Make sure your dryland training shoes are comfortable so that you can put them on for many hours, especially if you are doing endurance training. The North Face Flight RKT boasts a breathable mesh top that dries quickly, and these shoes are especially ideal for training on long warm days.
The super-comfortable Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 offer you the maximum amount of cushioning that you many have not seen in a running shoe, making them super comfortable. Not only that, the expanded toecap gives you an unmatched comfort on rugged terrain.
Lightness is a key factor in most of the running shoes. When you are wearing a light shoe, you carry less weight each mile or kilometer you cover. This way, your training footwear is less of a distraction and more of an asset that helps you achieve your fitness goals.
Lightweight shoes do not have to be less sturdy, they are made with materials that provide you with the cushioning and protection without putting you to the ground.
The Brooks Glycerin 16 is a nicely cushioned road running shoe that can provide you with the lightness and comfort for miles. Since the upper part of this footwear wraps around the foot holding onto it tightly, these shoes have a comfy yet light feeling.
The La Sportiva Stream GTX is also a great lightweight design which is comfortable and breathable as well. It is not only a great running shoe, it is ideal for rugged terrain.
As a cross country skier, you will notice that some of your biggest achievements happen in the off-season when you train your body to perform well for the ski season. But without proper gear, you cannot reach the fitness level you want, and your footwear plays an important role in this regard. But the question is, how to choose shoes for your dryland training? Whether you are running, ski walking or doing any kind of endurance training, a good pair of training shoes will help you achieve your target.
You want your dryland training shoes to be light in weight as you do not want to struggle with carrying the burden of the shoe. They should be stable and possess traction – no one wants to squat or lift weights with wobbly training shoes. For this reason, you need to make sure your shoes are according to your dryland training program and have stability and traction if you plan to do a workout on slopes and wet terrain. For endurance training, shoes with shock-absorbing qualities are also great. Breathability and comfort are vital to make sure your training stays on a long-term basis. Once you have the right footwear for your dryland training, nothing is stopping you from training hard.