How to Stay in Form during the Off-Season? An XC Skier’s Guide

Skiers are made in the summer. It is their off-season routine that enables them to give their best performance and enjoy the most out of their ski season – those few months that every skier eagerly waits for.

In order to stay in form during the off-season, you need to have a general training plan that involves endurance training and other forms of exercises, so that your muscles remember how to work when it is time to ski!

General Training Plan for the Off-Season

You cannot expect your body to give its best performance and let you enjoy the most the ski season offers when all you do in summers is to lazily pass your days. If you have been on the snowy slopes gasping for air, struggling hard to maintain your balance, and wondering why your back and shoulders are not bending as they should be, it is a sign you need to have an off-season practice routine as soon as the ski season finishes up.

When you work out throughout the year, cross country skiing comes in naturally once you head towards your ski resort or to ungroomed terrain. You do not have to worry about going back after a couple of hours and cutting your day short only because you are tired and cannot keep up with the pace and exertion XC ski demands. This also means you won’t be burning as many calories as you were hoping for, and your tired muscles won’t be as healthy and fit as you want them to be.

Cross country skiing will make you invest in ski gear that would be crucial for enjoying your XC trips. But what is the use of wasting your money on gears when you are unable to invest time and effort in your own body? No matter how expensive or top-notch your skis and ski equipment are, a lazy and sore body will cut your trip short, to say the least.

Make Those Muscles Remember

You must make sure your muscles do not forget the cross country skiing motions even in the off-season. How they are going to do so is up to you. You must remain active even after the ski season is over. Indulge in some form of exercise on a daily basis, at least 5 to 7 hours a week. You don’t have to make these hours strenuous and boring. Instead, participate in interesting physical activities that are centered towards fun.

You can keep your exertion level low as your body does need a resting period to come into full form when skiing starts. But this resting period does not mean all you have to do is to lay down on the beach for hours. Involve in moderate level activities including sports and once your body gets the rhythm, try endurance workouts to challenge your muscles.

Hiking

In order to train your muscles to do what you want them to do in winter, you must train them for the same kind of exercise in the summer. If you feel that a major portion of your ski time is spent going uphill and powering up your muscles to do so, then focus on running and hiking while you do off-season training. The more you can elevate those muscles and move forward, the better it would be.

The aerobic metabolic system provides almost all the energy for your long and strenuous uphill skiing. The ideal way to increase your endurance for doing so is to indulge in long-duration foot-based exercises that may take from half an hour to a couple of hours, with a low to moderate intensity level.

You can start by going hiking on the weekends, and make sure your hike takes at least an hour – two hours would be great. Then support this weekend hike with running or brisk walking in the weekdays. Make it a routine in the summer season that involves one to two hours run on weekdays and the same amount of time indulged on the vertical trails or hikes on the weekends. You will realize what this routine does to your body once you step out on your season’s first ski adventure.

You will notice that your muscles are not sore when you try to go up a hill, and you can easily maintain the balance while navigating downhill. It is like those muscles have remembered how to function and coordinate with the brain.

Some skiers try to go for light activities and non-weight bearing workouts during the summer. Although this may make your summers fun and active, it may not be very helpful for preparing your body for the ski season.

It is also important to take a day or two off during the week. This will let your body absorb the work you have done on other days. After all, you do not want to wear and tear them out.

An ideal summer or off-season workout involves endurance training, activities that challenge and help in full-body strengthening, as well as fine-tuning your balance and coordination. You have to fine-tune your balance in the off-season in order to prepare your body for keeping a balance on the snowy terrain and maneuvering effortlessly over the slopes.

A nice way to do so is to get yourself a balance board which is a great way to get a sharp balance as well as to strengthen your lower body muscles. Start by balancing on the board with both your feet and then try doing it with one foot. Do squats or dribble a ball, or even invent your own balancing exercises – this will not only keep your muscles busy but your brain too!

Balancing is a necessary act for good skiing. If you do not have a balance board and do not intend to buy one, you can still train your body to balance by some similar activities. Stand on one foot while lifting your other foot right in front of you and moving it in different directions without losing the balance. Repeat this with the other foot.

Roller Skiing

There is a reason why roller skiing is pretty important among good skiers in the off-season. If you have ever noticed, moving from one cross country ski season to the other is not a smooth transition if you do not do the right kind of activities in the off-season. You may go for strength training workouts and cardio, but do these workouts mimic your XC skiing motion, or are only for your endurance. While we cover endurance training in detail in the next section, it is important to know how important it is for your body to remember the exact kind of movements it carried out last season, in order to do the same in the coming one. Taking up roller skiing to keep your ski skills sharp could well be the solution.
Roller Skiing
Roller skis are similar to rollerblades – without brakes and having a much longer physical appearance. When you roller ski on hard ground like concrete or asphalt, your body undergoes similar movements as when you do XC skiing. Once you master roller skiing on a flat surface, add some obstacles here and there along with elevated surfaces to replicate your ski experience. This will help you with the body balance, strength building, some form of endurance, and to top it all – the closest replica of your XC skiing that you can get in summers.

Endurance Training

If you have noticed that as soon as the ski season starts, your legs feel tired and you have to cut short the initial days. The time you could have spent on the slopes – you are spending it in the resort or at home. This is because of local muscular endurance, also referred by sports enthusiasts as LME.

You should not wait until the summer is almost over to start prepping for the winter ski season. You can go for a gym-based weight lifting session a couple of times per week (replace some days of running with weight-lifting, and make a routine that you can follow for weeks until ski season arrives). Your weight lifting gym sessions will help you understand and realize the areas your body needs help in. You will be able to identify your weak muscles and those that you can count on. Once you do that, you have to work on your weak muscles and train your stronger ones so they compliment each other on the slopes. Remember that XC skiing requires a different set of muscles involving the core, along with the upper and lower body.

Start with two sessions per week and focus on strengthening the weak muscles. As you are only as strong as the weakest muscle, indulge in a regular strength-building phase, and once you feel your body is at a good pace, convert this strength into ski-specific LME. This could include any activity and exercise that copies your skiing motion. Do it for four to six weeks with at least two targeted workouts per week.
A good idea is to go for uphill cycling if you want to enjoy summer outdoors as prepare for winter skiing at the same time. Cycling uphill builds your muscular endurance, and you will thank this routine once you want to climb up a snowy slope.

Stay in Form during the Off-Season

On an advanced level, you can alternate between a week of endurance training and a week of muscular endurance and weight training. This will not only keep your routine from falling into the boring-zone, but it will also give you a nice balance between the gym and outdoors. And before you know it, you will be in the best physical shape and form when your ski season starts.

Building endurance is crucial for cross country skiers so they need to participate in endurance sports during the offseason. It is important to incorporate vigorous routines such as cycling and running into your daily or weekly cardio workouts. If you have access to the hills, it is a great idea to go for Nordic walking on the hills – this includes hiking with poles as well as running. It will help sharpen the same set of muscles you will be needing once the ski season arrives.

Explosive exercises

The off-season time is not only a great way to stay in form, but also to improve your explosive speed and work on muscle power. Make a training program that involves a combination of exercises that use your muscles (upper and lower body as well as core muscles) in rapid bursts. This routine will train your muscles on how to respond quickly and with increased power. Such exercises are known as Plyometric Exercises.

The Plyometric exercises, also known as Plyos or Jump Training, may include lunges, quick jumps, clap pushups, reverse lunge with knee up, etc. Research has proven that Plyometric exercises can build muscles, improve your athletic performance, burn calories and hence fat, and improve your speed and power.

Spend your off-season time wisely by indulging in a combination of exercises that revolve around building endurance, fine-tuning balance, and creating explosive speed and power. This will result in your ski season being more productive and enjoyable.

Other Forms of Summer Training

Include different forms of workouts in your off-season training plan to get the most out of your ski season preparation. You can go for distance biking along with hiking, running, and going to the gym.

A majority of endurance training sessions involve low-intensity movements so that your body can maintain the workouts for longer durations. If you do not have roller skis, go biking. If you cannot do that, go for a hike or run with poles in order to get your core and upper body moving.
Running
If your summer training does not give you many outdoor options, you can hit the gym with a wide variety of workouts including going for the gym’s rowing machine or ski erg. Many skiers go for ski walking or ski bounding on the mountains in the off-season.

Strength training is one of the most important yet the most ignored off-season training. Another idea is to invest your time in stretching and flexibility sessions. This gives you a better sense of your body (hint: yoga).

The Ability XC Training can be done in spring and summer and is a great way to prep your body for the ski season. With a day of rest in the middle, start with four to six days in the week that involves track workout and strength sessions (60 to 120 minutes in total). Incorporate trail runs and hops as well as bikes and roller skis if possible. In case you miss any day, use your resting day (when you do not plan to exercise) as a make-up day for the missed sessions. It is a good idea to go for two intensity sessions in a week in the form of structured intervals, bike races, or running races, etc.

You do not need fancy gym equipment or bikes and bicycles for balance and agility drills. You can use a log and practice different routines on and around it. All you have to do is to put your mind in action, and you can come up with many ways to check what part of your body needs polishing. And once you spot the set of muscles that struggle to achieve a goal or sustain the movement, put those muscles into action by doing workout on a regular basis. That’s the key to strength, coordination, and control.

Conclusion

In cross country skiing, your body works as an engine that moves in different directions. Different sets of muscles work together to carry out a certain movement on the snow. Cross country skiing is not something you can mold your body into doing in a matter of days – it requires a proper training process that you must indulge into especially when it is off-season. You won’t be able to enjoy skiing if you have not prepared yourself physically for it.

Although a lot of skiers do XC skiing for keeping their bodies fit, they can truly achieve their fitness level only if they keep their bodies busy in physical training throughout the year. You do not have to make it hard and boring. You can start with any sort of activity that you love doing and then add some resistance or challenge into it.

It is never too late to get started. Taking the time to train off-season is totally worth the effort. You will realize this once you go on your first ski tour as soon as the winter arrives – you will feel that you have more power and control on the slopes, your muscles will have a better endurance level, and instead of cutting your day short, you will spend more time outdoors.

If you feel staying in form during the off-season sounds too hard, start with a single exercise or workout session, and keep on adding up some other form of exercise (gym or outdoors) to it. Before you know it, you have a physically fit and super active body to enjoy the entire ski season. After all, skiers are made in the summer – try it yourself!