Nordic Skiing in your Off-Season
Stay Ready to Play, All Winter Long: Nordic Skiing in your Off-Season
The beauty of a full-body workout is that it prepares you for a wide array of sports and activities: cross country skiing is one of the best examples of this sort of exercise. Whatever your focus is, cross country skiing will build up your base stamina, hone your balance, and strengthen the engines of any type of play: your core and legs. When the options for outdoor training seem limited in the winter months, skiing allows athletes of all stripes to gulp fresh air while having a blast and getting one of the best workouts there is. Indeed, some of the best athletes in the country have discovered the performance-enhancing properties of Nordic. For Olympians like Lydia Jacoby and Andrew Reed, who just finished competing in Tokyo, cross country skiing remains a valuable component of their athletic make-ups.
For 17 year-old Alaska native Jacoby, skiing took on a particularly important role during the build up to the 2020 games. Winter 2020, when the games were still scheduled for the coming summer, the swimmer’s local pool in her hometown of Seward was closed due to COVID. This meant a winter and spring of weightlifting, gym work, and, this being Alaska, cross country skiing. As is hardly surprising in such a skier’s paradise, Jacoby would jump on her skis right outside her door building up her lung capacity and strengthening many of the same muscles needed for breaststroke—Jacoby’s specialty. And this creative out-of-pool training seems to have paid off in this summer: Jacoby won Gold in the 100 m breaststroke, the first summer medal for an Alaskan ever.
Though he’s from Wayland, Massachusetts, not Alaska, rower Andrew Reed is no stranger to snow. After rowing at Harvard, Reed headed north to join the Craftsbury Green Racing Team, based at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, just past Greensboro, Vermont. The team prepares post-collegiate rowers, Nordic skiers and biathletes for international competition; and though Andrew stuck to competitive rowing, he counts cross country skiing among his favorite activities. Though it might seem an odd combination, this comingling of rowing and skiing is a boon to athletes of both varieties. Reed is evidence that a bit of cross training, especially when Nordic skiing is part of that training, can boost your performance to its max.
Not only does skiing provide a perfect way to have fun and stay fit in the off-season of whatever your sport is, it helps build a general base of physical fitness—not to mention leaving you with a pastime that will last a lifetime. For one Norwegian family of Olympic runners, cross country skiing laid the groundwork for years of Track and Field successes. Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who took home gold in the 1500 meter in Tokyo, and his two older brothers Henrik and Filip—both of whom represented Norway in past Olympics—all grew up cross country skiing.
The two older siblings didn’t begin to focus on running until they were almost 18; Jakob became a full-time runner at age 12. In an interview, Henrik recalled waking up before dawn to roller ski circuits in a nearby parking lot. Though the brother’s preternatural running abilities have been pinned on many factors—a devoted father/coach, carefully monitored training sessions, brotherly team spirit—a 2019 study pointed to the active culture in which the boys grew up, which allowed for their phenomenal aerobic capacities. For the Ingebrigstens, as for many Norwegians, much of this physically active culture revolved around Nordic skiing. Sure, hiking, running, cycling and a general habit of routine exercise are part of that cultural equation, but only skiing is considered Norway’s “national sport.” In a country that loves to get outside, skiing is the obvious way to enjoy Scandinavia’s fjord-ridden beauty in the arctic winter months.
And if you have a summer sport you’re passionate about—be it running, swimming, rowing or whitewater kayaking—and want to build strength and stamina throughout the winter months as you look forward to next year, take a page out of Norway’s book. As Lydia Jacoby did with her Alaska winters, make the most of what the snowy season giveth: find some skis, any old pair, and a nearby trail, and start skiing—there’s nothing to lose, and plenty of gains to be made!