Column 19 - Get Ready for Ski Season

Original publication date: January 11, 1984

In all parts of Canada, if there's snow on the ground, there'll be someone cross-country skiing. We've been blessed so far (from a skiers point of view) with lots of powdery snow and temperatures around the freezing mark. Combined, they make skiing conditions perfect.

Cross-country skiing dates back to the 11th century according to a picture of a skier preserved on rock found near Uppsala, Sweden. And the Lapps of the 16th century were known to other Scandinavians as Skrid-Finnen or "sliders" because they skied on a leather shoe about three feet long, with a curved toe.

What used to be known as a practical means of transportation, has become a recreational hobby for millions. (Many who were once downhill skiers disgruntled with long tow lines and high cost of memberships and equipment.) Cross-country skiing is one of the few sports that people of all ages can enjoy while getting the best overall form of aerobic conditioning available. The combination of upper and lower body movements give cross-country skiers the highest maximal oxygen intake compared with any other athlete measured.

Because many ski as a hobby with the exercise as just something that goes along with it, they may rush into skiing without preparing for it first. Before you ski, especially if you ski alone, you should ask yourself a few questions. Is your heart strong enough to sustain the demands made on your body if your ski tip breaks and you have to walk in knee-deep snow back to the car? Will your legs hold you up for a day of skiing, or if you go farther on the trail than you intended? Are your arms strong enough to keep the poles moving? Do you have enough sense to ski at your capability level rather than at your friends'?

If you answered no to any of the questions, the skiing should wait until you build up strength in your legs, arms, shoulders, and abdominal muscles.

The Half-Knee Bend will greatly strengthen your quadriceps (the top, front muscle of your leg). Position your feet about eight inches apart. Put your arms out straight at shoulder height for balance and slowly lower yourself down, keeping your back straight. If your thighs are horizontal to the ground you've gone down too far and risk the danger of a torn knee cartilage. Hold the near-sitting position for six seconds, then slowly stand up. Repeat 10 times twice a day while training.

The arms and shoulders are in constant use while skiing and if not strong, they may be stiff and sore after a few hours. Push-ups against a wall or the floor will give added strength rather quickly. Ten push-ups, three times a day is plenty.

Once you feel in good shape your arms and legs will get stronger as you ski. At this point you should take time to warm your body up right at the ski trail. With skis on, gently slide back and forth on the spot moving and twisting at the mid-section. Stretch your arms up high, hard enough to feel the stretch along your spine. Snake your body to get the blood circulation moving faster enabling you to warm up.

Cross-country skiing is a great alternative to your regular exercise program (we all have one by now, of course). You know you can't beat the winter snow, so may as well join in the fun.

Copyright 2021 K.L. McCluskey, all rights reserved.