Like skating, cross-country skiing began centuries ago in the Nordic countries as a mode of transportation. Nowadays, cross-country skiing, also known as backcountry skiing and Nordic skiing, is a popular winter sport.
Fun for the Whole Family
Cross-country skiing is a great sport that your whole family can enjoy; age and skill level doesn’t matter when it comes to this type of skiing. Since cross-country skiing is usually done on flat ground, the terrain does not pose as an obstacle to skiers. Because you set your own pace, you can go as fast or as leisurely as you like (or as your children require you to go).
While many ski hills have cross-country trails, it is just as easy for your family to make a day of it in a national park, a golf course or an open field. Unlike downhill skiing, where the scenery just whizzes past you, cross-country skiing gives you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful nature around you. Taking a picnic with you will allow your family to have a rest and refuel when you start to feel a bit tired. Do it the Scandinavian way and pack some oranges for energy and chocolate for a sweet treat!
If your entire family is new to this sport, you may want to consider taking one or two introductory classes. While going forward is simple enough to figure out on your own, a class can help you learn how to go up hills and stop without falling over. However, if you don’t mind a little trial and error, you can teach yourself these skills over time.
Cross-country skiing is well known for the multitude of health benefits it provides. Just an hour of this type of skiing will give you a complete body workout. Because of the constant movement required to go forward, you get an excellent cardiovascular workout that will help to build up your endurance. Plus, cross-country skiing burns a large number of calories when compared to other sports.
While cross-country skiing offers all-over body conditioning, including abdominals and biceps, there are certain areas of your body that really benefit. Because of the sliding motion done by your legs, your quadriceps (the front of your thighs), hamstrings (the back of your thighs) and gluteus (your behind) muscles get especially toned. Since you use the poles to propel you forward, your triceps (the muscles on the back of your upper arm) should also feel a bit firmer.
As if this wasn’t enough, cross-country skiing also helps to improve your coordination, your balance and your agility.
The Right Stuff
Skis for cross-country differ from downhill skis by being longer and narrower. Additionally, the bindings on cross-country skis are just for the toes; your heel is left free to lift up and move around. Not surprisingly, the boots you use for cross-country skis are also different than downhill ski boots and resemble much more closely regular, everyday boots. Additionally, poles play a much bigger role in cross-country skiing than they do in downhill. Because the poles are what you will use to push yourself across the snow, it is important to have the right sized poles for your height. The staff where you buy or rent your skis should be able to help determine just which poles are the right ones for you.
While cross-country skiing is a great sport, not everyone enjoys it. So before you invest your money in skis, boots and poles for the whole family, why don’t you rent the equipment first? Any ski hill that has cross-country trails will offer cross-country ski rentals. Some specialty sports and outdoor stores may also rent the equipment. Once you know how much your family actually enjoys this winter pastime (and have an idea of how frequently you’ll be hitting the trails), then you can start thinking about making the investment.
Before You Get Started
Cross-country skiing can be very demanding on your body, therefore it is important that you warm up and cool down at every outing. Stretching your leg and arm muscles before and after you head out will help prevent you from feeling sore the next day. Once you’re ready to get going, start off slowly for the first five to ten minutes so that your heart rate gradually increases. Use the last five to ten minutes to slow your pace and bring your heart rate back down.
As with all exercise, make sure you and your family drink plenty of water before, during and after your ski. When you’re this active, dehydration is always a possibility. Cross-country skiing can take a lot out of you so don’t forget to take breaks when you feel tired. Remember, accidents are more likely to happen when you’re weary, so quit when you’ve had enough.