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Tips & Tricks for cross-country skiing from cyclist Max Kuen

Road bike athlete Max Kuen in portrait

If you ask me tips and tricks for cross-country skiing, it's like asking a passionate hobby cyclist for racing tips. I have been a passionate cross-country skier for 10 years. More precisely I am a skate skier, I haven’t tried classical skiing yet. Because of knee problems resulting from former training methods, I started with cross-country skiing. Meanwhile, it happens that I have more fun with this sport than with cycling. I also tried ski touring but that’s not my cup of tea.

Stockschub_langer_Zug_Langlaufen_Max_Kuen_Wintersport_Loipe
Pole-push while cross-country skiing

By the end of the season, I will have run over 1,000 kilometres on local trails. By the way, the more I did cross-country skiing in winter, the easier was the upcoming racing season on the bike.
This leads me to the fist item:

Benefits

Cross-country skiing is probably the best winter training for cyclists. Why? It’s a highly intense training for the whole body: shoulders, torso and legs. Properties such as strength, endurance, explosiveness, stability and the ability to suffer are trained. Other stimuli make the body more resistant and versatile.

Leaving the bike untouched in the corner clears your head. But you can’t do without it: If you want to benefit from cross-country skiing (or any other alternative sport in winter) in summer, then you should pedal hard after each cross-country skiing session up to one hour. Due to enduring physical training you don’t build up unnecessary muscles but gain power and stability without putting on weight.

Stability

Stability is also the next keyword. Keeping the balance on skinny skies is very difficult for beginners. In addition there are long gliding phases, requiring a good body control. That’s an advantage for any sport. Especially for cycling, stability brings more safety, agility and responsiveness in downhills and on the road. Last year, I also gave you an insight into the world of "Stabi or core training". Cross-country skiing is the best outdoor training for this sort of sport. Nevertheless, you should still practice the normal "Stabi or core training" at home or at the gym.

Techniques

Most important in cross-country skiing is the technique. My first attempts must have looked terrible. Fortunately, I had good instructors teaching me the optimal techniques. Therefore, I constantly improved. You need about three years to learn technically good skate skiing. Then you can begin to refine your curve techniques and downhills. A very complex sport that, once you have learned it, makes you very happy.

Running styles of cross-country skiing by Max Kuen

Asymmetric uphill skating

That is a multifunctional skate movement. Ensuring more balance, you can use is uphill as well as on flat terrain.
By simultaneously using the poles and gliding your skies you develop more power while skating uphill. By doing so, widely extend your legs to avoid slipping. This uphill skate movement is hard training for your legs.
As to the other two movements the skis almost glide straight forward to build up speed. Another difference is that the pole push only occurs during the gliding phase.

2/1 or "Long skate movement":

You make two skate movements and one pole push. This step is only used in flat terrain, as it would not make sense uphill. It is also called "long skate movement" because the glide phase is a long one. This means you can glide the leading ski for a longer time, that’s why it’s used in flat terrain and at fast conditions.

The 1/1 skate movement:

The 1/1 skate movement:
A skate movement and a pole push. Mainly used in flat terrain, but also for light to medium climbs. Very exhausting movement.
Of all the steps I use the 1/1 the most. But that is individually different.

However, one rule applies to all techniques: The poles are skipped to the rear during the pole push. If you don’t follow this rule, you would cut off half of the momentum and loose too much energy. (See picture "pole push")

The equipment is also very important:

There are skis for different weight classes. The heavier you are, the more tension the ski needs, so that the rebound motion of the ski "swings back." Otherwise, you would move forward slowly.

The length of the poles and skies must be well chosen, whereas the poles are considerably longer than the alpine poles. Please don’t use these ones ... that would look ridiculous.
The ski coating is adapted to the surface condition. That’s why there are coatings for cold, warm or universal grounds.
As in cycling you should take your time to find the perfect equipment. Please be careful when choosing the cross-country ski boots since they shouldn’t be too large. Exception applies only if you always have cold feet and run with wool socks ... As to me: I have always cold feet, but never while cross-country skiing.

Optimal clothing

Please be careful when it comes to clothing. Since you mostly run when temperatures are below freezing, you usually feel colder due to the speed. That's why I dress as follows:

  • Long underpants
  • Long-sleeve shirt (on warmer days: short-sleeve and warmer shirt)
  • Thin / thick (depending on temperature) cross-country pants (tight-fitting)

  • Thin / thick (depending on temperature) cross-country pants (tight-fitting)
  • Thin jacket / jersey or similar
  • Cross-country ski gloves & beanie
  • Don’t forget your glasses! Whether the sun is shining or not, glasses are always comfortable.

  • At cold winds or low temperatures short thermal pants are recommended.
  • At cold winds or low temperatures a thermal jacket is recommended.
  • Cross-country ski boots

  • Water bag with storage space. Handy and important at low temperatures
  • Skis & poles
  • Finally dressed and everything packed!

To start you have to invest some money in equipment and clothing. Quality pays off. Especially at the beginning you can use your cycling clothing if available (eg. windbreakers, thermal jackets and pants, long-sleeve jersey etc.).

Finally, I suggest to look for an experienced cross-country skier who can instruct and train you. I can tell you that you won’t get far with video studies and the like ... I speak from my own experience. Once you get on your cross-country skis and make your first skate movements, you will see that the rest comes naturally - fun factor included.

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