Cross-country skiing – throughout a dynamic sport

Cross-country skiing has been part of the programme of the Winter Olympics ever since the first event in Chamonix in 1924. What was already competitive at this time changed in the course of the following decades like no other olympic endurance sport. Modified and more extensive training, various developments in cross-country skiing techniques, improvements in materials and changes in track preparation as well as race formats took place. However, an end to this multifactorial development process is not yet in sight. All these factors successively changed the physiological determinants of successful performance and contributed to increased skiing speed.

Physiological demands of cross‐country skiing

While a high maximum oxygen intake and high anaerobic threshold have always been a prerequisite for successful cross-country skiers, today’s races offer more opportunities to profit from anaerobic capacity, upper body power, high-speed techniques and tactical flexibility. In addition, the various cross-country skiing techniques and their complexity play a decisive role in the requirement profile. Due to the wide range of speeds and different course profiles cross-country skiers must be able to alternate between and adapt different techniques in a short time and then perform it with the best possible economy of movement.

Ideal compensation sport for triathletes

In the endurance sport of cross-country skiing, more muscles are involved in movement than in many other sport. In addition, coordinative skills are required. These facts, as well as the fact that cross-country skiing is classically practiced in nature, make it an ideal sport for triathletes as well. While the training units in triathlon become more specific as the competitions get closer, it is all the more appropriate to make the early phase of the season more polysportive. The body experiences new stimuli, other strains and also from a mental point of view it can be positive to be active in a more unusual context. The training effects of regular cross-country skiing therefore have a positive effect in various aspects on the performance in triathlon. In addition, you can spend some extra time in the fresh air.

In terms of training methods, all intensity ranges can be covered on cross-country skis. The training intensity is sensibly determined in coordination with the other training units. For beginners it is recommended to get a professional instruction in advance. If you feel more confident, competitions can certainly offer an additional challenge.

Find professional cross-country skiing training plans from Swiss coach luminary Christian Flury here.

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[2] Losnegard, T. (2019). Energy system contribution during competitive cross-country skiing. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 119, 1675-1690.

[3] Pellegrini, B., Stöggl, T.L. & Holmberg, H.-C. (2018). Developments in the Biomechanics and Equipment of Olympic Cross-Country Skiers. Frontiers in Physiology.

[4] Sandbakk, Ø. & Holmberg, H.-C. (2014) A reappraisal of success factors for olympic cross-country skiing. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 9(1), 117-121.