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5 Fall Training Tips for Cross-Country Skiers

Here’s what any Nordic skier needs to do to be in peak form for the early season.

Tips & Ideas Wednesday, November 15, 2023

No matter how long you’ve been skiing or how chill you plan to make that first day out on the trails, there are a couple of pre-season to-dos even the best skiers tend to overlook this time of year.

We’re blessed to have a long cross-country ski season in Colorado, but after a long summer of sports and play, we’ve still been off our skis for a long stretch of time by this point. As we nudge closer to winter, it’s time to prepare our bodies for the season. Whether you’re a go-faster or a leisurely weekend wanderer, Nordic skiing (especially at our temps and altitude) is a demanding sport. Here are the best ways to get your body ready for the first ski of the year.

Get back to exercise that mimics skiing.

Summer’s sweet spot was a mix of cross-training, rest, and play. But now’s the time to focus on exercises to get your body back in line for ski-specific movement. Dial-up things like:

  • Roller ski with plenty of double polling.
  • Hike with trekking poles. They improve power, posture, and endurance on hikes.
  • Use a Ski-Erg. Check to see if your local gym has one—this wall-mounted machine mimics polling and lets you vigorously train your upper body and core by pulling down cables with grips. It’s perfect for adaptive skiers or those who may have lower-body injuries.

Nourish your body.

Cold weather can make us crave more decadent foods for comfort, but keeping the fruits and veggies on board will support your body’s muscle growth and repair. Find a few warming recipes if raw fruit and cold salads don’t appeal. Need inspiration? This Greek lentil veggie soup went viral after a Washington Post story about a nurse who loved it so much he ate it for lunch every day for 17 years. Another easy dish is homemade applesauce—just quarter Macintosh apples (skins on) and boil until soft, then drain and press through a sieve with the back of a spoon. Serve while still warm with cinnamon.


Sleep may not feel like training, but it’s some of the best you can do. A July 2023 study on sleep and athletic performance found that of all the interventions to improve sleep—things like mindfulness, light manipulation, cold-water immersion—the best were the simplest: extending the amount of sleep and adding naps. Competitive Nordic racers sometimes sleep 9 to 10 hours a night to be adequately rested for training and allow the body to repair. And fall’s shorter, darker days and blustery weather make for the best nap scenario.

Find a pre-season ski workout class.

Plenty of ski conditioning classes geared to alpine skiers are also a good fit for Nordorks—at their core, they should match the physical demands faced while skiing. Look for a class that includes agility (like floor ladder work), balance (bosu), strength (box jumps), and cardiovascular training (intervals).

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