Is Nordic Skiing Good Exercise (and How Do You Train)?

Nordic skiing is widely considered one of the best cardiovascular exercises known to man. Its combination of endurance, strength, and agility make it a great all-around workout that anyone can enjoy.
Is Nordic Skiing Good Exercise

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So you’ve heard about Nordic skiing and how it’s a great workout that can put you in great shape, and now you’re curious. While it may sound intimidating, Nordic skiing is an easy sport to learn. You don’t need to be a Norse god to enjoy it as anyone who’s in reasonable health can take it on.

However, you’ll have to come prepared. Because even though the fundamentals and techniques are easy to learn, it’s a physically demanding sport that can leave you breathless if you’re not ready. If you’re up to the challenge and want a good workout, here’s what you need to know about training and preparing your body for Nordic skiing.

Is Nordic Skiing Hard and Tiring?

Nordic skiing is an easy sport to learn even for beginners but it’s not without its challenges. How tiring it will be depends entirely on your fitness level. The sport requires you to be in decent shape at the least to take on its challenges.

There are three types of Nordic skiing — cross country, telemark, and alpine touring, each with its differences and similarities.

And like learning any new skill or sport, your progress is determined by how fast you’re able to absorb and apply the techniques. It can be difficult if you don’t make time to practice regularly and skip steps. Beginners should always take lessons from expert instructors or pros who can teach the fundamentals and proper techniques.

How Hard Is Nordic Skiing?

Even if Nordic skiing is easy to learn, certain techniques and the physical requirements can make it hard.

When learning Nordic skiing, you can choose between classic/cross-country and skate skiing. The classic cross country ride happens in the tracks and is the most common and easiest to do.

On the other hand, skate skiing involves movements that are very similar to ice skating and requires a lot of effort to get yourself moving fast. This can be hard if you have no experience skiing or skating and have poor body coordination.

The second thing that can make Nordic skiing hard is the effort needed for exploring and riding. Telemark and alpine touring calls for backcountry exploration. This will test your endurance and cardiovascular conditioning. So if you’re not in very good shape, you might find yourself gassed before you’ve been able to ski.

Why Is Nordic Skiing So Hard?

What makes Nordic skiing challenging is its high endurance requirement. Practice alone can take a lot out of you if you’re not in good physical condition. So before you get started, you’ll have to hit the gym regularly to prepare your heart and lungs. Also, if you’re not determined to go through the hours of practice that’s needed to learn the sport, you’re better off doing something else.

Is Nordic Skiing the Hardest Sport?

When it comes to the overall degree of difficulty, Nordic skiing isn’t the hardest sport in the world.  However, when it comes to endurance, sports experts have rated Nordic skiing as the most difficult due to its high endurance requirement.

To provide context, other aspects that experts evaluated were strength, power, speed, and agility. Nordic skiing was at the median level in these categories.

Is Nordic Skiing a Good Workout?

Definitely. Nordic skiing is a great workout that will test your endurance so it’s recommended that you get yourself in the proper physical conditioning before engaging in the sport. And if you plan on doing this regularly, you’ll need to have a healthy lifestyle for you to truly enjoy Nordic skiing.

Whichever Nordic skiing type you choose, you’ll be in for a good workout. For skate skiing, you’ll need to use the poles to generate your own momentum to accelerate and speed up. Meanwhile, touring or backcountry exploration will involve long hikes.

What Muscles Does Nordic Skiing Work?

The sport works your heart and major muscle groups. It’s a full-body workout that involves lower body muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves), upper body muscles (chest, back, arms), and your core muscles.

When training for Nordic skiing, it’s essential to focus endurance and strength through compound exercises rather than isolated muscle workouts. You also need to train for balance, rotation, and mobility.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Nordic Skiing?

You can burn around 475 calories per hour while Nordic Skiing at a moderate pace. Naturally, you’ll burn more if you ski at a more intense pace. But the number will still vary based on the following factors:

  • Age: You burn fewer calories the more advanced your age is.
  • Gender: Generally, males burn more calories than females.
  • Height and weight: The bigger you are, the more calories you burn.
  • Body type and body fat percentage: The more muscles you pack, the higher the burn.

What Are the Benefits of Nordic Skiing?

Generally speaking, any kind of sport is physically and mentally beneficial especially when played the right way. However, many sports and health experts agree that Nordic Skiing offers plenty of good things compared to other sports. This is why it’s considered one of the best exercises known to man. Here’s a look at what Nordic skiing can do for you:

  • Improves heart health: Every movement you make in Nordic skiing will make your heart pump hard and fast, which makes the sport one of the best aerobic exercises you can do. So it’s no surprise that world-class professional skiers have the highest oxygen consumption values recorded.

Called VO2, this measures the oxygen your body uses. The higher the value, the more energy you have and the longer you can sustain the activity. In effect, this makes your heart stronger and healthier. While you may not reach Olympic levels, you can expect your VO2 levels to improve with regular Nordic skiing.

  • Makes you more coordinated and agile: Nordic skiing is a whole-body sport. You need upper and lower body coordination, timing, and agility in every stride, push, and turn. It teaches you how to utilize your whole body and make your movements smoother especially when shifting your weight from one side to the other. It’s something you can carry over to your daily activities and other sports that you enjoy playing.
  • Low risk of injury: Like running, Nordic skiing is a weight-bearing exercise. Meaning, you’re on your feet the whole time. But unlike running on hard pavement, skiing on powder snow is easier on the body. There’s less pressure on the joints and less stress on your body, significantly lowering the chances of injury.
  • Boosts mental well-being: Because Nordic skiing takes you to the great outdoors, you’ll find yourself in peaceful locations surrounded by nature. This can have a positive effect on your well-being. The exercise combined with the serene surroundings can decrease stress levels and anxiety. It’s a form of escape from your busy life. And when you’re immersed in nature and the sport, there’s only room for positive energy.

Is Nordic Skiing Low Impact?

Yes, Nordic skiing is a low impact sport. There is less stress on your body since snow is more forgiving compared to concrete. Your joints will thank you since you won’t experience consistent pounding as you would with running.

And because it’s a low impact sport, people with arthritis or chronic joint concerns can enjoy Nordic skiing with little or no negative effects.

Is Nordic Skiing Good for Running?

Because Nordic Skiing involves the same muscle groups, it’s widely considered a good sport for runners to take on. Nordic skiing strengthens your core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves without putting too much pressure on your joints. It’s good complimentary training to get you stronger while keeping your body fresh and injury-free.

Another muscle that Nordic skiing uses is the heart. You get excellent aerobic training and it takes your endurance to another level, something you’ll need for marathons or triathlons.

Is Nordic Skiing Harder Than Running?

While there are similarities to the muscle groups needed in Nordic skiing and running, there are two things that make Nordic skiing harder than running:

  • Upper body strength: In running, you don’t need poles to accelerate. But in Nordic skiing, you’ll need a strong upper body to propel yourself forward. Your arms, chest, and core will get worked up pretty well.
  • Going uphill: Uphill climbs are going to be very challenging for Nordic skiers. In running, you simply have to move your legs to get yourself over the hump. In Nordic skiing, you’ll need to employ a whole-body technique using your poles and skis to propel yourself forward and upward.

Is Nordic Skiing Faster Than Running?

Generally, Nordic skiing is faster than running in a recreational or casual setting. Recreational cross-country skiers ride at an average speed of 7-10mph while the average jogging speed for a human male is 8mph and 6.5 mph for females.

However, speeds will differ in the competitive setting. The average male running speed for a 5k marathon is 16mph, while professional cross-country skiers go at 15mph for long-distance skiing.

For sprints, Usain Bolt registered the fastest record at 27.8mph for a 100m sprint. Top cross country racers can achieve speeds of 20-25mph on a flat surface and significantly faster when going downhill.

Is Nordic Skiing Bad for Knees?

As a low impact sport, Nordic skiing isn’t bad for your knees or other joints. Yet it’s still possible to experience knee or joint pains due to poor form, technique, body conditioning, or overexertion.

Skiing is a highly technical sport that involves a lot of motor functions. Mastering the fundamentals ensures that you’re able to ride safely and execute advanced techniques. Poor form can cause injuries not just to your knees.

Below average body conditioning is also a major culprit. A weak lower body or being overweight will strain your knees and legs. But even if you’re in great shape, continuing to ski despite being fatigued can also increase the chances of injury.

How Do Nordic Skiers Train?

Highly successful professional skiers live and breathe training. Their regimen focuses on endurance, strength, and speed. They spend endless hours training at varying intensity levels to be able to compete on the world stage.

For recreational Nordic skiers, it doesn’t have to be that intense. But training should still be part of your game plan. You can improve your endurance through running, rowing, biking or other endurance-building exercises. Then get stronger by hitting the gym and working on the important muscle groups, especially your core. You can also do plyometrics and mobility training to increase your agility.

As for speed, the key is regular high-quality training. By sticking to your workout, you’ll be able to teach your muscles to move fast for longer periods. This is how you’ll increase your speed on snow.

How Do I Get in Shape for Nordic Skiing?

If you’re not in good physical condition, you’ll have to get in shape to get into Nordic skiing. Of course, this won’t happen overnight so you’ll have to train months before the winter season, ideally beginning in summer. Getting in shape involves the following:

  • Training: Focus should be on endurance, strength, and mobility, as mentioned above. It’s best to consult with a professional trainer to have a program in place that will meet your objective.
  • A Healthy Diet: You need to fuel your body with the right nutrients to build muscle and sustain your physical improvements. Ditch the fast food and go for greens, fruits, and proteins. If you want to follow a specific diet like Paleo or Keto, be sure to check with your nutritionist about the best diet for your body type.
  • Rest: Training and a healthy diet are useless if you don’t get enough rest. Recovery is just as important, maybe the most important part of getting in shape. This allows your body to heal and get stronger so you can train harder.

Make no mistake, training for Nordic skiing is going to be challenging especially if you’re coming in with no regular fitness routine. It’s a lifestyle change that will entail sacrifices. Your body will be sore but you’ll notice positive physical and mental changes in yourself. Plus, you’ll reap the rewards once you finally get to ski.

Is Nordic Skiing Easy or Hard to Learn?

Nordic skiing is easy to learn. It’s a sport that anyone, at any age can get into, as long as they’re still physically capable. Beginners will find it challenging at the start, which is only normal. But with regular training and practice, you’ll find yourself exploring the backcountry looking for the perfect trail in no time.

How Hard Is It to Learn Nordic Skiing?

If you’re in reasonable shape, it won’t be hard to learn Nordic skiing. You’ll learn all the basics if you train with an instructor for several hours a week. If you can pick up the techniques quickly enough, you’ll be able to go cross-country skiing with minimal assistance.

If your endurance level is low and if you’re not in good physical condition, then expect the learning experience to be gruelling. But with enough commitment, you’ll find the motivation to reach the right fitness level.

Learning is also easier if you have the proper gear and equipment. Get the correct pole and ski length, and proper protection from the extreme winter weather.

How Do You Learn Nordic Skiing?

You can learn Nordic skiing by yourself, getting friends to teach you, or taking lessons from the experts. But if you’re getting into it for the first time and have no winter sports experience, it’s much better to take lessons.

You can find instructors in ski resorts or Nordic ski clubs. You can look them up online or get referrals from your friends. Learning from the pros is ideal because you’ll have someone to show you the proper form, technique, and teach the nuances of the sport. You can still learn about these things on your own but that entails a lot of risk and trial and error.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Nordic Skiing?

With several hours of practice daily, you can learn Nordic skiing’s fundamentals within a few days. It can take longer depending on how fast you pick up the techniques and your fitness level.

Taking lessons also allows you to progress faster versus learning it on your own or informally through friends. But either way, you’ll have to be patient and take it step by step. Mastering the fundamentals is what can make you advance much quicker.

Do You Need Lessons for Nordic Skiing?

It’s not a requirement to take lessons for Nordic skiing but it’s highly recommended for beginners. Doing so allows you to learn faster since you have a professional showing you the ropes. The lesson’s structured approach ensures that you don’t miss any of the fundamental aspects which help you ride safely and get better.

You’ll also get valuable tips that you won’t get learning by yourself or from your friends, unless they’re professional Nordic skiers as well.

How Do I Get Better at Nordic Skiing?

Like with any skill or sport, you get better with consistent practice and keeping your body in great shape.

During the winter season, skiing regularly will give you the experience you need to ride better and faster. You’ll pick up new tricks or adjust your technique to improve your weak points. If it’s not your year-round sport, taking on other sports that complement Nordic skiing is a good way to keep your skills sharp and your fitness level high.

When taking on other sports, you can apply your experiences to Nordic skiing and vice versa. If you know your body well, you can identify your strong points and weaknesses. This allows you to target them and improve through other disciplines during the offseason.

And most importantly, you can bet better by maintaining a high endurance and body strength level. If your body is in the best condition it can be, you can ride longer and faster with a lowered risk of injury.

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