Off-Season Cross-Country Skiing Training Methods

Cross-country (x-c) skiing is a taxing sport, but an enjoyable sports activity for the winter months. It provides a total body workout, exercising upper and lower body and strengthening the core. X-c skiing is also a great cardio exercise that keeps off those winter pounds and keeps you from feeling sluggish. Jumping on a pair of cross country skis also allows you to get out and enjoy the beauty of a winter wonderland with its glistening snow-covered trees and crisp, fresh air.

However, you won’t be able to x-c ski far or enjoy your surroundings in earnest if you haven’t prepared physically for the sport before the snow piles up. Therefore, it is essential to do some off-season exercises and activities which will build the muscles and increase the endurance required by this excellent winter sport.

The following off-season training options for cross-country skiers address all the areas necessary to successfully and enjoyably make runs over hill and dell. These activities build strong glutes, quads, calves, core and upper body as well as provide cardiovascular exercise and explosive speed and strength capabilities.

Sharpen Skills

If you go from one cross-country ski season to the next without practicing the motions of the sport, you will lose valuable coordination skills. Participating in other cardio and strength training exercises may keep you fit for the sport, but they don’t mimic the motions which are what’s needed to keep your skills sharp.

To address this problem, take up roller skiing in the off season. Roller skis are elongated versions of roller blades without the brakes. Similar motions of cross-country skiing are utilized on roller skis only you’re accomplishing them on asphalt or concrete. Adding hills and various obstacles to your roller skiing program will help to build strength, balance and endurance which will serve you well during the real deal.

Build Endurance

Since endurance is a key factor for cross country skiers, participating in endurance sports during the off season is vital. Include a vigorous cardio workout to your routine such as running or cycling.

For added skill building, take to the hills for Nordic walking which is comprised of running and hiking cross country with poles. Because the movements closely mirror those of the cross-country skier, many of the same muscles are exercised and tweaked for maximum benefit.

Fine-Tune Balance

During those off-season months, you can also fine-tune your balance so you can better maneuver the landscape and ski the slopes. Purchase a balance board which is the perfect tool for achieving a sharper balance as well as strengthen the leg muscles that control it. Balance on the board with both feet or only one foot, do squats, dribble a ball, or come up with other creative balance exercises.

If you don’t have a balance board, you can still do some exercises to improve this necessary skill. String a line about 6 inches off the ground and hop over it from side to side, landing first on the right foot then hopping over to the left (without lowering the opposite foot). You can also practice standing on one foot while lifting the other up in front of you and moving it around in various actions while remaining balanced.

Build Explosive Speed and Power

The off-season is a great time to work on building explosive speed and power for the cross-country ski season. Set up a plyometric training program which consists of various exercises that use your muscles in strong, rapid bursts. These actions train the muscles to respond quicker and with more power.

Plyometric exercises include such movements as quick jumps, lunges, clap pushups and more. You can check out some good plyometric suggestions in a previous MP article entitled Get a Jump on the Competition with Plyometric Exercises.


Use the off-season to hone your cross-country skiing skills, build endurance, fine-tune balance and create explosive speed and power. Your time on the skis in the winter will be more exhilarating, productive and enjoyable.

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