Even if we really really love to ski, many of us also spend time doing other kinds of exercise without snow, on dry land. 

Are there aspects of some of those that can also help learn or improve our techniques for classic cross country skiing? 

Here's some exercises we consider: 

The point of this page is not to recommend taking up any of these exercises.  

Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages and hazards, and its own requirements for carefully and intelligently managing risks -- considering those is beyond the scope of this website.  

Especially the exercises that use equipment with wheels enable speeds and maneuvers which can result in serious injury or death -- and the competences for managing those risks are typically more complex and less familiar than for walking and running -- therefore to choose to start with one of those is a serious decision, not in any way addressed by this website. 

On this page we assume that you have already decided to perform one or more of these exercises -- and discuss if there's some ways to enhance your chosen exercise to help your snow-skiing techniques. 

see also 

Dry land exercises -- resources for learning 

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Walking at a normal pace is useful for training the leg muscles for shuffling technique on skis.  And more vigorous walking helps train the leg muscles for normal classic striding on snow. 

uphill "ski walk" -- I've seen suggested this idea as a way to make walking even more like classic striding:  Find a steep hill, and walk up it with long strides, emphasizing motions like classic striding on snow. 

For more detail on how to perform this motion, along with conceptual explanation and excellent step-by-step photos, see "ski walk" on Dryland Classic Drills on the NENSA website.  This page also includes other exercises targeted for very athletic racers -- so don't feel like you need to be able to do all of those in order to become a more effective classic strider. 

Using ski poles with this is also good.  An added benefit of poles is that they can help reduce the impact on knee and ankle joints when walking back down a steep hill.  

One comparison study indicated that this uphill "ski walk" was better than running as training for classic striding on snow. 

Since this variation on walking involves new motions that emphasize different muscles at different angles to their joints, start with just a short time of exercise and less vigorous motion at first, then build up your time and intensity gradually over several weeks and months. 

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A helpful aspect of running is that it trains leg muscles for Classic striding.  To enhance the skiing benefit:  Especially emphasize pressing the toe and ball of your foot, and pushing off with your toes. 

Running is not that useful for learning and reinforcing technique, because as normally done there is no glide, and it has little difficulty with getting grip or keeping balance. 

Note the discussion above under walking about the possible superiority of the uphill "ski walk" as training for classic striding on snow. 

For technique, the closest thing is uphill running -- for athletic skiers.  Especially if you make the stride "big", almost a "bound" up the hill.  That big "bound" is a bit like glide -- and very much like technique for climbing up a steep hill.  To make it more like ski technique, you can emphasize side-to-side weight transfer and push-off with the toe and ball of the foot.  And you can also use ski poles to help. 

This bounding style of uphill running is often called "moose-hoofs" or "hill bounds" by serious ski racers.  In training, some racers like to exaggerate the leap and the quickness of the leg push as a form of "plyometric" exercise. 

Since this variation on walking involves new motions that emphasize different muscles at different angles to their joints, start with just a short time of exercise and less vigorous motion at first, then build up your time and intensity gradually over several weeks and months -- this applies doubly if you are trying the "plyometric" exaggeration style.  

A big drawback with running is the repeated impacts on joints and tendons and ligaments.  

Every time your foot lands, that's a little impact.  This can result in short-term injuries and in long-term degradation of joints and connective tissue.  The worst impacts typically are when running down a hill -- the lightest are usually in running up the hill.  

If you work into it gradually over several weeks, your joints get trained to handle impacts better.  But cross country skiing normally has little impact on joints -- so this kind of training improvement, though crucial for running, does not help skiing. 

So while running up a hill is usually good for skiing, try to  find some non-running way to get back down -- like a partner drive you down in a car, or take a trolley or ski lift down -- or using ski poles while walking down can reduce the impacts on leg joints. 

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A helpful aspect of bicycling is that it trains leg muscles for Classic striding.  For the most skiing-specific training, especially emphasize pressing the toe and ball of your foot when pedaling, and in pulling back on the pedal with your hamstrings. 

But there's almost no connection with skiing technique. 

inline skating 

This can provide excellent training of the leg muscles for ski skating -- obviously -- and still good for classic striding.  If you use skates designed to allow more toe-push, that could help the training for classic striding. 

Some serious racers try to use poles while on their skates -- but most skiers feel that there's too much hazard from tripping over the pole  tips. 

There is some technique benefit -- in balancing on one skate (though of course more for ski skating than for classic striding). 

roller skating 

This can provide a more specific training of leg muscles for Classic striding than does inline skating.  

But there's little technique benefit, because unlike the problematic grip of a Classic ski, the ratchet wheels of a roller skate normally provide good solid grip for pushing.  And they don't provide the same balance challenge as inline skates. 

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"Rollerskis" are sort of like inline skates or roller skates, but have a longer wheelbase and often other design features to better simulate skiing on snow.  Most of them are used with the same bindings and boots as for snow skiing.  

I've heard several users say that they find rollerskis more difficult for making quick stops and quick avoidance maneuvers than inline or roller skates -- so it's trickier to manage the risks of mild and serious injury.  

The discussion in this section does not address these risks.  It assumes that you have already made your decision to take on the risks of rollerskiing, and already know how to manage the risks in an acceptable way.  

"Classic" rollerskis have a ratchet or clutch on one of the wheels on each rollerski to keep it from rolling backward when you push forward against it with your leg.  "Skate" rollerskis can freely roll backward or forward, so the only way to get significant forward-push with your leg is to push on it sideways with the ski angled -- like for skating on snow. 

Classic rollerskis can do a good job of training muscles for classic snow skiing -- or for just general fitness. 

But for learning sound technique for classic snow skiing, it's much trickier:  The basic problem is that classic rollerskis are designed too well

Rollerskis switch so predictably and easily between high friction for pushing and low friction for a rolling "glide" -- that they've simply removed the fundamental puzzle of classic striding technique on snow.  They do not stop you from skiing with committed weight transfer and balance:  But they remove the immediate sensory feedback of losing grip and slipping back from not using solid committed weight transfer.  

So with classic rollerskis, it's easy for even skiers with sound snow technique to slip into habits which are no good for snow skiing.  The good news for these skiers is that those habits are usually cured quickly with some hours of skiing without poles during the first few days back on snow.  

But for learning skiers who have not known sound snow technique, the consensus of lots of people is that although some of the components of sound snow technique can be practiced, it's just not going to fully "come together" on rollerskis.  And it's not necessary, since sound classic snow technique is very learnable on snow.  And the feel of classic rollerski striding is fun in its own right -- just different. 

For more detail on which aspects of help more or less for practicing classic snow skiing, see this page: 

Detail on Transfer from Rollerskis to Snow 

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