During the summer months, it can be hard to stay focused and keep your muscles snappy when all you seem to do is rollerskiing, rollerskiing and more rollerskiing. Cross training is important in order to avoid burnout or injury–especially for juniors or masters looking to mix it up during the off-season.

In a new series to FasterSkier, we’re going to take a look at some of the ways skiers keep themselves and their bodies sane by use of cross training. Some of the workouts are as familiar as a pre-breakfast run, while others may be as exotic as Cirque de Soleil.

Craig Pond, coach of the UBC Women’s rowing team, strongly believes in the diversity of sport as a means of teaching athletes to live an active lifestyle–instead of merely participating in a specific sport.

“It’s important, when you are a developing athlete, to have a broad range of sports. Just rowing and rowing and rowing is boring, and it’s the same with skiing. It tends to lose some of its excitement,” Pond said. “Try to keep variation so you’re not just hammering away at the same thing.”

For athletes who have been brought up in the ski arena, the sport can lose some of its shine by the time they hit the senior level. Rowing can help in keeping things fresh and new, with a little time off from the specific–but not from athletics.

Pond started out as a cross country skier in Belleville, Ontario, but was convinced to try rowing in high school. He went on to become first an elite rower, then, after injury, a coach.

“Both sports require most muscle groups in your body. Both are leverage sports that require force from your entire body,” said Pond.

Rowing can also help build strong muscles. Photo: Thomas Auer

Rowing and skiing are similar in that they both require the use of the body’s major muscle groups. A rowing stroke has both a drive and a recovery phase, not unlike skiing and both start with the bigger muscles in the body and end with the smaller ones. They’re also similar in they both have diversity in their races—sprints, mid-distance and long distances.

Andrea Bundon is a part of University of British Columbia’s (UBC’s) women’s team. She trains with them during the spring, summer and fall, then switches over to skiing for the winter to race.

She was also a guide for one of Canada’s blind skiers, Courtney Knight, in the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games this past winter. She finds that rowing gives her a mental break while still maintaining her fitness.

“When I hit the snow again, I feel refreshed and ready for the ski season,” said Bundon.

Here’s a sample workout from UBC’s playbook. If it’s too rainy and awful outside to rollerski, erg (or rowing) machines can usually be found at a gym to get a great interval session in. It can also be modified to become a longer interval. Pond thinks it’s a good workout because it keeps the structure of a race.

The Five -Thou-Five Workout

  1. Do a good warm up. Either a 30 minute run or ride, or do a 30 minute rowing warm up so your muscles are ready to go.
  2. Start with a 500-meter interval, which simulates of the beginning of a race. Make it a strong, steady burst.
  3. Take an active break, light rowing or a couple minutes on the bike. It should be at least the same amount of time as your interval.
  4. Hold a threshold pace for a thousand meters. This simulates the middle of a race. You should hold a strong pace with a consistent heart rate.
  5. Take an active break.
  6. Final 500-meter sprint to the finish line. This simulates the final sprint in a race and should be all out.
  7. Cool down.
Rowing is a way to work at a team or solo. Above, the UBC women's lightweight four races on the Fraser River, B.C. Photo: Emmett Tuyp

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