This week’s workout comes from contributing reporter Rachel Perkins, a former USCSA National Champion turned dedicated citizen racer and now a new mom to a baby girl born in October. Here Rachel shares tips from her own experience as well as the wisdom of local chariot pulling veterans. This article is an introduction to an upcoming series highlighting the pregnancy and postpartum experiences of skiers including Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks, and Caitlin Gregg as they ski their first tracks as a new parent.
Whether you are a professional athlete, dedicated age-grouper, or just enjoy a tour on your cross-country skis, balancing exercise and family is a challenge for most active parents. Luckily, there are ways to marry the two, especially while your child is easily portable. Anyone who has towed a child of any size uphill can attest that skiing with a pulk or chariot is not for the faint of heart (or legs)!
I found out I was pregnant a few days after skiing 50-kilometers in a charity skiathlon where I felt remarkably flat. About two weeks prior, I raced a team sprint with my husband and felt super strong. I was confused why a long but easy tour felt so taxing. Had my skis been slowed by dirt collected from the eternal “early-season conditions” that plagued Colorado in its low-slow year last season? Were they desperately in need of wax? Better to blame the skis than the body.
I was incredibly fortunate to have a healthy and active pregnancy. I spent the summer trail running, hiking in the mountains, and swimming laps, and I rollerskied until the week before I went into labor. Once my little girl was born and my body had time to heal, I was eager to get out in the newly fallen snow. And, after nine months of bouncing around in my belly, my baby is quickly lulled to sleep by motion. Laps at our local ski area with the chariot are a golden ticket for mutual happiness.
With the infant sling installed in our Thule Cheetah XT, think modernized-pulk, it is possible to begin skiing with our baby almost right away. And by the time she outgrows the child seat, we hope that she will be propelling herself down the trails.
Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions to help make your workout enjoyable for everyone involved.
Can you ski normally with a chariot?
When you first start to tow a ski chariot, it might feel like you have never been on skis before, as the weight you are propelling is distributed much differently than it is when you ski on your own. However, with some practice, you will forget there is anything behind you. At least on the flat sections. … Regardless, since the chariot will keep your little one secure and warm, it is well worth the added weight.
Whether you are skating or classic skiing, it is important to keep your hips forward so that your own center of gravity is just in front of you, aiding forward momentum and power delivery. Having your hips too far back will be especially noticeable on uphills. The hip belt can actually be a good technique cue; keep your eyes up the trail and be mindful of keeping your hips tucked under you, and skiing will begin to feel more natural.
If you are classic skiing, err on the side of more kick as you have more weight to propel with the little one tagging along. Fish-scales or skin skis are a foolproof way to go. The weight of the chariot will make up for any losses in speed on downhills, not that you’ll be trying to set any records.
Some cautionary advice in physics: with the chariot trailing behind you, it is essential to brake early and make wide turns. Remember that the force of the chariot behind you will push tangent to the curve that you are rounding, meaning it will try to push you off the trail. Having your speed in check and a wide radius helps keep everyone safe and upright.
How do I keep my baby warm?
Only one of you is working hard, so it is important to make sure your little one is well-bundled for the outing. For infants, insulated layers that can’t unintentionally be kicked off are key, like a fleece or down bunting suit. It can also be helpful to tuck the baby in with a blanket or a puffy jacket.
When using the infant sling, keep in mind the dead space between the sling and the child seat below. Unless this space is filled with insulation, it is a bit like sleeping on the frozen ground with a blanket on top of you; probably not the most comfortable experience. Tucking another blanket or a down jacket into the space can help keep your baby better protected from the cold.
How do you tell they are warm enough? A good way to see whether your baby is warm enough (or too warm) is to stick a finger behind their neck or down the back of their clothes. If the baby feels warm, but not sweaty, they should be comfortable.
What if my kid hates the chariot?
It may not be the best idea to embark on a two-hour ski as your child’s first rodeo. Start with a short outing and gradually increase the length of the ski. This will also help you build up your towing stamina!
If your kiddo is hungry or bored, your ski might end quickly. Don’t forget to pack snacks, water, and maybe a toy or book to keep everyone entertained and well fueled. The interior is easy to clean, so don’t worry about the sticky peanut butter and jelly messes.
If you are skiing with a baby, try to time the outing with a nap. For a young baby, it may be helpful to get them soothed and calm before starting the ski. I have found that the portable sound machine we use for my little one’s naps at home also works wonders in the chariot. Once we are moving, she drifts quickly off to sleep.
Rachel is an endurance sport enthusiast based in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. You can find her cruising around on skinny skis, running in the mountains with her pup, or chasing her toddler (born Oct. 2018). Instagram: @bachrunner4646