Summary: Build a solid base of ski specific fitness during the off-season with ski striding. Embedded video tutorial teaches how to “fall uphill”, how to ski walk, and how to ski bound.
This lesson covers ski striding to mimic diagonal stride. We’ll leave offset striding for another time.
Ski striding is popular with nordic skiers because it’s…
1. Ski Specific Training
Diagonal stride technique has two parts: a kick and a glide. Ski striding is a surprisingly good way to mimic the kick phase. It strengthens the right muscles and it trains them to fire in the correct pattern to optimize your kick.
After a summer of ski striding you’ll be better at compressing your wax pocket onto the snow. Ideally when you kick you apply just enough downward force to make your wax stick and all the rest of your energy is directed backwards to help propel you forward.
Ski striding helps get you closer to this ideal.
2. Endurance Training for the Whole Body
Ski striding with poles gives you the same “full body” fitness benefits you love about cross-country skiing. That’s valuable training, especially if your main summer activities are primarily lower body workouts like running, hiking, or biking.
3. Safe(r) Speed Training
It’s no secret that sprinting is the best way to improve overall speed. If you’re looking for maximum fitness benefit, a workout that punctuates high intensity intervals with brief periods of rest is more effective than a long duration, low intensity workout.
But sprinting comes with risk. It’s easy to pull a muscle or sprain a joint with all out effort. Working hard on a hill is safer. There’s less impact and less likelihood of injury.
I’m not saying ski striding is risk-free. You can still hurt yourself. But if you build up to higher intensity gradually, ski striding is one of the safer high intensity workouts you can do.
4. Surprisingly Fun
Are you secretly sad at the end of winter when everyone else is excited about summer? Do you feel a little depressed and wistful even as you enjoy the longer days of sunshine?
The Bad News: You’re a nordic skiing addict!
The Good News: You can re-create a little of the magic flow of cross-country skiing with ski striding. There’s a rhythm to ski striding that’s a lot like cross-country skiing. It might be just the “fix” you need to sustain you until next winter.
Equipment and Location
You need 2 things: a pair of poles and a hill.
Ski striding poles are shorter than either classic or skate poles. That’s partly because there’s no glide phase in ski striding so your arm swing is shorter, and also because you’re only going uphill so your poles naturally rest very high.
The pole grip should reach about halfway up your bicep when you’re standing in shoes. Downhill ski poles or adjustable hiking poles are both good options. You don’t need expensive poles for ski striding.
A moderately steep, grassy slope is perfect. Don’t worry about the pitch of your hill; you can enjoy the benefits of striding on all sorts of different slopes.
How to Ski Stride [Video Tutorial]
The video tutorial below will teach you step by step how to ski walk and ski bound. The 4 parts of the lesson are
- Falling Uphill
- Ski Walking (1:14)
- Ski Bounding (2:03)
- Using Poles (2:52)
Maximize the Benefits of Ski Striding
Falling uphill is the most important part of this lesson. This might seem like an overly simple drill but don’t be deceived. Learning how to fall uphill is a key part of becoming an efficient skier. Falling uphill means gravity is doing more of the work and you and your muscles are doing less.
Imagine your wax pocket. When working on your preload, imagine your wax pocket underneath the ball of your foot. Now think about generating a quick, powerful compression to make it stick to the snow.
Don’t overthink. Once you add in poles it’s common to have trouble coordinating your arm and leg movements. You’ve been swinging your arms and legs in opposition since the time you could crawl. It’s what your body wants to do – just get your mind out of the way.
Lean in. Striding uphill is a great opportunity to develop your forward body lean. Forward body lean is another key characteristic of advanced nordic ski technique.
Lean into the hill by flexing your ankles, keeping your hips forward, and lengthening your stride behind you.
Don’t run. Running uphill is faster than ski bounding. If you’re doing intervals you’ll be tempted to increase your speed by transitioning to a running gait.
Watch for it. The temptation is even stronger when you’re with training buddies and the competitive juices are flowing.
Don’t worry about doing it “wrong”. Ski walking and ski bounding are only an approximation of diagonal stride technique. You are not on skis and you are not gliding. (I guess you could count the airtime you get when bounding as glide-like.)
Perhaps the biggest benefit of ski striding is improved fitness, and you’ll get that just because you’re working on a hill. Focus on leaning in and feeling smooth and effortless.
Get out at least once a week. Ski stride at least once a week for maximum benefit. Use it as an interval/intensity workout. Work your way up to 10-12 hill repeats, depending on your fitness and the size of the hill.
When winter returns and you head out for your first ski your muscles will be ready and you won’t suffer that early season muscle stiffness. You know what I’m talking about? It always hits the thigh adductors particularly hard.
Does it work for you? Does ski striding help you recreate some of the joy you feel cross-country skiing? Does it prevent muscle soreness at the start of your ski season? Please share your advice and experience in the comments below.