Benefits of Skiing for Runners

Benefits of Skiing for Runners

It’s wintertime here in Utah and for many runners, this usually means it is the offseason. A time to mix things up, get in some more cross-training, and bring down the mileage. The peak of the mountain racing season has come and gone, which provides you time to give your body and mind that reset which is VITAL for longterm longevity both physically and mentally in your sport. 

If you live in an area that brings the beautiful white fluffy stuff (snow), you may know the struggle you can run into trying to run on some of your favorite trails. Your access to certain trails can be limited due to the snowpack and avalanche danger. Don’t get me wrong, running during the winter months is definitely doable, beautiful and loads of fun. Running in the snow can add a challenge to your training plan. It gets your heart pumping, changes up the scenery, and if you have proper snowshoes and avy gear (depending on where you’re going), you can still find that solitude in the backcountry. 

What About Cross-Training During The Winter Months?

There are many cross-training options during the winter months that would be beneficial for running and skiing happens to be one of them. Skiing can complement and even certain types of skiing mimic the sport of running very closely. Skiing provides a mix of endurance and resistance training. As a coach, I believe cross-training is important to include during your yearly training plan. Mixing things up can be beneficial both physically and mentally. When incorporating cross-training into your running program you want to add a low-impact sport. Certain types of cross-training can also strengthen your non-running muscles and allow you main running muscles to take a little break. If you constantly find yourself burnt out in your sport, this could be an indication that you need to mix things up or take a break. 

During the winter months, my weekends usually consist of getting out with my kids in the mountains, spending the day trying to keep up with them as they ski like little maniacs down the slopes. I tell you, it’s a workout trying to follow my boys down the slopes and after a long day, my legs feel it!

Every so often I also try to head out with my husband to get in a little backcountry skiing. I’m still new to the backcountry side of skiing, but I have fallen in love with that same sense of solitude and adventure that summer running in the mountains brings me. Plus, you can almost always find yourself climbing uphill, which is a great way to get your heart and lungs pumping!

How Can Skiing Benefit Runners?

  • Skiing is a low impact sport (if you don’t crash going downhill!) it gives your tired running legs a break during the winter.
  • Just like mountain running, skiing is a sport that requires you to transport your body uphill, which requires a good amount of work. You benefit from the uphill cardiovascular and muscular benefits, without the pounding. 
  • Skiing requires a lot of strength, coordination and core stability.
  • Great mental reset from if you feel burnt out from running.
  • Skiing downhill strengthens your legs. You use your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, abductor and adductor muscles!
  • Skiing downhill can also help you build resistance to the fear of running downhill fast. You have to become comfortable with speed and learn to trust your body.
  • Skiing allows you to still get up in the mountains when running on the snow-packed trails may not be an option. 
  • Cross-country skiing works the leg muscles in many different planes, which is beneficial for runners. Runners can experience significant improvements in strength and injury prevention when they start prioritizing lateral (frontal plane) movements and rotational (transverse plane) movements into their training regimes.
  • And most importantly IT’S FUN and you always need to add joy into your training program. 

Want To Get Geeky?

Check out this study by the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine on a comparison between alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and indoor cycling on cardiorespiratory and metabolic response.