Fitness Matters | Training for Cross Country Skiing

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While backcountry, downhill, and fat skis dominate the winter talk of this town, it’s easy to neglect the quieter world of skinny skis. Cross-country skiing is an incredibly healthy way to stay fit aerobically and strength train this season. It is one of the less expensive ways to slide across snow and access the beauty of Montana’s winter wonderland. For days when it’s too cold, or Mother Nature just hasn’t delivered enough snow on the ground, The Ridge has two machines to help continue your ski training indoors. You can use each one separately or combine the two to get a full-body workout that simulates cross-country skiing.

Concept2 designed both the rowing machine and the SkiErg for all ages and abilities. Whether you’ve been Nordic skiing forever or just getting started, both machines provide a high-calorie burning and core strengthening exercise with low impact. Here are some basics about them both:

The Rowing Machine
The rowing machine was designed to tone the upper and lower body while moving joints in an efficient and rhythmic motion. There are four phases of the rowing motion; the catch, the drive, the finish, and the recovery. All phases engage triceps, shoulder muscles, biceps, abdominals, hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves. How does rowing compliment skiing? Rowing involves prying open the hips and the double-pole motion of skiing does the opposite. It is more like a crunch. Using the rowing machine mixed with skiing can prevent muscle imbalance, which ultimately can lead to injury. Rowing is about gripping the water and moving the boat, skiing is about gripping the snow and propelling yourself forward. Elite rowers often train on cross-country skis in the winter and elite skiers will train indoors on the rower. You can use the Performance Monitor to do intervals, race, or “just row” for time. There are three rowing machines on the floor of The Ridge on Fallon Street and one rower at the downtown location.

The SkiErg
New to The Ridge floor this fall is the SkiErg that is also designed by Concept2, the makers of the rowing machine. The SkiErg simulates double-poling. This motion is important for both classic and skate style of skiing. The harder you pull, the faster the flywheels spin which creates more resistance. While standing on the machine, you can have one-foot forward and one-foot back, or both feet together and shoulder width apart. Bend your arms and drive the handles downward using your core and your knees and end with the arms extended by your thighs. Bring your arms back up and straighten your body to return to start position. It is possible to take even more pressure off your knees and ankles by placing a chair down and double-pole from a seated position. The Performance Monitor is easy to use and provides intervals, races, and a “just ski” option as well. For classic ski training, you can alternate your arms. You can also practice coming up on your toes a little bit each time as you would in skiing.

Try doing intervals on the rowing machine and then walk over to the SkiErg and do the same. You could go by distance and ski a 5k, then row a 5k. Partnering up is also a good way to stay motivated; one person rows while the other is on the SkiErg and keep switching back and forth. Combining these two machines balances opposing muscles and gives skiers an incredible all-body efficient workout. They both provide guaranteed good weather skiing. For more detailed information about technique and workout ideas, go to to read up and check out some videos. You can always ask a personal trainer about how to use either machine correctly. We would be glad to help out and encourage you to keep trying new things in the gym.


About the Author Jess Tuttle is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer at the Ridge Athletic Clubs.