Nordic Skiing: Excellent Cross-Training for Endurance Athletes

When most people think of skiing, they think of mountainous locations that get plenty of snow, such as Colorado, Utah and Vermont, to name a few. It is true that alpine (downhill) skiing requires mountainous or hilly terrain; however, several forms of Nordic skiing (where the heal of the boot is not attached to the ski) can easily be done on flat or rolling terrain.

More: Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing With Dogs

While Nordic skiing encompasses several disciplines—including ski jumping and telemark skiing—the most common form is cross-country skiing. In many cities, when a few inches of snow cover the ground, cross-country skiers can be seen gliding through parks, golf courses and through open space areas. Due to the rhythmic motion of the arms and legs, cross-country is excellent for the cardiovascular system.

How excellent?

The average male VO2max (the measure of the maximum amount of oxygen a person's body can breathe in and use in one minute per kilogram of body weight) is typically 44 to 51 for males and 35 to 43 for females (age 20 to 29). The highest VO2max value on record, 96 (sources for the number vary between 90 and 96), is held by a Norwegian cross-country skier, Bj?rn D?hlie. The highest VO2max for a female is 74, held by another cross-country skier. I was unable to find the female skier's name.

For brief comparison, below are a few VO2max numbers for well-known male runners and cyclists:

  • 92.5 - Greg Lemond (professional cyclist)
  • 88.0 - Miguel Indurain (professional cyclist)
  • 85.0 - Dave Bedford (runner, 10K world record holder)
  • 84.4 - Steve Prefontaine (distance runner)
  • 84.0 - Lance Armstrong (professional cyclist)

I was not able to find a resource listing of VO2max values for well-known triathletes.

Having a high V02max is not the end-all predictor for performance and, like several other physiological measures, it is an approximation. Also know that the value can change, caused by several variables. That written, cross-country skiers are noted again and again as having the highest VO2max values on record.

One reason for the very high VO2max values is the volume of muscles utilized to do the sport. Cross-country skiing involves the entire body working vigorously to propel itself forward, while gravity and friction tries to pull you to a stop. In short, Nordic skiing is a tremendous upper- and lower-body workout that requires excellent core strength.

More: Cross-Country Skiing for Beginners

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