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You can enjoy cross-country skiing if you simply grab a pair of skis and head for the woods on a snowy day, but you'll enjoy it even more if you condition yourself first. Many runners consider themselves to be in good shape--and they are, for their main sport of running. But cross-country skiing demands an even higher level of physical fitness. Done properly, skiing is a Total Body exercise that involves the arms, shoulders and core-body muscles as much as the legs. Plus it's a test of flexibility and agility. The various positions you must assume going up and downhill will challenge all your muscles.

That's the bad news for those who want to become skiers. The good news is that once you succeed in this sport, you can get yourself into really great shape. You will achieve Total Fitness!

Start early. Don't wait until leaves start falling before heading to the gym. If you run, walk or bike during summer months, that will provide you with an aerobic base, a start, but you also need to strengthen the upper body, specifically those muscles that you'll use to push yourself down the trail with poles. See Strength Training on this Web site. The Overhead Pull strengthens the triceps, one of the muscles you'll need to become a complete skier. Health clubs also offer pull-over machines that closely duplicate the double-pole motion in skiing. Ask the instructor what machines might best be used by a cross-country skier. And don't overlook the value of simple pushups and sit-ups, or crunches. Strengthen your central core and you'll be better able to maintain good form at the end of a hard day of skiing. The Lunge is an exercise where you take a long step forward with one leg and descend to a low position, then rise. It can be done with or without weights. It will strengthen the leg muscles you'll use while gliding forward on skis.

Flexibility is as important for skiers as it is for runners in preventing injuries, plus you need to assume different positions to control yourself on skis. So while pumping iron, do some stretching between lifts. See Stretching on this Web site.

The better shape you are in and more effort you put into conditioning, the more you will enjoy cross-country skiing. Take this part of your preparation to become a skier very seriously.

Getting Started Ski Technique In Full Stride
Introduction Moving Forward Destinations
Conditioning Going Uphill Racing
Equipment Going downhill Nutrition
Where to Ski Turning Snowshoes
Two Techniques Stopping Downhill Skiing