Young Adult Caucasian Female Practising Cross Country Skiing On

Cross Country Skiing Workouts for Beginners

BY Heather Casey

Cross country skiing is a great way to stay fit and motivated through the winter. Here are a few ways to focus your workouts.

As the temperatures drop and the daylight dwindles, so too may your motivation to stick to your usual training regimen. A lack of motivation to train is nothing out of the ordinary; naturally, our bodies want to hibernate and conserve energy in the winter, which can mean desiring more sleep, craving more food, and enjoying sedentary life far more. 

Fortunately, the offseason is the perfect time to try something new, dust off an old hobby, or get involved with another group of athletes. The challenge of diversifying your sports throughout the winter will keep you engaged, interested, and rewarded all season long!

Cross country skiing, in particular, helps activate glutes, lats, and core for a butt-kicking aerobic workout that (bonus!) allows you to travel through some of the prettiest winter scenery. Spend some time on skis this winter and you’ll be enjoying the benefits comes spring, no matter your sport.

If you’re new to cross country skiing (or picking it up again) and not sure where to begin, head to your local nordic center or groomed trails and give this workout a try:

(We focus on skate skiing in the following workout, but you can easily apply it to classic if that’s the technique you prefer!)

Dynamic Warm-up pre-skate:

Mini band lateral walks, mini band kickbacks, leg swings (frontal and lateral), Walking lunge with rotation, banded torso twists

Suit up, ski for 10 minutes to find your rhythm and form. Warm up well and control your breath. 

Main Set:

For each of the following intervals, ski for 10 minutes, and take two minutes easy (light skating or double-poling) between.

First interval

Ski at Tempo effort, heart rate should be ~80-85% of your threshold 

Second interval

Ski 2.5 minutes at slightly-over-tempo, then double pole for 2.5 minutes, repeat twice.

Third interval

Ski with no poles (Either hold them behind your back, or leave them at the top of your local loop. No-pole skiing will help you refine your technique and develop balance.  

5 minutes rest, then move to the next set.

Threshold Sets:

  • 6 x 2 minutes, two minutes easy between

For these two minutes, go as hard as you can with GOOD form. This should be over your threshold, but not completely anaerobic. Keep it steady, but make it very challenging. 

5 minutes rest

  • 5 x 1 minute ALL OUT, two minutes easy between 

This should be anaerobic and force you out of your comfort zone. Push with purpose, and remember to keep your form in line and your coordination as a cornerstone for a sustainable effort and rhythm. Push your limits!

10 minutes easy ski to cool down.

If you feel like adding in some endurance after your workout, ski at an aerobic effort and work on your technique for the time you choose. 

Instead of holding yourself to a strict schedule in the off-season, choose a few non-stressful days a week to pursue a new activity. The goal of any good off-season is to refresh the mind and body, set exciting goals for the future, and explore other areas of interest. Diversifying the sports on your schedule will keep the motivation train chugging year-round while building fitness and strength!

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About Heather Casey

Heather Casey, CSCS is a USAT Level 2 and Ironman Certified Coach living in Salt Lake City, Utah. Heather owns Peak State Fit with her husband and fellow coach Pat Casey. Peak State Fit specializes in triathlon coaching, bike fitting and corrective exercise training. Heather has several training plans for sale on the Training Peaks store. Visit for more information.

Visit Heather Casey's Coach Profile

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