Slip Sliding Away - Page 3
While skiing can reduce injury risk and impart overall health benefits, can it improve running performance? 2011 USATF 50K National Trail-Running Champion and competitive cross-country ski racer, Stephanie Howe, 27, of Bend, Oregon, says yes. In working toward her PhD in exercise physiology at Oregon State University, Howe also has an academic interest in the relationship of strength training to performance in both skiing and running. "There is laboratory research that links improved performance to strength training," says Howe. "And [anecdotally] the strength I have gained from ski training has helped my running. I feel better on hills and generally stronger when racing."
Trail runners also need more balance and proprioception skills than road runners. Cross country and ski mountaineering require athletes to maintain balance on a single moving ski. In skating, one's weight is completely on one ski as the other advances forward. Ascending even moderate hills with good technique requires traditional cross-country and randonee skiers to push off one ski, committing all of the athlete's weight onto the other forward ski.
Most skier-trail runners are great downhill trail runners too. The dynamic balance gained from skiing improves your confidence and ability to complete quick side-to-side movements on technical terrain. To enhance my balance skills, I make a game of seeing how far I can ride one ski down a slight grade.
Skiing provides a mental break from running. You might find that closeting your trail shoes for a few months each year helps keep your love for the sport alive.
"When it is cold and snowy outside, it's easy to become unmotivated to run," says Howe. But skiing helps her maintain a fresh attitude and fresh physical state throughout the off season.
Even while running, she trains by "ski walking," an uphill workout in which the athlete mimics traditional cross-country technique by walking with a bouncy long stride. This offers Howe a mental break from running hill repeats, and serves her well in ultra racing.
"Using ski walking, I often pass other runners who are hiking uphill, even though we are expending about the same amount of energy," she says. In fact when Howe feels herself mentally or physically fatigued from too much running in the summer she will "take a few days and focus on `ski' training to let (herself) recover."
Nikki Kimball, MSPT, lives in Bozeman, Montana, and is a three-time USATF Ultra Runner of the Year. She has top-20 finishes at NCAA Division I national skiing championships.