Preparing for my cross country skiing sessions: Warm-up.

As the cold doesn’t necessarily make warming-up before cross country skiing sessions easy, Rudy Gouy, Cross Country Ski Instructor, gives you all the advice required to properly prepare for your cross country skiing session. 

> Rudy, can you explain to us how to warm-up your body properly in winter, even though the outside temperature is low?

The first important point: you need to know how to dress correctly so your body isn’t “surprised”, or shocked even, by the fresh and sometimes cold winter temperatures. For the warm-up, I advise wearing 3 layers for the upper body and 2 layers for the legs. The best outfit would be the following: a long sleeved thermal garment on top and leggings for the bottom, then an intermediary layer for the upper limbs and a final layer for the top and bottom. For this it’s better to go for garments made from a bottom half that is completely zip-up and easy to take off as well as a top which protects against the wind and speed.

Why these layers on top of each other?

This is because the most effective insulation against the cold is trapped air between layers. Beware, this air must also circulate from the inside outwards as, once the body is in motion, ¾ of the energy production in effort is given off as heat. This is why specialist garments are important.

The second piece of advice: cover the extremities (hands, feet, head) as this is where over 50% of the heat produced escapes when exercising.

Third piece of advice: start gently and move your body gradually. Moreover, you can start alongside skis with a little walking with breaks for ankle rotations, bend the knees, the pelvis, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists, the neck, etc. You should then do light jogging for 5 to 10 minutes to get the muscle chains working and to produce lots of heat. 

The fourth piece of advice: take layers off when the body has warmed up and when you feel the need. There’s nothing more unpleasant than being too hot in winter! Too much heat = too much sweat = clothes which turn moist and all of a sudden insulate less, or even become conductors for cold and therefore give you chills once you are exercising less or you stop!   

> What are the points to remember when warming up before a skate skiing session?

Skate skiing is a movement technique which can be very tiring if you haven’t completely mastered it and if you don’t follow some advice. The muscles need to be warmed-up properly before they can be as productive as possible. Start gently, trying to do educational exercises to position the lower part of your body and really make your skis skate. You will therefore be working more on the “feeling and touching of the snow” side rather than “pounding” down on your poles. You need to try to not force your upper body, in other words don’t push on the poles too much. Once the lower body is positioned, you will gradually move a little more to the upper body. You’ll see that it gets a lot easier if you follow this little piece of advice!  

> The movements aren’t the same, what do you do for a traditional session?

The basic warm-up can be the same. However, it’s true that, for a beginner, the technique is closer to running. Therefore, our session can start with a skating walk, trying, as with skating, to use as little of the upper body as possible initially. You need to go very, very gently, this lets you focus on the feelings of skating and being supported by the ground without forcing it. Once our skate walking technique is underway, you can stretch out gradually, to then use more and more of the upper body. The “traditional” technique which seems to be the most obvious and the easiest as it is like running, is in fact the most sophisticated and the most difficult to acquire. Don’t be fooled! It’s also the most comprehensive and the most “magnificent” when it is well done.  

> How do you make sure you don’t increase your temperature “too much”, at the risk of then getting a chill?

You warm-up gently and gradually with suitable clothing. Then, once you feel ok, the body having produced heat, you need to take off the top layer to really get stuck into our session completely calmly. Without being cold, but above all not too hot either, due to clothes that are badly suited to the exercise we are doing. Also you must cover up at the end of the session to do a little recovery lap, once again very gently and bring down your temperature gradually before a session of stretches, a warm restorative shower and plonking yourself in front of a nice fireplace!