Skison never stops

The importance of offseason training


Maren Wilsey

A popular saying in sports is that athletes are made in the off-season. I hear this especially often from my nordic skiing teammates. Naturally, this results in my efforts for offseason training to be significantly higher there. 

Nordic is a unique sport because it is completely seasonal. Unlike other cold-weather sports, like hockey or skating, there’s no way to replicate the experience indoors to be able to train, simply because you need so much space. That doesn’t stop skiers though. This is where roller skiing comes in — almost identical to the real thing except the skis are about a foot and a half long with wheels on both ends. Sounds dangerous? That’s because it is. The skis are  simple contraptions that lack anything besides wheels — including brakes. Even after two years using them, I still get nervous anytime I see a hill.

The risk of roller skis absolutely pays off. The wheels allow an almost identical experience to real skiing, aside from temperature. This allows me to train year-round and without the fear of having to get back into the rhythm of skiing once the season starts. There are different kinds of roller skis that allow you to practice both classic and skate roller skiing. Aside from a difference in the weight of the skis, the technique is nearly the exact same. The poles are used in the same way as normal skiing as well. The only other additional equipment is a helmet and, depending on the person, sometimes knee and elbow pads. The final result looks pretty ridiculous, but the reward makes up for a little embarrassment. 

For whatever reason, nordic skiers are so fixated on offseason training, the attitude is highly contagious. There are several clubs around the Twin Cities that provide a space for skiing with coaches and other types of offseason training. The two main ones are Minneapolis Ski Club (MSC) and Loppet Nordic Racing. Both clubs have teams that also compete in the winter. The competition between them is fierce, and you’ll have trouble finding a top skier in the area who isn’t a member of one. My sister and I both train with MSC. She’s much more involved than I am, but I’ve still had a very good experience with just my limited participation. Our coach is a former Olympian and works one-on-one with everyone, regardless of skill level. 

As redundant as it is to hear, there is a lot of truth to the saying that athletes are made in the offseason. The improvement I saw the season after I began roller skiing was significant. Not only can offseason training help with your athletics, it also offers a great community and a fun way to stay connected while doing something you love.