How to train for XC in the off season


How to train for XC in the off season

By Mark COHEN 26.09.2021

Three ways to start training for the upcoming cross-country season right now

After a long cross-country season spent skiing and competing, week in, week out, how soon should you start training again? What should you focus on?

For former professional athlete and ODLO ambassador, Ursina Badilatti, the list is simple. But before training resumes, everyone – serious skier or not – needs to do one thing first.

“At the end of a long block of training, everyone needs to chill out,” she says over a phone interview. “You can’t start looking ahead to an upcoming season without first closing the book on the last one,” she laughs.

Introspectively, Badilatti reflects on her own career and the end of her racing seasons, which always culminated with two to three weeks in April or May of doing absolutely nothing. Sleeping in, eating and drinking, and spending time outdoors – even just relaxing. Nothing structured. Nothing serious.

Now a full-time yoga instructor and coach, it’s the same approach she recommends for everyone. 

Most professionals – skiers, cyclists, or runners – end both hard training blocks and long grueling seasons with a couple weeks of rest. A bit of “do nothing” time, says Badilatti, to properly let the body and mind recover. But what next?

While less common while she was a professional, many athletes today start with a routine that incorporates yoga or Pilates year-round, but specifically in the off-season, too. The performance benefits are manifold: a strong mind, greater awareness, focus, and a stronger core, arms, and legs. The added flexibility from practicing even a few times a week is also a major benefit.

“Really activating and feeling your feet and toes is one of the immediate differences skiers notice after an off season that includes time on the mat doing warrior and standing poses, for example,” she explains. Arms, upper body, shoulders, legs – everything is awakened through regular practice and will pay dividends when the season resumes, says Badilatti.

Ever tried a leg strengthening yoga class? Try this one with Ursina for free. 

Ursina Badilatti in ODLO
Photo courtesy of Francesca Soli (IG @frency_soli)

While Badilatti was a pro, after a few weeks of recovery was done – and some time in the heat with an ocean nearby – she’d start cycling and hiking in the mountains – her first bit of training in the lead up to the next season. The long climbs around her home formed a good aerobic base. The diversity of movement helped ward off injury, as well. More importantly, it’s something she liked doing which added some fun back into her routine.

For x-country skiers coming off a long season, she suggests starting with something similar – be it running, fast hiking with poles or cycling (road or mountain biking) to reignite the aerobic base with a specific activity that has a benefit for skiers. Many professionals also start running or working with roller skis for full body sport-specific training.

“Roll skiing is hard, and people who love it or who do it routinely are really comfortable putting in the work,” jokes Badilatti. The pole work, she says, is near identical to skate skiing – the main reason why it is so great.

To round out off-mat training, Badilatti did three or four sessions in the gym per week, again focusing on strength, functional movement, and her core muscles. As autumn nears, her roll skiing would pick up, until eventually there’s snow on the glaciers and the seasonal base starts to build.

When Badilatti runs camps or clinics, she often sees even seasoned skiers back off hills or hard sections. They have the physical and technical capability to push through them but lack belief in their ability to stick with it.

For this reason, she recommends adding a couple hard and fun challenges to training throughout the summer – a bit of a mental component to aid with building toughness. Maybe a big loop in the Alps on your bike. Or an exceptionally long and challenging trail run. A big climb at threshold. The point is to do something at near maximum effort and realize that you can finish – even if it’s hard – and feel satisfied afterwards.

Find your limits and work through them, she says. With routine training and focus, you’ll be x-country ready once the snow starts to fall.

Find out more about Ursina Badilatti here. 


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