Cross-Country Skiing

I love running. Really, I do. But I don't like running in snow or super-extreme cold. I know it is possible, I just choose not to do it so much. Instead, I tend to take a break from running during the winter and use the time to switch my focus to other facets of fitness, and to go on new wintertime adventures.

I'd been wanting to try out cross-country skiing since the fall, and couldn't wait for the mounds of inevitable Wisconsin wintertime snow to form. Sitting, dreaming about the feet of snow that would accumulate through December, imagining myself strapping on the skis and effortlessly gliding along the glistening countryside - I'd never wanted a blizzard more in my life.

Midway through December, the snow never really came. The end of the month was dry, as well. After the first week of January I was wondering if we'd see any snow at all. Then, finally, it came this week. We got a nice three-to-four inches across Milwaukee, and it was finally time to for my foray into XC skiing.

(Edit: I recently wrote about the need-to-knows for cross-country skiing at FitMilwaukee.com. Check out the article here, and look around for plenty of other fun, informative fitness stories while you're there!)

First thing's first: I got dressed. I somewhat followed the "20-degree rule" that applies to dressing for running (dress as you would if the current temperature were 20 degrees warmer): Running tights, long-sleeved compression shirt, fleece zip up, two pairs of socks, running hat, gloves and snowboarding pants (which I got for Christmas two years ago and hadn't even removed the tags).

We hopped in the car and drove up to Wheel & Sprocket in Fox Point to rent the skis. The process was really simple - sign a waiver, tell 'em your shoe size, whisper your weight (to get the right-size skis... don't worry, they won't judge!), pay $25 and off you go! 

I had to snap a picture of this giant picture on Wheel & Sprocket's wall. This would be a comparison to the adventure Eric and I were just about to embark upon. Although it was exactly like the daydreams I'd had leading up to this experience, somehow, I didn't think it would be quite the same.

From there, we headed over to Brown Deer Park, which was bustling with cross-country skiers and sledders, alike, everyone excited about the first weekend with a sizable snowfall. 

Neither Eric nor I had ever been skiing before, but we were confident in our ability to pick up a new sport, so we just snapped our skis on and took off. There was a slight learning curve, where we struggled getting the rhythm down to really take off on the skis, but after a while (and a few wobbles and trips), we really had the hang of it!

The main thing I had to keep reminding myself of was that you're free to move your heel up and down in the skis. Unlike downhill skis, you're only locked in by the toes, so the motion really is a lot more similar to running. As long as I kept my knees slightly bent and my heels moving, I was gliding right along! I really surprised myself how easily I picked it up, and after a while, I started challenging myself to go faster.

But even though I was getting a good workout in, it never felt like "work." I barely realized it was tiring me out, until I would stop and hear myself breathing heavily. I was having a blast! And I never passed up the opportunity to snap a picture here and there on the trails.

Though the winds were gusting a bit, I never really felt cold, which is fantastic for me, as I'm a real wimp in cold weather. After about an hour and a half of skiing, and over 700 calories burned (!), we started feeling hungry and decided to head home. We'd had a a blast and decided on the spot we would buy our own cross country skis at the end of the season, when they go on sale. 


It's funny how I never felt cold once while I was skiing, but after one minute in the car, I was FREEZING! I came home, took a long (read: 20-minute) shower, but still felt cold! Only one thing could remedy this problem: White-chocolate dulce de leche hot chocolate, with about half a cup of mini marshmallows.

Mmmmm. Marshmallowy, caramely, chocolaty warmth in a mug. 

After having warmed up, I'm already excited to go out to cross country ski, again! If you've got an aversion to downhill skiing because of, you know, the falling down... and you want a killer workout without slipping on slick, snow-covered pavement while running, I would seriously look into cross country skiing. The rental is cheap (and, bonus, no lift ticket!), you don't feel like you're working and it's a great way to get outdoors without freezing your butt off (but you might work it off... cross-country skiing is said to be the best aerobic workout, aside from swimming!). I'm hooked already - I just hope the snow here in Milwaukee stays put while it's supposed to.

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