The Triathlete's How-To Guide To Skate Skiing

[Ed. note: we had some people contact us because they were unable to access the videos in the past article. It seems to be a browser specific issue with certain browsers on certain OSes not recognizing privacy permissions properly. There should be no issue, but if you do have problems, you can hop over to our Vimeo page. Each video is labeled in order based on the article number. So all the videos for this article are 3.X. Start with video 3.1, then 3.2, etc. You can clear your cache or simply open an incognito window which doesn't use the cache as well. Sorry for any troubles. We do our best but gremlins inevitably cause hiccups now and again. Thanks to the users who flagged this issue for us.]

The holidays are over. You are once again back sitting at your desk, hunched over in a position that several poorly controlled "studies" indicate will kill you. You know these articles are sloppy science and this is likely the flavor of the month, the latest minimalist shoe fad equivalent, but nevertheless you have a sneaking sense that something about this stupid job is killing you, so what the hell, maybe it is the sitting part. Who the hell knows.

What you do know is that you are pondering faking your own death. You have a giant stack of emails that have flooded your inbox in over the break, a few of which are likely important, but since they are strategically scattered throughout an even larger pile of mostly worthless correspondence of corporate double-talk, redundant CYA emails or even worse, material that is only loosely relevant to you but you've been included on anyway thanks to one of those "Reply To All" idiots who seems to have absolutely no filter whatsoever towards pertinence or context. (Sorry, just had to vent a bit there, I really hate "Reply To All" and messages about ‘value drivers to our customers' ecosystem.') FYI, if you are one of those people who sends messages like this, you're not fooling anyone, we all know that you are a complete moron. Okay, enough of that, I'm getting myself upset.

Back to the business at hand - breaking the psychological death grip that your rollers and tready have over your life: it's like Stockholm Syndrome in your guest bedroom. But since no one loves you like us here at SlowTwitch, we are here to change all of that by not only making this your best winter ever, but also by showing you how to use this winter to lay the foundation for your best summer ever. As Dan Empfield and Jordan Rapp continue to battle it out on the forum as to whose column this really is, I'll let these two titans continue to duke it out on this point while I just continue to toil away in the salt mines and actually produce the content for which now suddenly everyone wants to take credit.

In part 1 of this series, I (well, Dan and Jordan, really) introduced the concept of Nordic skiing for triathlon cross-training and provided very insightful testimonials from elite athletes in triathlon, cycling and skiing on how substantially skiing can help both your running and cycling.

In part 2 of this series, the whole gang walked you through how to get started with classic skiing. Maybe you had a chance to give it a whirl over the holiday. Maybe not. Maybe you are patiently waiting for one more story to convince you, to give you that little push over the cliff and to truly take your training to "eleven." Well good reader, your wait is over, as here is the definitive SlowTwitch guide on how to get started skate skiing.

Even if you did read and retain the first two installments, these first few points are so critical that they are worth repeating: since nothing is more important than looking good and being comfortable (in that order too, btw), watch (re-watch) two-time World Champion and three-time Olympian Kikkan Randal explain "What The Pros Wear (WTPW)."

Don't believe Kikkan, well, fresh off the podium at US Nationals, pro skier Eric Packer takes WTPW to the next level with some insight into some of the tricks that elite skiers use to stay comfortable in a wide variety of training conditions (even if you're not yet sold on this whole "Nordic ski thing," you should still watch this video, as Pac Man's suggestions are great for winter running and cycling).

It's been a few weeks since my last installment of this series. You've had a few more VERY cold rides. You took a nasty fall on the ice on your favorite run loop. You're going to hang yourself in your basement with the straps from your sweat-soaked bibs if you ride even one more k on the rollers and it is now officially "really shitty" outside, and since these articles just seem to keep coming with no apparent end in sight, all of these factors have conspired to wear you down and you're finally ready to try this crazy Nordic skiing idea. You can probably cobble together an outfit that is close enough to what Kikkan and Eric have shown so that you don't need to buy anything (yet), so you're good there. Now, what about skis? If you've been paying attention even a little bit, you should now be thinking, "I'm pretty sure I need skis to do this."

Dan and Jordan did an excellent job covering how to get started with classic skiing in the last episode of this series, so this latest installment is all about skate skiing. Just to be sure that we're all on the same page though, let's review one more time the differences between skate and classic skis.

Again, you can and should do both, but what we're here to talk about today is skate skiing, so the obvious next step is how to pick skate skis. In this video, our friends at Rossignol take you through how to get set up with a good set of skate gear

"Wow, this sounds awesome," you're most certainly thinking, "how on Earth do I get started on this life-changing experience?" Well, we covered where to purchase appropriate skis for your budget and ability in installment #2, so if you're ready to pull the trigger, I strongly suggest calling one of the shops listed in that story for all of the reasons also listed in that story.

One your skis arrive, you're going to want to wax them. Waxing for skating is easier than waxing for classic, but it is still important, so you'll thank me later if you take the time now to watch this video on how to skate wax:

All right, now we're cooking with gas - we're checking off boxes like the hyper-motivated, laser-focused Type A athlete that you are: you understand the powerful cross-over from Nordic to triathlon, you've committed to the concept, you've got clothes, you've got skis and you even know how to wax them. What am I missing, anything? Maybe just how to actually do it, but that's kinda a small detail. But, as usual, the mighty SlowTwitch team has you covered here too. Skate skiing has three main techniques (think of them like different gears on a bike, as one technique is for climbing hills, one is for the flats and one is a high-speed technique). Please note, the double pole technique you saw in episode two is also very applicable in skate skiing and it is also an excellent isolation drill for the V2 technique, which we will explain in one second in the V2 video.

Let's start with the climbing technique - this is known as V1. In this video, pro skier/pro cyclist and American Birkebeiner champion Tad Elliott takes you through the basics of this critical hill-climbing technique.

Next is the "all-around" skating technique, V2. This technique is good for slight uphills (moderate ones if you are very strong), flat terrain and sprinting. Here, professional skier Matt Liebsch, the only other US champion of the American Birkebeiner in the past 7 years, shows you have to rock your V2 like a boss and ties in the aforementioned double pole drill.

The last skate technique is V2 alternate, which as the name implies is very similar to V2 only it is only done on one side. US Olympian Brian Gregg shows you what you need to know to develop a fast and effective V2 alternate technique in this video.

So this is both a little and a lot: it's a little bit of information but trust me, it can be a lot to absorb. Regardless of which type of Nordic skiing you elect to choose (don't forget, you certainly can and probably should do both), your start is going to be bruising and tumultuous. Nordic skiing is hard, but it is worth it. It is one of the best full-body exercises out there, it combines aerobic and anaerobic power, balance, coordination, strength, fitness and fun. It WILL improve your triathlon racing and perhaps most importantly, it will do so in a manner that is fun, safe and interesting.

Let's put it this way, isn't the whole reason you got started in triathlon to have fun outside and stay fit? Through their extensive network in the Nordic community, Dan and Jordan have already clearly demonstrated how beneficial Nordic skiing is for your summer pursuits, so this then begs the question, why AREN'T you Nordic skiing? If it's going to make you better and be more fun, safer and more comfortable, why this hell are you still sitting at your desk, meekly allowing your chair to slowly kill you? Get out there.

Yes, starting might be a bit hard and perhaps even a bit humbling, but look at it this way, the sooner you get started, the sooner you'll be good. Since you're already wasted however much of your company's time it took you to read this article, what's a few minutes more? (They're probably under-paying you anyway) Hit up Boulder Nordic Sport, Gear West, or Caldwell Sport and treat yourself to a sweet new set(s) of gear. Watch these videos, go ski, come home watch the videos again, go ski again, lather, rinse, repeat. Follow this cycle enough times and you'll be so awesome that you'll think they made this video about you and your skiing.