Fitness & Health

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Cross-country skiing, a total body workout

Photo: carlisle617, CC,

The arrival of winter weather might have you pulling out your winter coat and boots, but that doesn’t mean you have to put away your exercise gear.

With more than 150 kilometres’ worth of trails throughout the Ottawa area, cross-country skiing is an excellent lost cost activity to pick up this winter season to keep your muscles working and heart pumping. There are several beginner and intermediate level trails in and around Ottawa, with the most popular trails in Mooney’s Bay.

Five kilometres of trails surround Mooney’s Bay, including lit trails for night skiing. The City of Ottawa further contributes by providing lessons seven days a week, beginning in January.

To cut out the heavy investment in skis, the city also offers rentals if you’re just looking to try it out.

“The lessons at Mooney’s Bay are perfect for beginners as the classes are usually small and instructors are experts at the various techniques,” says Brianna Harris, a third-year criminology student and biathlete.

Now a biathlon instructor and athlete who’s competed at the provincial level, Harris first began cross-country skiing through the lessons at Mooney’s Bay.

This gruelling activity will help keep you warm while enjoying the outdoors. With skiers relying on their legs to propel themselves forward, cross-country skiing is an excellent way to keep your legs fit during the winter season. Skiers propel themselves either by striding forward classic-style, or side-to-side in a skating motion, aided by ski poles pushed against the snow.

“Cross-country skiing can be extremely rewarding as an aerobic exercise, with your whole body doing work, a contrast to running and cycling,” says Harris.

Few sports and activities can claim to be a total body workout, but cross-country skiing can. It combines both a lower and upper-body workout while simultaneously working both the “pulling” and “pushing” muscles of each region.

Every major muscle group is involved in propelling the cross-country skier forward, and even muscles that don’t seem to be in use are actively involved to balance and coordinate the entire body.

So, pull yourself out of the house this winter and push yourself to try out cross-country skiing.