Learning to Run by Learning to Ski

The 39th Birkie has come and gone. I promised to let you know how it went and I think, overall, it went really well. It was a beautiful day and I finished with nothing left to spare. I did the race, intentionally, without a watch. I wanted to enjoy the race – and I did. I listened to my body overall and held back when I felt I needed to conserve for upcoming hills. This was a great experiment. (I’ll have more about the balance between enjoyment and stretching your limits in another post.)

Now, about the relationship between running and skiing. . .

Because of the limited amount of snow this year, most of my longer training involved running. Here’s what my Birkie training showed me about my running:

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  • Balance. One of the indoor side-to-side skiing simulation exercises that I did barefoot clearly showed me my imbalances on the left foot and helped me to create more symmetry in my left foot weight distribution and placement. This helped my running. Particularly in the way my left foot strikes the ground.
  • Extension. There’s a lot of power at the very end of the push off in xc skiing – when you fully extend the leg from the hip. If you take that over to running and use the core/gluts/hip at the end of the cycle to combine with the natural flex of your foot, you can generate a quick, light release that carries you farther without much additional exertion. I wouldn’t have discovered this without working on skiing and discussing skiing with others. This could make me actually want to take a stab at a marathon as the concept of going out for a “long run” may actually become enjoyable.
  • Hips. Closely related to extension, getting your hips high and forward is something that has increased my xc ski technique a ton. That high position helps create extension without excess energy in both running and xc skiing. (And we don’t want to waste energy in either sport!)

There’s also something to be said about the benefits of longer workouts, but I’ll save that for a separate post related to breakthroughs.

As you can see, prepping for the Birkie, and doing the Birkie, has spurred a lot of thought. Maybe that’s reason enough to participate in races like these?