Contributed by Mark Stadem
Nordic skiing is a low-impact, total body workout with numerous health benefits. It's the ultimate cardio exercise, the number-one calorie burner, and provides a sensational endorphin high.
It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels, and can be purely recreational or highly aggressive and competitive.
Sunlight absorbed through the skin while Nordic skiing is often the only natural source of Vitamin D during the winter months. Sufficient Vitamin D is necessary for the prevention of coronary disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and hypertension (high blood pressure), as well as maintaining strong bones.
Nordic skiing—diagonal or classic skiing in particular—is one of the safest and lowest-impact sports in the world.
Nordic skiing is a relatively unidirectional sport, with very little rapid twisting and torquing, and therefore is far less likely to cause a pulled muscle, torn ligaments and cartilage, or hemorrhaged disks. And because Nordic skiing uses all muscle groups in a coordinated and balanced effort, good posture is the default stance of all Nordic skiers, further reducing chronic muscular and soft tissue injuries.
Known as a “runner’s high” or “endorphin rush,” the second wind that a Nordic skier feels during a good workout on the trail is second to none. The physical and mental workout has prepared the body for a fantastic night of sleep, and the stresses of the daily grind are quickly supplanted with dreams of another snowy day on the trail.
Fast heart rate is sustained for long durations during Nordic skiing. This sustained rapid heart-rate is exactly what your heart needs in order to be strengthened and to improve your heart's capacity to pump blood efficiently and effectively. As your heart beats faster, supplying oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and organs, your lungs must also keep up with the challenge. This increased respiration exercises your lungs by improving their capacity for peak-flow and exchange of oxygen between the inhaled air and the blood perfusing the lungs. This increased peak airflow, together with strengthened diaphragm muscles, will enable you to exercise without losing your breath, further increasing your stamina and endurance.
Utilizing every major muscle group simultaneously requires a great deal of energy. And in the human body, energy comes from burning calories. Burning so many calories generates a lot of heat even on the coldest days, so it's best to dress in layers that you can peel off.
Other benefits to your heart include significantly reducing your total cholesterol—reducing triglycerides and LDLs, and promoting healthy levels of HDLs.
Nordic skiing is a great way to develop your coordination skills.
In addition to the physical benefits of Nordic skiing, the sport graciously provides a number of psychological and spiritual rewards. It gives the participant a chance to enjoy the outdoors, even in the harshest weather conditions. Who knows, when you learn Nordic skiing, you might even learn to love winter.
By Kate Perkins
Writer Kate Perkins put together a list of her go-to items to make roughing it in the cold a bit warmer and easier!
• Candlelier lantern: A candle lantern with four candles in a safe housing. It provides perfect ambiance. www.rel.com
• Marmot CWM MemBrain 40-below down sleeping bag: This is a pricy piece of gear at around $700, but it’s nearly guaranteed to give you a warm night’s sleep, as it’s rated to be warm down to 40 degrees below zero. www.marmot.com
Exped sleeping pads: These thick air mattresses are filled with down to add comfort and insulation. They’re also fitted with a built-in hand pump to prevent the down from being exposed to moisture from your breath. They can be found at www.exped.com/usa/en
• Cots: While they’re heavy, cots are a fabulous accessory to winter car-camping. They’re great to sit on and play cards or socialize. It’s nice to sleep off the ground, and they allow for storage beneath them.
• Tarps: For tents that don’t have built-in floors, a tarp is essential to create a dry place to walk and set gear.
• An insulated beverage container of hot coffee or hot cocoa: Filling a container in the morning makes it much easier to stay hydrated later in the day. It can be difficult to drink cool water on a cold day, but not so for a nice hot beverage.
• The Bob Dustrude Quick Buck Saw: Invented and made by Bob himself, a 90-year-old Minnesota resident, this saw is arguably the most convenient, efficient pack saw available. www.fourdog.com
• Goal Zero portable solar panels: These packable solar panels and power packs are great for charging cell phones, GPS systems, rechargeable batteries and more. www.goalzero.com
• SkiPulk sled system: SkiPulks are sleds that hold your gear and are harnessed to your waist with rigid poles. The design is tried and true; easy to pull and the sled won’t hit your skis or snowshoes. www.skipulk.com
• Ecofan woodstove fan: These heat-powered fans, made entirely out of metal, sit directly on your woodstove. As the stove heats, the fan spins to spread heat around the tent. www.woodlanddirect.com