Why rollerski

How rollerskiing can improve the Birke experience for all levels of skiers, not just the elites.

Photo Credit: Illinois Rollerski Race Series

I have listed the many ways rollerskiing (skate and classic) can assist ALL skiers of all levels, IF you have the desire and drive to improve:

  1. Builds overall body fitness. Rollerskiing strengthens ALL muscles from your feet, legs, glutes, core (hips, lower back) shoulders and arms. Very few dryland training activities activate all the full body muscles other than paddle boarding (if done with intensity). The combination of using both upper and lower body muscles at one time aids in total body fitness. Running and weights, both done separately, make you fit but asking your heart to pump blood to arm and leg muscles working together builds better XC ski fitness for winter.

  2. Rollerskiing is weight bearing.  It is a fantastic alternative to running rather than just biking or swimming. If you are injured, or cannot run anymore, rollerskiing is the BEST dryland training alternative for building strong legs.

  3. Rollerskiing improves your ski technique in EVERY way! This statement can be broken down into so many segments. Achieving even a 10% improvement in most areas will raise your fitness level. Better fitness will introduce more FUN into skiing the Birke or GW will buy you a beer at the finish line!

  4. By practicing ski  techniques on rollerskis you will improve:

    • BALANCE. You will become more comfortable and better at balancing on one ski; the essence of improving ski technique. Learning how to transfer weight to one ski in SKATE or CLASSIC skiing will provide you with the fundamentals to learn the techniques of a proper V2 and Open Field or a more powerful classic kick. Knowing and skiing different gears in skiing makes you faster and it makes skiing more mentally interesting. Of course, better weight transfer in classic makes skiing uphill achievable. Not much is more frustrating than slipping on all hill climbs when classic skiing.

    • UPPER BODY STRENGTH. Even if you do not know the ski techniques well, focusing only on the double pole will increase upper body strength to better handle all types of life movements  (in addition to getting up those Birke hills)

    • TECHNIGUE. Rollerskiing with a technique focus on V-1, V-2 and Open Field or a positive classic kick will make you ski faster! Feeling comfortable with terrain changes, such as downhills, turns and wind -all the environmental barriers that face outdoor participants - will build tenacity and strength. The ultimate goal of skiing the Birke or Korte with more pleasure is much more attainable.

  5. Your heath will improve! Now this could be a stretch…. But when your knees don’t hurt while you are getting fit AND you are improving ski skills under the warmth summer sun, how could you not feel great? All this fitness transfers to much more fun doing other summer stuff like biking, paddling, hiking ….You will feel fitter in your clothing and your butt won’t look fat 

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How often should I rollerski to achieve all these benefits?

The answer depends on your interest, initial level of fitness, ease of finding a nice place to rollerski and your free time. Two times per week roughly an hour or so in length is the minimum time from which you can expect improvement. Investing in a few lessons from friends or a coach will give you direction and goals and will speed up improvements. Many of us triathletes or runners start rollerskiing in the fall. This weekly focus will include one long distance weekend rollerski of 2-3 hours to build fitness, plus two specific rollerski strength and speed workouts within the week.

What do you need to rollerski safely?

First you need the correct rollerskis for your goals and your technique interests. That can be achieved by research and calling your favorite and informative NORDIC store. Rollerskis are priced individually and the bindings will follow the type of ski boot you have or will chose to purchase. Winter ski boots are most commonly used for rollerskiing however Fischer does make a summer, more breathable rollerski skate and classic boot to fit NNN bindings.

Your winter skate or classic ski poles are used with roller ferrules on the tips instead of snow baskets. A helmet is of UTMOST importance; no one should avoid wearing one! Light rollerski gloves are recommended to prevent blisters and provide hand protection. Bike gloves with their cut-off fingers often cause blistering so stick with snug fitting light weight gloves.

That’s it! You could chose to use knee pads, but they are a bit cumbersome. Wrist guards are only worn for rollerblading; you need the wrist flexibility to pole properly while rollerskiing. Don’t worry, rollerskis are not as fast as rollerblades and doing it is not scary. Just learn gradually. Choose the proper area to ski on such as a flat parking lot or paved trail. As you improve, you can add variation to your skiing location.

More questions? Email jan at gearwest@gearwest.com

Disclaimer, I am the owner of a ski store and of course I love selling rollerskis, but that is because they will help your fitness in SO many ways. Never would I suggest any type of equipment or clothing aid without providing my honest opinion on how it would aid you, physically or mentally J (ex: Fresh wool socks ALWAYS make my feet feel happy and therefore I think I ski or run faster) - Jan