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Cross-training the Robbie Britton way

by Robert Britton
Friday 12th February 2016
In the next instalment of our cross training feature Robbie Britton tells us how he stays fit in the winter out in the Alps. Part two on ski mountaineering coming soon...

What did it cost?
As skiing goes this is a cheap option. Nats and I hit a second hand sale in France and got XC ski set ups for under £60 each. You need skis, poles and boots to get going. It wasn’t the best kit but was great for us starting out.
As with most things you can make it as expensive as you like, sending £600 on boots, the same on skis and £200 on poles. Then comes all the waxing kit, if you get in that deep.
Lessons aren't too expensive either and we joined out local club for £120 and got 6 2 hour lessons included. 
Location is important again but there are plenty of companies organising XC ski holidays in Scandinavia, Austria, France and elsewhere that are really good value.
The pistes costs about £5 to use and a season pass is £80 for the whole department where we are. Very cheap.
How much preparation was required (equipment, clothing etc)?
There are options. Waxes skis, that have fish scales or a small mohair skin underneath, don’t need a lot of preparation and taking them to a local shop everyone and again for some glide wax will be fine. 
There is nothing better than a properly waxed ski though. They can be adapted for whatever the snow conditions and the best possible combinations for gliding and kicking can be found, but it has to be found. Waxing is a fine art and so many factors are involved, such as temperature, snow type, humidity, weather, location and a bundle of other things. At the top level races are won and lost because of the waxing. For beginners it can turn a fun day out into a slippy pain in the hip flexors.
If you just want to get out and try it, rental is the best way and they worry about all the waxing etc for you. Get some skis and give it a go. I’ve convinced friends visiting and even my Ma to have a go and they’ve all enjoyed it.

Robbie skiing 6

How hard was it on a scale of 1 - 10?
The technique takes some time to get right and to be really good takes 1000s of hours but just to go out and enjoy it you can do that from day one.
As for effort, as hard as you want to make it. Easy skiing around the piste is great fun and racing is electric. Without the impact of running you can work at a higher level of effort for longer. 
How much did you ache the next day on a scale of 1 - 10?
This depends on how much you fall over really. XC skis are not great for downhill as they don’t have the metal edges of alpine skis so even in the Olympics that look a bit unstable on the descents.
Low impact means the muscles and joints feel fine and Professional XC skiers have been known to get in similar amount of training to cyclists, which should tell you a think or two.
Starting out there was some soreness in the hip flexors, but as the technique improved that stopped. It was from skis sliding backwards every now and again when you push forward.

Robbie Skiing 4

What muscles did it work?
All of them! XC skiers are some of the fittest recorded athletes in the World with one Norwegian youth scoring something like 96 on V02 Max testing. You use your arms and legs throughout, propelling with poles and skiing along so every muscle builds up it’s ability to endure.
Could you do it if you were injured and couldn’t run?
Injury dependant it could be a great option due to the lack of impact. In the Summer XC skiers do roller skiing, which is the same but on wheels. You can try this out in Hyde Park in London and it could be good cross training for running, as well as good fun.
How good or bad was it for your street cred (with 1 being very bad and 10 being awesome)?
In Scandinavia I think it’s still pretty cool, but in France the ski de fond is down the bottom of the coolness pile a bit. You get the sense that the Alpine skiers, ski mountaineers, snowboarders (so cool it hurts), ice climbers, wingsuiters, mono boarders and fat bikers all think they are cooler.
I don’t give a fu*k though and often rock through town with my Cross Country skis. It’s too much hard work for “cool” people and you often get all ages doing it. When I race I’m often competing with guys in their 60’s, clad in full lycra. That’s cool right?


Robbie Skiing Rosa

Rosa the dog doesn't have any skis yet

How likely would you be to go regularly? 
Even as a beginner I have been skiing every day this Winter, but it is seasonal except for a few select resorts up on glaciers.
I’m enjoying XC skiing so much that I’m actually writing a book about it, some of the fascinating stories and characters within the sport and my own journey from complete novice to experienced XC skier who isn’t very good but wants to do the biggest race in the World, the Vasoloppet in Sweden with 12,000 die hard XC skiers.

All photos by Natalie White (@natsmountain)

About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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