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Grand Nordic: Prioritize your health as ski season approaches

Diana Lynn Rau
Grand Nordic Center

“Being a successful skier and staying healthy go hand in hand,” says Andy Newell, four-time Olympic Nordic champion as adapted by Bruce Manske of Winter Park Competition Center in his weekly training memo to his skiers.

“Our sport is so physically demanding that a skier at any age can have a weakened immune system from intense training, racing or travel and easily succumb to illness. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about staying healthy and what we can do to protect ourselves. I think wearing a mask on travel days and in over-crowded areas will be a standard mitigation strategy in the future.”

We are all bound to get sick this winter whether it is the common cold passed on from the kiddos at school or the adult workplace or a more serious condition requiring medical attention. Taking some preventative measures can help reduce the risk of getting sick. And what you do while you are sick can have a big impact on your entire ski season.



Something important for any skier to learn is to never race or train when you are sick. Try to take the day off to avoid lasting effects on your fitness. It’s tough to do, but learn to be honest about your health and take the time to recover before doing intense activity, which can lead to increased fitness in the future.

Actually, doing this is not easy since most of us are either high achievers or over-achievers. Tell me to take the day off? Sure.



Learn to be good at listening to your body. Pay attention! Andy and many other top skiers will tell you from experience that athletes who are good at listening to their bodies and have the confidence to sit out practice at the first sign of poor sleep, itchy throat or just feeling off will achieve a higher level of fitness in the long run.

Perhaps the most important lesson to learn is training or actively exercising while you are sick is not helpful.

To fight off sickness during the winter, try some of the measures suggested during the pandemic — hand washing, distancing and masks. These are all worthwhile mitigation strategies to fight the common cold as well. Also try to avoid risky situations when your body is under considerable load or stress.

Andy continues — wash your hands. He recalls standing in the dining hall in the Olympic village and realizing that thousands of athletes from all around the world were going in and out of the same door every day, grabbing the same railings and touching the same serving utensils. Gross!

Train yourself to avoid these types of contact. Slide your sleeve over your hand to open a door, hit the elevator button with your elbow rather than your hand, avoid holding onto railings — all these things that sound simple are a must for anyone who wants to stay healthy.

Sleep and not stressing is really your best line of defense against illness. Waking up early, taking vitamin D in the morning and getting out the door for some exercise will all help your body create serotonin and make you feel more awake.

He finishes — make sure you are hydrated, especially during times when your immune system will be compromised. Re-hydrating directly after your competition or training session before you hit the road is the best strategy.

The Colorado Cross Country skier website blog recommends that when we do get some snow, use your first trips out to reinforce good technique. There is plenty of time for long slow distance and sprints.

Classic skiers should practice balancing exercises and shifting weight, balancing from ski to ski. Skate skiers should work on their legs, looking for a total weight transfer from side to side.

They recommend everyone sign up for a lesson or clinic or join a training group of friends, ditch sugars and bump your protein intake. Most important is set a goal and build a workout system that helps you get there.

Tommelfest returns

Yes — Tommelfest is back on at Devil’s Thumb Ranch this Saturday. There are so many Nordic activities that they have included over the years, and it is a fun day! But be prepared, the Nordic trails are NOT open as of today — hopefully the promised snowstorm produces lots of the white stuff but it will take time to pack it into a suitable surface.


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