By Andrew Musgrave, GB Snowsport Nordic Athlete
I lived for 6 years in Alaska which is where I learned to ski; cross-country skiing was definitely more of a usual past-time there than it is in the UK! Although I learned to ski in Alaska, it was actually after moving back to the UK as an 11 year old that I really started to get into racing. The local club, Huntly Nordic Ski Club, was definitely the driving force behind me getting into proper training and where I started to take racing seriously.
Cross-country is an awesome sport because of how physically demanding it is. It’s a suffer-fest, but you really get to push yourself and test your limits, both physically and mentally. Like any endurance sport, you’ve got to be slightly mad to enjoy it… but once you get into it, it’s easy to get hooked!
The most important attribute that makes a successful cross-country skier is the ability to push yourself hard. If you’re going to win you have to have a big engine, but you also have to be able to cope with suffering and push through the pain better than your competitors. You’ve got to cope with huge volumes of training- sometime’s you’re so wrecked that just getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle, but in spite of this you need to get out and get the job done!
I like to look for inspiration from other sports, no matter what the sport there’s usually something you can learn from what they’re doing, whether it’s a chess player’s ability to make decisions quickly under pressure or gymnast’s strength and flexibility.
Pre-race I usually start to get nervous on the way to the venue. Heading out onto the track to warm up is a bit of a relief, I’ve got a standard routine and a checklist of things to get done. My body definitely seems to know what’s coming, just the act of going through the warm up triggers me to really get my race head on and helps convert my nerves into focussed energy. By the end of the warm up I’m always in the zone and raring to go!
If you’re interested in cross-country skiing, then you should give it a go! It’s an amazing form of training for the whole body, I’ve made it sound horrible and painful, but it can also be relaxing. There’s not much that beats taking your time gliding through the mountains on a cold, sunny day in the winter!