If you’re up for it, it’s 42kms of glorious alpine, sweaty, scenery as only Falls Creek can offer. Cross country skiing is one of the toughest outdoor sports on Earth. Half-way between running and skiing, it requires massive VO2 maxes, strength, agility, balance, endurance and fair wack of lycra.
Some of the key issues for the intrepid XC’ers amongst us are knee injuries, exertional compartment syndromes, arch strains and cramps, and the occasional Achilles tendinopathy.
Falling accounts for some injuries, and overuse injuries tend to account for most other injuries in cross-country skiing, due to the repetitive loads that are put on the body. Particularly with the heel-lifting motion required in skating, which is kind of done on a funny angle. It’s not straight up and down like classic movements.
Correct equipment set-up is extremely important in alleviating or preventing any and all issues. Well-fitting boots and an appropriately supportive orthotic is one of the first ports of call for dealing with or resolving issues in the leg (unfortunately whilst the body is all connected, a good orthotic won’t help with shoulder injury prevention – that we can prove just yet).
Excessive pronation can be a key contributor to knee injuries, arch pain and Achilles tendinopathies, as well as inhibiting a clean glide and reducing performance. Correct orthotics will also make your boot more secure and can improve your glide by making your energy use more efficient. The glide is better and smoother because in reducing excessive pronation you allow the ski to sit flatter on the snow before your muscle strength and exertion comes into play. The effect of this also reduces the repetitive strain and muscle fatigue created when you are constantly correcting yourself.
Orthotics can also help with balance as they provide biofeedback to the entire length of the sole of the foot (not just the ball and heel). This gives your body a better sense of where it is in space (proprioception) and those small balance muscles can twitch and work appropriately to help keep you balanced, happy and flying free.
Compartment syndrome is a different beast. In skaters, it tends to affect the front (anterior) or front-outside (lateral) compartment of muscles. It can leave the foot and ankle feeling “floppy” or “slapping” the ground when the pressure builds up within the connective tissue compartment and the muscles stop working efficiently as a result. Pain can be very intense and feelings of tightness, tingling and occasionally spasms can accompany. Sounds fun! If you notice these symptoms the only way to fix it is rest (some massage, water and lollies help in this too). Prevention for this issue is a strength and training program prior to the race (sorry, again, no quick fix) and ensuring your equipment and support is correct to improve muscle efficiency.
If you have any concerns or questions, pop in and we can help you work through all these issues, whether you’re looking for high performance or doing it for fun.