at the races Cross-Training Challenge for Long Distance Runners

Cross-Training Challenge for Long Distance Runners


How one ultrarunner used cross country skiing in Quebec City to get a jump on her training in spring

Jennifer Coleman has never taken part in a multi-sport winter event. In February, she’ll celebrate her birthday in Quebec City at Pentathlon des Neiges’s Salomon Duathlon. As the world’s largest multi-sport event, the one-of-a-kind sports party has attracted both families and serious athletes alike from around the world to compete in categories including the Salomon Duathlon, Triathlon and Pentathlon. Athletes can compete in up to five distinct sports, like cross-country skiing, ice skating, cycling, snowshoeing and running, and can participate as individuals or as part of a team. 

For an ultrarunner like Coleman, competing in the duathlon (a run, ski, run event) is a challenge on multiple levels. “As an ultrarunner who crosscountry skis, I’ve found skiing has been a great cross-training option,” Coleman says. The duathlon event is a new addition to the Pentathlon des Neiges, one that Coleman believes has the ability to attract longdistance runners like her and her friends. While she’s accustomed to logging significant kilometres during her peak training, Coleman is not a fan of winter running. This makes training in Canada in the wintertime hard. Like many runners, crosstraining at the gym isn’t Coleman’s first choice either, so she needed to find an alternate sport in the offseason, one that wouldn’t compromise her health and performance once ultramarathon season began.

“My husband is also a skier and wanted me to learn alpine skiing, so Nordic skiing was my initial step,” she says. With the gruelling training and expense of ultramarathon racing, Coleman is selective with the number of races she participates in, which means she needs to stay in top form all year round. As she discovered in her training, cross-country skiing has been a way to help strengthen many of the muscles she doesn’t use in running. 

“I do mostly classicstyle crosscountry skiing, but I’m going to try to adapt to skatestyle skiing, because that style works more of your hiparea muscles,” she says. Along with strengthening different muscle groups, Coleman discovered that crosscountry skiing is non-impact, which reduces the pressure that longdistance runners have on their joints. 

But is crosscountry skiing really enough during the offseason, especially for an ultrarunner? According to Coleman, her coach encourages the variety, but also suggests that an additional workout may be required. “The uphill in crosscountry skiing will make you a better trail hill runner,” says Coleman, adding: “I’ve already found that after a full season of skiing, there’s a difference in my running.” 

When it comes to racing the duathlon in February, Coleman says she’s looking forward to finding out exactly what her crosstraining workouts can do in a competitive event. “I want people to realize that it’s a quick sport to pick up. You don’t have to be amazing at it, but you can still have a good workout,” she says. Pushing past your limits, challenging yourself to do something differentthis is what the spirit of good competition at Pentathlon des Neiges is all about. And for Coleman, and many others, seeing how far you can take yourself is the real win, no matter how you actually fare in the competition. It’s all about a great day outside in Quebec.

For more information