With the recent deluge of snow here in the Blue Mountains I was excited to don my cross-country skis and enjoy the best that winter has to offer.

Before I hit the trail I did a warm up with key Pilates mat exercises that you can use for both classic cross country skiing or skate skiing. These warm ups will ensure good form on the trail and can help prevent common cross country ski injuries like Achilles tendon problems, low back pain, knee pain and wrist pain.

Cross country skiing is an excellent, some say the best, full body workout that includes cardio and coordination of both upper and lower body strength and flexibility. Key movements are spinal flexion and extension, hip, knee & ankle flexion and extension, shoulder flexion and extension, wrist stability and in the case of skate skiing, hip abduction. In both styles of Nordic skiing pelvic and knee stability are also key. Keep these points in mind while designing a class for your Nordic skiing clients.

I have the luxury of skiing out my back door so I do many warm ups on the mat that ‘tick’ most of the boxes but I’ve also included some standing exercises from the Vertical Repertoire if you don’t want to get on the floor in the lodge. All the exercises below can be found here on the Body Harmonics Blog or Mondays with Margot.

My warm up

This takes less than 10 minutes and I only do 3-5 reps of each to save energy for the ski.

Seated or Standing

Kayak Ribs in both Spine Flexion and Extension

On the Mat

Neutral Bridge + Hip fold (I hold up in my bridge and then fold one leg to tabletop)

Lateral and sagittal arm arcs (usually while holding up in my Bridge)

Prone Robot Arms to Diamond Arms

Plank to Pike – do a forearm plank, pike hips up to Downward Dog, lower pelvis to ground, pike back up. (major box ticking – core stability, hip/ankle mobility, shoulder mobility/stability)


Tic Toc

Heel lift and lower on a stair

Squats with heel ‘pops’

Hand/wrist ‘fist to flash’

Here are some more examples of good Nordic skiing warm ups

Spinal Series

Thoracic Rotation standing or supine

Standing or Supine Spine Flexion

Standing or Prone Spine Extension

Lateral Flexion or side-bends

Low Limb

Supine psoas press

Supine hip stirs

Supine Hip Fold

Leg circles with a theraband

Plantar and Dorsiflexion and Inversion/Eversion with a theraband

Seated or supine knee extension on roller – quadriceps VMO, knee stability

Prone Hip Extension

Standing Elephant

Skate Squat – excellent all in one warm up for skate skiers hips, knees and ankles

Standing Knee Raise

Upper Body

Shoulder hangs from branch or bar

Elbow Flaps

Chest Expansion/Shoulder Extension with theraband

Mid, low trap series with theraband

Full Body Support and Combo Exercises

Quadruped Arm/Leg Reach

Side Bridge

Torso Twist

Squats standing on Theraband combined with bicep curls/tricep presses

Lunge with hands on head adding spine flexion, extension, rotation

What are your favourite winter sport warm ups? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Penny Kennedy is a Pilates Instructor who teaches at Therapeutic Pilates in Collingwood, ON. Her first introduction to Pilates was as a client at Body Harmonics 10 years ago. Within months she found relief from the chronic hip and neck pain that had plagued her for years. An active person who enjoyed hiking and swimming, Penny hated ‘exercise’ because she was uncoordinated and injured easily.  Through the mindful movement training at Body Harmonics she discovered a way to become strong safely, her coordination, posture and confidence improved.  She left a career in Television Production to become an instructor, Body Harmonics certified, and then became a member of the teaching staff. While at Body Harmonics, she taught in the Neurological program where she witnessed how cueing with imagery can help clients move with ease.  Now residing near Collingwood, Penny specializes in teaching people with chronic pain, new to exercise, pre and post rehab for hip, knee and spine surgeries, and those with joint hypermobility.