Swedish skier Jenny Larsson is likely not a household name for even fairly well-informed American cross-country ski fans; the 27-year-old has a single World Cup start to her name, from last season’s 20-kilometer skate in Davos. But Larsson has focused on and shown more prowess on the marathon circuit, finishing sixth overall in last season’s Ski Classics standings and coming in seventh in the Vasaloppet.
You might conclude from a seventh-place finish in the 90-kilometer doublepole-fest that is the Vasaloppet that Larsson is good at doublepoling. You would be correct.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that Larsson is also quite skilled at the dryland version of this technique, the SkiErg. Indeed, while conducting an internal time trial with her club team, Team Ragde Charge, in Norway earlier this month, Larsson set a new world record for 5,000 meters on the SkiErg.
Larsson’s time was 18:32.5. NRK reports that this beat the prior record by “around 10 seconds.”
I can’t independently suss out what the women’s world record for this distance was before Larsson’s feat, but it’s clear that times have been consistently dropping in the decade-plus since Concept2 brought the SkiErg to market in 2009 as the technology became more broadly adopted. According to this press release from summer 2011, at the time the men’s record for 5,000 meters was 17:24, while the women’s mark was 21:06.
Twelve years later, a 21:06 (for women) now gets you onto the Concept2 ranking table only in the 60–64 age group, while a 17:24 (for men) would be an age-group record in the 15–16 or 55–59 age groups, but nothing in between. Links to full age-group records are at the bottom of this article if you’re curious.
Anyway, enough nerding out about stats; let’s talk about skiers vs. CrossFitters.
That 2011 press release from Concept2 alludes to a potential tension here, observing simply, “Some of these times come from competitive Nordic skiers; others come from the fitness/cross-training community.”
Other sources have since been less decorous: Ned Dowling, a licensed physical therapist who has worked extensively with the U.S. Ski Team nordic athletes, last year wrote, “As much as high intensity double poling is a full body effort (not just the arms), in skiing it is more about movement across the hips and ankles vs the knees. In CrossFit gyms, this is not necessarily the case. They are after maximum generation of force, not skiing efficiently. Please don’t do this.”
Dowling then links to this video, which, ouch. You might also (not) enjoy watching whatever it is the athletes are doing starting at the 1:18:54 mark of this video cued up to start with the SkiErg component of the biathlon competition at the 2019 Rogue Invitational, a CrossFit competition that hilariously, though quite ably, features one Chad Salmela as color commentator.
Full disclosure, I am sure that I do not have the world’s best technique on the SkiErg. But I am also sure that it is better than these guys’. My back hurts just looking at this.
(Okay, one more: this video, in which this creatine golem brings to bear roughly the SkiErg form that you would expect from a man presenting like this appearing in a video with “Redbull Challenge” in the name.)
Martin Løwstrøm Nyenget, a Norwegian skier who won Holmenkollen in 2022 and has six other individual World Cup distance podiums to his name, has thoughts on SkiErg marks set by those athletes who do this sport for a living versus SkiErg marks set by those athletes who brute-force their way to speedy times.
“It sounds fast,” said Nyenget of Larsson’s mark, according to an auto-translation of this article from NRK. “I’ve never tested it myself, but it’s good that skiers set those records, not people who do CrossFit or something.”
— Gavin Kentch