Cross-country skiing involves attaching smooth, flat skis to one's boots and using a gliding motion while pushing with ski poles to slide on top of the snow. Nordic cross-country skiing, the more common variety, requires participants to kick straight forward and glide while their bodies are in a forward-leaning position. Skate skiing, another variant, requires skiers to push their skis forward in a v-shaped pattern.
Cross-country skiers who prefer the classic Nordic method apply wax to the bottom of their skis to make them slide more smoothly. Skiers push one leg straight forward, followed by the other. The pole on the side opposite to that of the leg that's moving forward is used to push off of the ground for additional propulsion. Skiers who use the skate-skiing method push one ski forward at an angle away from the body and then push the other leg forward in the opposite direction. The pole on the same side as the striding leg is used for added momentum.
Cross-country skiing provides a challenging cardiovascular workout. It also works the muscles in the core, arms and legs, making it an effective full-body exercise. Recreational cross-country skiing is generally done on well-groomed trails, making it easier for skaters to glide along smoothly. Ski touring, a more grueling form of cross-country skiing, takes place on ungroomed terrain and requires navigational skills in addition to physical fitness.