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The Desolation of Mark and the Natural Fitness Lab Experience
By:  Mark Rajack   (2014/01/16)

With most of XC Ottawa away crushing it last week in Canmore, I was without many of my regular superstar training partners and coach.

It was a sad and lonely time.

But this being the jewel that is Ottawa-Gatineau, I know we have many options when it comes to cross-country skiing. Given my goal of perfecting my technique and improving my fitness, I needed to ski with a group which could deliver expert coaching and provide skiers of similar ability to ski with. Enter XC Zone’s Natural Fitness Lab.

What is XC Zone? They are a local company that specializes in high definition sports cinematography and have produced many world class DVD’s on cross-country skiing and fitness related sports. We are also thrilled to have them as one of our amazing sponsors!

Here is a sample of the magic they make, featuring XC Ottawa.


The individuals behind this company are Dave McMahon and Lise Meloche.

The Natural Fitness Lab is a division of XC Zone through which all their athletic programs are delivered, with their summer RunLab and winter SkiLab respectively. There exists also an ExtremeLab for the most fanatical and determined of us.


The SkiLab provides a spectrum of ski related training and even snowshoeing over the course of the winter. Mondays are reserved for  their “Learn to Ski” nights, consisting of group lessons for any and every level of skier. Dave and Lise are always coaching too. Did I mention that Dave is a former National Biathlon Champion and Lise is a four-time biathlon World Cup champion and a double Olympian? It doesn’t get better than this in term of performance and coaching. As a result, I have benefited tremendously from the expert lessons provided by Lise, Dave and the other coaches at the SkiLab.

Before the lesson beings.
They meet at P6 (Kingsmere) on Mondays.

Tuesdays nights are their “Train to Race” sessions where you can expect to perform intervals and improve on your technique at speed. I found myself in about the middle 1/3rd of the pack and there are always skiers of all abilities present. You’ll never find yourself alone.

Note the orange glow from the city.

Also, don’t worry about skiing at night, you may come to find it much more serene than skiing in the daylight. The glow from the city reflects off the parkway enough to allow you to see the track. In my opinion, it also allows you the opportunity develop a greater sense of connectivity to the snow and greater awareness of your technique when skiing in lower light conditions. Most people however, tend to use a headlamp. Pro tip: If like me, you prefer skiing without a headlamp, still wear one, just on the lowest light setting so that you are at least easily visible to others.

You can discover more about the Natural Fitness Lab and what they offer the rest of the week here.


It gets better too, it’s free for students! If you’re no longer a student, that’s okay too, they have a drop in fee for $10 a session, which is incredible value. But the real benefits come from registering early for the full year performance program that includes the full five sessions a week. I highly recommend it.

Having the opportunity to ski with the Natural Fitness Lab and the availability of many other ski clubs and ski programs this region offers, alongside the seemingly endless network of groomed ski trails, it truly astounds me that our region has not yet become renowned as a Mecca of cross-country skiing.

Well, so much for “if you build it, they will come”.

So here’s to raising awareness and changing that.

Interesting Reading. . .
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