Period Nine of Training for Cross-Country Skiing

 

Welcome to period nine of training for cross-country skiing.

These 4 weeks we will transition into the racing season. Our early races are meant to be a preparation for our important races later in the year. Doing some shorter races to help us feel better skiing faster would be good. Also, note that we have two holiday weeks. We have shifted our big week for the month forward one week and out of the normal 3rd-week position.

Think about your recovery modalities: very active things like stretching immediately after your training and competitions as well as making sure you’re taking in fuel immediately after skiing, but most importantly immediately after your intensity work, – both the races as well as intensity intervals.

Taking fluid as well as some protein and carbohydrate, bananas, electrolytes, sports drinks, peanut butter sandwich. Whatever it may be, get some food in you immediately after, and then within 2 to 2.5 hours after your training, make sure you’re getting in a full meal.

You also really have to look at personalizing your training. You have to ask yourself, “What are the most important competitions of the season?” These most important competitions of the season might be right now or they might be in the next two periods. That makes a big difference as far as how you address and how you target your training.

Enjoy the holidays and get fired up for winter!

 

STRENGTH

We are, at last, in the heart of ski-season and hoping mother nature will support us with consistently good snow. The strength-training sessions for this phase are, again, meant to be short; the goal is to continue building strength and maintaining a comfortable, healthy range of motion. These two elements are key to maximizing your performance potential while minimizing your injury risk.

***

Each period, we will end with this advice since it is so important:

As you are planning your weeks and evaluating your training, also give some thought to how you are using the training plan. It is written to be a blueprint and a guide for your training, and is not written knowing in advance what conflicts you may have with training in any given week.

Many weeks can be done as scheduled. However, if you have to swap days or weeks out on account of your non training life, with good planning that can be done with great success provided you are giving thought to the swapping. For example, let’s say you have a week at work where you are going to have heavy time demands and stress and the schedule says it is the third week of the period, which is our big week, you may be best holding off on the third week and swapping it with week 4 our easy week to recover, and then also maybe make a small adjustment in week one of the following period. You can also swap out days on account of life outside of your training plan, just remember as you do that it is ideal to follow a pattern of hard followed by easy for the pattern of days.

CXC Ski Lessons at Turkey Birkie

CXC is partnering with the American Birkebeiner for an exciting weekend of ski lessons during its 2nd annual Turkey Birkie Ski Festival. Whether you are a competitive Master racer, a first-time skier, or somewhere in between, our skilled instructors are excited to take your abilities to the next level!

We will be skiing the artificial snow loops at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead. Depending on Mother Nature, there could be many more kilometers to ski on! Check the Birkie Trail Grooming & Trail Conditions report, or check the Birkie Trail Cams.

WHEN: Friday, November 26 to Sunday, November 28

Registration for lessons includes ALL sessions listed below.
Attend any or all!

  • Friday: 1:30PM  – 3:00PM (skate)
  • Saturday:
    9:00AM – 10:30AM (classic)
    1:30PM – 3:00PM (skate)
  • Sunday: 9:00AM – 10:30AM (classic)

WHERE: American Birkebeiner Trailhead, Cable (WI)

LESSONS: $200 (includes festival pass, four sessions of 1.5-hour long lessons, complimentary CXC Academy membership, CXC ski ties and a buff)

If you just want to glide on early season snow, get a $25 festival pass and enjoy a day in the great north woods, all in a safe & fresh-air environment!

EVENT SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Covid-19 safety precautions/protocols will be based on the current level of community transmission –  stay tuned for any updates on this as the event nears.

 

Period Eight of Training for Cross-Country Skiing

Welcome to period eight of training for cross-country skiing.

(November – December ’21)

This is our last 4 weeks of the “fall” base building period.

First off to follow up on last period’s note about this coming season and “shoulder season”- try to keep good consistency up with your training, but be sure to be flexible and make smart adjustments based upon what skiing and life in general may be throwing at you. In this period, we are likely better to get in a little less training than we were hoping for rather than over doing it and starting the winter flat.

Again, we are likely still in shoulder season. Thus, ski specificity needs to have some flexibility at this time of year. Adjust as needed to stay safe and have productive workouts. Roller skiing on an icy road shoulder or bike path is not good for your body or overall health. Footwork with and without poles can be exchanged for roller skiing, and even snow skiing on the intensity days.

This month we also have Thanksgiving week. The period revolves around the idea of a thanksgiving training camp, and having a great week enjoying the lifestyle of a full time athlete at a training camp. If the Saturday to Saturday of a training camp does not work for you, adjust the workouts as you see fit. If you are not feeling ready to travel to Snow Mountain Ranch, West Yellowstone, or Silver Star for places to visit for thanksgiving and getting after it in a great skiing destination thanksgiving week, you can probably train a bit more in the last week of the period, the end of week 2 and on the travel days, as you will not need to be as rested going in and recover as much afterwards. It would not be at all bad to stay closer to home, spend the holiday with family and focus on a long weekend instead of a full week.

Have a great holiday wherever you may be.

OK, onto this period we are maintaining and building on our last period. While we maintain, we are still training quite hard.  Keep up the good work you have been putting in.  We will repeat, with shoulder season adjust to the weather and make your training safe. If you have not yet had a chance to break out the rock skis yet, as you switch to snow, we are still getting our snow legs. Consider continuing to do your intensity on foot to make it most productive.  Your first days on snow should be more focused on remembering your good technique on snow and building good skiing habits.

STRENGTH

This month we shorten the dry-land training sessions in the hope of spending good outdoor time on real snow. Though the sessions will take less time to complete, you will continue to make significant gains in connected strength as long as you keep the intensity level high for each of the eleven movements in the strength circuit. “Intensity” can be defined in many ways when you are considering this kind of training. It can be the amount of resistance you work against, the pace of each movement, or simply the level of focus and awareness you bring to each repetition of each set. Once you are comfortable with a movement, intensity will become a mix of all three of these definitions and you will be making—and feeling—physical progress.

***

Each period, we will end with this advice since it is so important:

As you are planning your weeks and evaluating your training, also give some thought to how you are using the training plan. It is written to be a blueprint and a guide for your training, and is not written knowing in advance what conflicts you may have with training in any given week.

Many weeks can be done as scheduled. However, if you have to swap days or weeks out on account of your non training life, with good planning that can be done with great success provided you are giving thought to the swapping. For example, let’s say you have a week at work where you are going to have heavy time demands and stress and the schedule says it is the third week of the period, which is our big week, you may be best holding off on the third week and swapping it with week 4 our easy week to recover, and then also maybe make a small adjustment in week one of the following period. You can also swap out days on account of life outside of your training plan, just remember as you do that it is ideal to follow a pattern of hard followed by easy for the pattern of days.

Period Seven of Training for Cross-Country Skiing

This period we are cutting back some from our past 2 periods of working hard for the winter. While we cut back some, we are still training quite hard. Keep up the good work you have been putting in.

We are also approaching the “shoulder season”. The “shoulder season” is that time of year where we may be switching back and forth between dryland and on snow, and also may have to adjust to times where neither method of training is good (think not enough snow to ski on, but icy roads and trails so running and roller skiing are also poor). When it appears is different the world over. In the shoulder season, it is important to be flexible with your training. Adjust to the weather and make your training safe. Roller skiing in icy conditions is not safe. This may be a good time to go for a pole hike or run/hike with poles. As we switch to snow, for the first few weeks while we are still getting our snow legs, we should also consider continuing to do our intensity on foot, as we often can have more productive workouts than if we try to do intensity one of our first days on snow, especially if snow is thin and we have to be cautious avoiding dirt or rocks. Your first days on snow should be more focused on remembering your good technique on snow and building good skiing habits.

Let’s hope for a winter of many bluebird days of great skiing!!!

***

Each period, we will end with this advice since it is so important:

As you are planning your weeks and evaluating your training, also give some thought to how you are using the training plan. It is written to be a blueprint and a guide for your training and is not written knowing in advance what conflicts you may have with training in any given week.

Many weeks can be done as scheduled. However, if you have to swap days or weeks out on account of your non training life, with good planning that can be done with great success provided you are giving thought to the swapping. For example, let’s say you have a week at work where you are going to have heavy time demands and stress and the schedule says it is the third week of the period, which is our big week, you may be best holding off on the third week and swapping it with week 4 our easy week to recover, and then also maybe make a small adjustment in week one of the following period. You can also swap out days on account of life outside of your training plan, just remember as you do that it is ideal to follow a pattern of hard followed by easy for the pattern of days.

Knee Stability Exercises

Due to a personal history of knee issues and my experiences with weak and strong ankles, knees and hips, I find myself re-learning the importance of basic knee stability exercises. So much so I made a video to share my favorite exercises. No matter what level of skiing or outdoor sporting, no matter how competitive you are, increased knee stability will allow you to use all that volume and strength, and ultimately aid in preventing injuries, applying good technique and having more fun doing whatever you are doing.

– Scott Lacy, Biathlete with CrossCut Mountain Sports Center

Is Cross Country Skiing Hard?

Key excerpts from Justin Eberhardt’s article for mnxc.org

Competitive skiers often spend hours working hard and sweating in temperatures that most people associate with frostbite and hypothermia. Races are up to 54km (33 miles) long, climb up incredibly steep hills, and take hours to complete. At the end of a long race, even the best skiers in the world fall over when they cross the finish line due to exhaustion. It’s one of the toughest full-body workouts there is, and some of the most cardiovascularly fit athletes ever measured have been cross-country skiers. Despite all of this, most of the skiers I know wouldn’t give it up for anything, and many take pride in overcoming all the obstacles associated with the sport.

Despite how challenging cross country skiing can be if you’re aiming to be competitive, it is actually an incredibly easy sport for a beginner to try out. If you want to spend a nice winter Saturday with your family, you can’t beat clipping into a pair of rental skis and hitting a beginner trail at one of Minnesota’s many fantastic ski areas like Spidahl’s or Giant’s Ridge. Just bring your own winter clothing, a good attitude, and an adventurous spirit — the ski place will take care of the rest. While you won’t set any speed records and you may develop a small aversion to hills, you’ll soon get the hang of the slide-and-glide classic style and be able to enjoy one of winter’s finest pastimes. Sure, you’ll probably find yourself asking, “How the heck do I get back up?” at some point after you inevitably fall and your skis are criss-crossed uphill from your body. But this is a great opportunity to laugh at yourself and to make new friends as your fellow skiers help you get untangled and upright.

If you haven’t been out on xc skis before or even if it’s just been a long time since your last attempt, keep reading this post to learn more about this sport so you look like you know what you’re doing when you get to the ski trail.

 

FINDING CROSS-COUNTRY SKI GEAR

Skiing is different than running, and you’ll need more than just a pair of shoes before your first cross country ski adventure. The world’s best skiers have 40 pairs of skis valued at over $500 each, and a wax technician prepares them in a multi-million dollar wax truck. However, most of us avid skiers only have a couple of sets of skis, and if you are just getting into the sport, you can get by without your own gear. Many of the ski areas in Minnesota offer daily rentals for a reasonable fee. There are also ski swaps held around the state where you might be able to find a great pair of lightly used skis that will serve you well for years to come. If you want to buy new, your local ski shop probably offers a package that include a nice set of entry-level skis, boots, and poles fit to your exact height and weight for under $500 (maybe less at the end of the season). Before investing in your own set of skis, I recommend renting skis for a while so you can try out the classic and skate styles before committing to the first pair of your own skis.

 

WHERE TO GO?

If you live in the Upper Midwest, check out the extensive list of trail locations and conditions at skinnyski.com. Some trails are groomed for classic skiing (traditional slide and glide, two tracks in the snow) and others are groomed for skate skiing (looks like hockey skating, but with skis). Before you go skiing, find a trail that is groomed in the style that matches your equipment, make sure the condition reports sound good, and check the forecast so you aren’t surprised by a wind chill. In general, most people will enjoy skiing if it is over 20 degrees farhenheit, but it’s often quite comfortable even in much colder temps if you layer appropriately and protect your skin against wind exposure.

 

WHAT TO WEAR CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING?

Dress for the weather, dress in layers, and wear clothing that’s not too heavy. When cross-country skiing, it’s important to find the right balance between too hot and too cold. Leave the heavy, insulated clothing you wear ice fishing or downhill skiing at home. Cross-country ski pants have wind-stopping material in front, are relatively light weight, and allow you to move freely. On top, try a moisture-wicking undershirt and a light jacket. Layers not only add warmth when you are just starting and still chilly, but more importantly, they allow for shedding as you get your heart rate up. Don’t be surprised to find a random jacket or scarf hanging from a branch — skier’s often temporarily leave their outer layers along the trail when they get too hot, to be retrieved on the last loop of the day. A good pair of gloves is also a must, and just like the rest of your outfit you want something that isn’t too warm but is still effective at stopping the wind.

 

LEARNING SKI TECHNIQUE

There are two styles of cross country skiing (skate and classic), each of which has several sub-techniques that take time to learn. Pick whichever style looks like fun to you, and try it out. Both skate and classic can be enjoyed by physically fit people of all ages*. If you know someone who is already a skier, ask them to take you to their favorite ski area. Most of us would be happy to provide a lesson for someone new to our sport. There are also a lot of good skiing technique videos on YouTube that you may find helpful to watch before hitting the trails. And finally, don’t be afraid to fail a few times as you’re learning. Every person who has ever skied has fallen (and still falls) many times, and occasionally the editor STILL takes off her skis at one particularly steep down-hill section to hike safely to the bottom. The good thing is, you’ll improve quickly, and within a short time on the trail, you’ll be enjoying the feeling of gliding across the snow instead of concentrating the whole time on staying out of the snow banks.

*Editor’s note from the primary care physician: If you are someone who is at high risk for injury related to falling, skiing is probably not a good choice for you.

 

WHY?

What are the rewards for enduring harsh weather, dealing with finicky wax, and working yourself to exhaustion? For me, it’s about racing through the woods of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Norway with thousands of other skiers. It’s about skiing with the wildlife at our State Parks. And it’s about spending quality time with my friends and family on the trails. There’s nothing better than a day when everything comes together; when the trails are in good shape, your wax is working just right, the weather is mild, and you’re flying silently across the snow. I hope you decide to get out there on the trails and give skiing a try yourself!

Period Six of Training for Cross-Country Skiing

 

Welcome to period six of training for cross-country skiing.

(September – October ’21)

This is our biggest period of the year. We are going to get after it with both intensity and volume increases. Take advantage of the start of fall and enjoy the changing colors while you are training hard. You will notice this coming week we are going to do a lactate tolerance work out, this work out will be a bit shorter in duration, but very tough. We are also going to transition out of paddling and into other cross training options.

Over the years we have received a fair amount of feedback regarding target races/weeks, and most who responded indicated that the Birkie/Korte was their primary focus event.

Others were looking to “tune up” and race well at either the Noque, Boulder Mountain Tour, or the City of Lakes. With this information, we will plan to work back 6 weeks from the Birkie to be our best. Ideally, 5 weeks out will be a big volume training week for the winter, weeks 6 and 4 should be stout medium weeks for the winter and can include some tune up events. Weeks 3, 2 and race week we will gradually cut back the training volumes and let you get yourself sharp, rested and fresh. If week 3 back is BMT or COL, no worries, just adjust your approach to the event and be careful not to redline to the point of trashing yourself. (In this case, holding back a bit may be a valuable tool to learn better pacing.)

We also had a few responses that target races events like World Masters or the Iceland Marathon. If this is your program, train more weeks of our lead up to the last 6 weeks in either 3 or 4 week blocks (3 week going Medium volume, Big Volume, Recovery, or 4 weeks going Small, Medium, Big, Recovery) and then take our last 6 weeks and put it in so our Birkie/Korte Week (Feb 22-28) lines up with your events.

In order to make the most of this, this next 4 weeks will be our last push of high volume dry-land training (or if we are lucky early on snow season). Let’s build on our good work last month.

 

STRENGTH TRAINING:

Strength training for Period 6 will be a continuation of period 5 in the sense that we are going to add more plyometric based strength while maintaining lower but more intense repetitions. Plyometric strength has benefits in creating more explosive power that will be important on skis during the race season. With all plyometric exercises, it is important to make the landings soft, and the jump powerful.

Be connected, balanced and precise in all your dry-land movements!

Finally—if you are not already doing so—it is a great idea to keep a daily training log (see attached sample in your training plan) to keep track of what you did and to make essential connections between your training and the way your body responds. If you see that the elevated work intensity and / or volume of your training feels better, now, than similar levels of training felt earlier in the training year, you can be confident you are moving in a positive direction.

Phase 6 is a critical step towards the racing season (only weeks, away, now), so enjoy the nice fall weather and feel good about your efforts each day.

***

Each period, we will end with this advice since it is so important:

As you are planning your weeks and evaluating your training, also give some thought to how you are using the training plan. It is written to be a blueprint and a guide for your training, and is not written knowing in advance what conflicts you may have with training in any given week.

Many weeks can be done as scheduled. However, if you have to swap days or weeks out on account of your non training life, with good planning that can be done with great success provided you are giving thought to the swapping. For example, let’s say you have a week at work where you are going to have heavy time demands and stress and the schedule says it is the third week of the period, which is our big week, you may be best holding off on the third week and swapping it with week 4 our easy week to recover, and then also maybe make a small adjustment in week one of the following period. You can also swap out days on account of life outside of your training plan, just remember as you do that it is ideal to follow a pattern of hard followed by easy for the pattern of days.

Fartlek Workouts

Article Source: TrainingPeaks (with contributions from Lauren Babineau)

This workout has its roots in Sweden. The term “Fartlek” means “speed play”. It is a training method that blends continuous (endurance) training with interval (speed) training.

Traditionally, the workout is done running on trails in the woods over rolling terrain. However, if you would rather do the work out on skis/roller skis or the bike, adjust accordingly.

Fartlek runs challenge the body to adapt to various speeds, conditioning you to become faster over longer distances. Most run workouts typically target one or two paces, and a basic long run is done at a single, steady pace.

Unlike intervals, where you stop or walk for recovery, Fartlek is continuous running. Fartlek running involves varying your pace throughout your workout.

While top speed might not match intervals, your overall average heart rate (HR) should be higher for a fartlek workout than for intervals, because the jogging recovery also means HR does not drop as low during the recovery portions. It is great for a variety of fitness levels and can be customized according to personal preference and current training situation.

Different Ways to Run Fartleks

Fartlek can be structured, though classic fartlek is based on feel and inspiration. “Run hard up the hill to the crest, jog to cross walk, accelerate the short downhill, jog to the intersection, run quickly around the block” versus “run 6-5-4-3-2 minutes faster with 2 minutes jogging recovery,” is an example of a structured fartlek.

Fartlek workouts are versatile. A traditional fartlek is run on the road using available landmarks as guides. If you are the analytical type, take your fartlek to the track and use set distances. Live in the city? Use lamp posts or blocks as distances for easy, medium and hard efforts. Bad weather? Bring your fartlek workout inside on a treadmill. Out of town and worried about getting lost? Fartlek is a great way to make a small loop more interesting. Have a friend joining your workout? Even if you both may run at different speeds you can regroup at certain landmarks or times. Can’t avoid the hills? Great! Hills are effective means to elevate your heart rate and work on strength, speed and endurance. As you can see, fartleks can be done anywhere—it’s convenient and packs a powerful punch of benefits.

Fartlek Improves Your Mental Game

Beyond physical benefits, fartlek also trains the mind, strengthening willpower, sustaining and repeating efforts when you feel like stopping.

We can all probably relate to a race situation when the mind can overwhelm us, questioning whether we can maintain the pace or respond to an opponent’s attack. The more training sessions we do that incorporate this speed variation, the more resistant we become to giving up mentally mid-race. The body can usually go much longer and faster than the mind would have it believe it can.

The Benefits of Fartlek Training

  • Improve speed
  • Improve endurance
  • Improve race tactics; improves your ability to put surges into races and overtake a competitor or knock seconds off your finish time.
  • Improve mental strength.

Fartlek provides a lot of flexibility, so you can do a high intensity session to push your limits or a low intensity session if you are tapering for a race or easing back into running post-injury.

Fartlek is playful, playing with speed and saying the word often elicits giggles!

Three Sample Fartlek Workouts

LONG RUN FARTLEK

  • During your longest run of the week, pick up your pace for 1:00 minute every 6 to 8 minutes. This is not drastically faster – perhaps 15 to 20 seconds per mile faster than your normal long-run pace. If you have a hard time returning to “normal” long-run rhythm, then you are running the surges too quickly.

SPEED PLAY

After a 12 minute warm-up jog, plus a few drills and strides
Build for 3 minutes as moderate, moderate-hard, hard each for 1 minute

  • 2 minutes jog
  • 7 minutes moderate-hard
  • 3 minutes jog
  • 3 minutes hard
  • 5 minutes jog
  • Cool down or repeat

“SURROUNDINGS” FARTLEK

  • After 10 minutes of warm-up jogging pick a landmark in the distance—this can be a telephone pole, mailbox, a tree, a building, etc, and run to it at a faster pace. Once you have reached it, slow down and recover with your normal running pace for as long as you need (just don’t fully stop), then find a new landmark and speed it up again. Keep in mind that there are no rules here, so run on feel as you go along.

Traditionally, the fartlek workout is done running on trails in the woods over rolling terrain. However, if you would rather do the work out on skis/roller skis or the bike, adjust accordingly.

Period Five of Training for Cross-Country Skiing

(August – September ’21)

This month is Period 5 and along with Period 6 will be our biggest volume times of the entire year. Some will notice the week of September 2 is quite an ambitious week. This is the hard work we are putting in to be successful come winter. Hang in there, the week of September 9 should have you bouncing back well.

We want to make sure that we’re training polarized or when it says easy training, that we’re truly going easy, and then when we’re going Level 4, that we’re truly going hard. Why that’s so important right now in period five is because, in period five, it’s one of our highest volume months.

With that being said, it’s very easy both in period five and period six to train too hard on our level one type training, our easy training, and actually leave our whole season far too fatigued for the rest of the competition season.

The other concept that we want to talk through is compartmentalized training or making sure that all of our training actually flows from one to the next. It’s really complementary and it’s not just isolated so that when we’re out doing distance training, we’re just doing the distance. We’re also working on technique. Everything must complement one another. This complimentary training is really important. So making sure that for example our strength complements our intensity training – that is going to be important as we move forward.

So as we discussed – the endurance, intensity and strength type of training in this period, first and foremost, it’s high in volume. Because of that, we want to make sure our easy work is very easy and it’s also becoming more and more specific to cross-country skiing.

Again, more roller skiing, a little less biking type activities. Intensity, there’s a bit of a balance between the threshold and Level 4 training. We can get a little bit creative here. If you’ve trained over the years, you can actually blend the two. Maybe what you do is you do a Level 3 workout or a threshold and add – maybe it’s five minutes on of Level 3 and then maybe one minute of Level 4 at the end. That’s a creative balance or you can have very specific ones.

Another thing to do is to make sure we have accelerations in our distance training, but a full recovery in between.

STRENGTH TRAINING:

Last period the training plan introduced a strength routine that focused on lower load (weights lifted) and higher velocity (more dynamic, speedy movements). This period is a continuation of that concept, however, the plan emphasizes different muscle groups via several new exercises.

Remember, it is important to complete each repetition with quality movements and very explosive initial power. This is an integral part of plyometric-based strength because it teaches the muscle proprioceptors to fire quickly – a trait you will want to have during ski races, particularly at the start and in the final stretch to the finish line!

At this point of the training, you should feel improved strength in your movements and this should translate to stronger, faster sessions on the road.

***

Each period, we will end with this advice since it is so important:

As you are planning your weeks and evaluating your training, also give some thought to how you are using the training plan. It is written to be a blueprint and a guide for your training, and is not written knowing in advance what conflicts you may have with training in any given week.

Many weeks can be done as scheduled. However, if you have to swap days or weeks out on account of your non training life, with good planning that can be done with great success provided you are giving thought to the swapping. For example, let’s say you have a week at work where you are going to have heavy time demands and stress and the schedule says it is the third week of the period, which is our big week, you may be best holding off on the third week and swapping it with week 4 our easy week to recover, and then also maybe make a small adjustment in week one of the following period. You can also swap out days on account of life outside of your training plan, just remember as you do that it is ideal to follow a pattern of hard followed by easy for the pattern of days.