This past season marked my last year as a full-time cross-country ski racer. After eight very worthwhile years of racing and training all over the world I have decided to move on to a new phase in my life. Whether that next phase involves working as a roadie for the next Van Halen world tour, joining the World Horseshoe Throwing circuit or attending graduate school only time will tell.
In the meantime, I am working 40 hours per week in Park City, taking two classes at the University of Utah and working a second job one day per week at a local hospital. All of this leaves me very little time for any sort of structured ski training. In fact, I am lucky if I can squeeze in three to five workouts each week.
I do not plan on completely abandoning the sport that I have spent so many years immersed in. After you spend so much time working towards something you love, it becomes hard to simply quit cold-turkey. I do hope to at least remain competitive on the American Ski Marathon Series next season. But how do I get to a competitive level on such a limited training schedule? What I have decided is that I need to figure out how to maximize my training as a part-time ski racer.
I recently read a short article on the internet about how Thomas Alsgaard is currently training three times per week in his preparation for next year’s World Cup circuit. It would be nice if we all had the time (and insane physical capacity) to do this, but for those of us that are part-time racers and weekend warriors that work full-time and/or have families, we simply do not have enough hours in the day to do this. So the question is: What can we do to maximize the training we do have time for? What aspects of a training plan are most important? What can be left out or skipped?
No matter how little time you are able to devote to training, you should always fit in one intensity workout every week to ten days starting in the summer. Maintaining that ability and feel of going hard throughout the year is important since it can be very difficult to regain once you have lost it. This is especially true the older you get.
Remember that an intensity workout can come in almost any shape or form. It doesn’t have to be something done on rollerskis or involve skiwalking or bounding for a specific amount of time with a specific amount of rest. It can be as simple as going hard for twenty minutes in the middle of an hour long run or bike ride or even trying to mow your lawn in world-record time. I personally like doing track workouts because I feel that I am able to get a lot of out of them. I am able to fit a bunch of short intervals into a relatively small amount of time and by the end of the workout I feel pretty tired. It is also a matter of convenience since there is a track right down the street from my house.
The point here is to periodically get your heart and lungs into hammer-mode……how you go about doing this really doesn’t matter all that much, especially during the summer. It’s not like your cardiovascular system knows what type of training method you are doing, all it knows is that it is working hard.
One good over-distance day is second on my list. It is amazing how well an occasional OD can maintain your endurance. If you average 45 minutes per workout, try to fit in an easy 2 hour over-distance day. If you average 1 to 1.5 hours, try to fit in a nice 3-hour outing. Again, don’t forget about the variety of training methods out there. A long kayak can be just as effective as a long mountain run. Also, try combination workouts, where you bike and run or rollerski and run, etc.
3. SKIP WEIGHTS
Unless you feel that your upperbody is your weakest link or you need to bulk up those beach muscles for that week on the houseboat in Lake Havasu, skip the trips to weight room during the summer. Some of you may disagree about this, but remember, I am talking about maximizing training on a limited schedule. Of course, if you have a lot of time to devote to ski training, consistent weight workouts can be a valuable supplement to your plan. If you like to rollerski during the off-season, throw in some double-pole only workouts and make those your strength workouts.
Weight training is really only beneficial if you are able to keep up with it on a weekly basis. So, I feel that it is best to start doing some in the fall and try to be consistent with it until you get on snow. I personally hate hanging out in the weight room. I would much rather go for a run than do sets on the bench press any day.
For those of you that really need to improve your upperbody strength I suggest that you make a small investment in turning your garage into a Rocky Balboa old-school training gym. A padded mat, a couple of 25 lbs barbells and wooden box for dips and step-ups is all you need for a basic strength workout that is right there at home. You could even add a punching bag since it just looks cool hanging there and it makes you feel tough.
4. ‘EVERYDAY’ WORKOUTS
For some of you, doing intervals may be unappealing and you really don’t have time for OD workouts either, so training only consists of “everyday” workouts. These are simple workouts where you just head out and run or bike or whatever at a comfortable pace for the time available to you. If you are only able to train for 30 minutes three times per week, make sure that you are getting something out of them. Going at a level 1 pace for 30 minutes really doesn’t do a whole lot for you, unless you are out of shape and just getting back into training or using it as a recovery workout. If you make some of these short workouts more like semi-pace workouts where you are training in your level 2 to 3 zone then you will get much more out of these days.
The main point I want to get across here is the importance of maintaining a good fitness level throughout the year and it that doesn’t necessarily matter how you get it done. If you are able to throw occasional intensity and over-distance workouts into your training throughout the summer and fall, then you are going to be much better off come ski season. Have a great year see you at the race.