Period Ten of Training for Cross-Country Skiing


It’s January, and we are now starting the race season.

This “note from the coach” is going to touch on a number of topics, because it is our last time to talk about a period as a whole prior to our target event. We will look at race season as one period, with perhaps a number of mini periods in it.

Note #1:  We will now encourage you to shift from 4 week periods to thinking of the whole racing season as a period.  From here on through your target race, don’t be afraid to move weeks around based upon how you are feeling and what preparation races may prepare you well for your target event.  (If your target event is not during “Birkie” week in the US, you may need to adjust the calendar by as much as a month or more.)  In weeks where you are racing on the weekend, drop the volume some as the intensity will be high and your overall load will be just fine.  In times where you may not have a race over the weekend, don’t be afraid to take the early part of the week to recover from racing the prior weekend and then doing a mini 2.5-4 day volume training camp to maintain some of your base fitness.

Note #2: Most of all during the race season, don’t just blindly follow this training plan.  Use it as a guide and adjust it based upon how you are feeling and what your past experience may be telling you.

Note #3: We have come to the time of the year where training through significant fatigue is no longer going to be of much value come your target race.

Note #4: We are focusing more on our intensity and maintaining our fitness and strength than we are on building our overall base. In this time of the season – the race season, really focus on your technique and try to maintain good technique throughout your hard work bouts and races.

Note #5: During the competition season, one of the things we do a great deal of is really target events to see what our strengths are. During the preparation-season, we focused attention on our weaknesses and making sure we had a good, comprehensive training plan. But when it’s a competition season, we’re focusing in on where our strengths lie. In order to focus in our our strengths, we have to be selective and also attentive to our recovery.  This is the case, regardless of the athlete.

Note #6: We should be selective in choosing our competitions because competitions cause a great deal of overall stress and take a great deal out of the body.  We should make sure that the competitions we are entering have a well thought out purpose to them – ie, how are they going to prepare us for our target competitions.  If there is a preparation purpose that will be served with a competition, go for it.  If on the other hand you are preparing to race the 50K FS Birkie and you have the option to do a 5K Fun Run out of nowhere, you have to ask is this 5K running effort going to serve my purposes well?  If the answer is no, you are better off sitting it out.  If the answer is may be, is there something you can do to change the may be to a yes – if you have been running a lot for training because you are limited with access to snow, may be the 5K running race can be part of a multi-pace intensity day, Running the 5K at race pace (roughly level 4), taking a set brake and then may be doing another 2 x 6-8min of on at L3 with 3 minutes of active recovery in between.  This type of adjustment can take a limited preparation day and make it highly valuable to the end goal.

Note #7: Another thing to think about this time of the year is overall stress loads.  It is easy to get a little bit fatigued and then fail to recognize the fatigue and continue to over do it, digging yourself into a hole.  One example of an adjustment to make to prevent over doing it is on a distance or over distance training session, be selective about the type of terrain that we’re training on – find the easier loops so you can keep the skiing at easier efforts.  Most of our competitions are on very hilly and steep terrain, so we should adjust our distance training to flatter terrain. This provides our bodies (our legs, arms, and core) a little bit of reprieve during the week’s training so that we’re more prepared on the weekend for competition.

Note #8: Distance type training this time of the year means that we’re stabilizing our training and we’re not necessarily increasing our volume, but making sure that our overall capacity is still staying high through this competitive season. We do that in a combination of ways, through plain basic aerobic endurance training (such as easy distance and over distance), as well as during our intensity. If we’re doing a great deal of racing and preparing for half marathons and marathons, we tend to be doing a good deal of threshold type efforts that we may add in some speeds or some Level 4 to train all our energy systems.

Note #9: There are weeks when we’re really focused on preparation in our interval sets and there we will be doing more intensity sessions. In weeks where we’re more focused on our races, we will be doing fewer intensity workouts to prime us for performance and then focusing on the races, making sure that we’re really targeting those. In these weeks we will reduce the volume and do just 1 midweek intensity session so we can focus on getting after it on the weekend.

Note #10: Recovery is very important – making sure that we’re getting adequate nutrition, making sure that we’re getting in both passive and active recovery (think both active rest walks and massage or stretching).

There you are 10 notes.  A lot of information to digest.  All these things are important especially as the competition season goes on.

Good Luck and Race Fast!



Actual skiing (training and racing) must be the focus of your work at this point in the year. If your dry land training has been good, you should be able to feel its positive effects when you are on the snow.

The necessary emphasis on-snow time is off-set by a de-emphasis on our off-snow time. Therefore, the strength sessions are shorter; the reps are lower, and—if your schedule requires you to make a compromise . . . choose skiing over strength-training. Doing this program twice each week would be good / nice; but once a week—done well—will be sufficient if it permits you more time on your skis.


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.

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