SkiErg Intervals with Sadie Bjornsen

by FasterSkier

If you have a lower-body injury, be it acute or chronic, training for cross-country skiing can be frustrating: there are so many activities which must be cut back if you are trying to protect a knee, ankle, or foot.

Luckily, there are good training options available, especially if you have access to a double-pole machine like an Ercolina or a Concept2 SkiErg.

 

Sadie Bjornsen, of APU and the U.S. Ski Team, during a SkiErg interval workout at her home in Anchorage, Alaska. (Courtesy photo)

 

“I use the SkiErg a lot because I fight with feet injuries, and it is a safe escape from ski boots or shoes,” U.S. Ski Team and APU skier Sadie Bjornsen wrote in an email.

Last season, Bjornsen won World Championships bronze in the team sprint with Jessie Diggins. This season, she is back to battling heel spurs. That’s why she has been putting in time on the SkiErg she has at her house, but she sees other benefits to these types of workouts as well.

“The SkiErg can also be really helpful on rainy days, super cold days in the winter, or just days that you want to rock out to some tunes indoors and avoid traffic on the roads,” Bjornsen explained. “It is an easy workout to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ if you have a short amount of time, which I also really like. There is no wasted time tucking on downhills, or coasting across the flats. Instead, you are on power mode from the start to the finish.”

And as numerous research studies have recently shown, double-poling ability and upper-body strength are more and more becoming great predictors of overall ski performance, even in freestyle races.

“I like to do a little intensity in my SkiErg workouts because it helps keep it fun and fresh, and I also think it really helps to build my upper body strength,” Bjornsen wrote. “Our sport has become really upper-body driven, so I feel like I can never get too much upper-body workouts!”

With that in mind, she shared a recent interval workout she did on the SkiErg — it’s bread and butter for Bjornsen. “I like to try to do this workout at least once a week all through the summer, and sometimes more if I am going through a period of struggle with my heel spurs,” she wrote.

It aims for an hour of total workout time.

 


THE START: “I start my workout with a fifteen-minute warm up. During this time, I often shut my eyes, and visualize skiing. This helps bring in true ski form, and feel my movements, rather than just fall into a ‘SkiErg-specific technique.’”

 

GETTING SPEEDY: “During this time, I will do some little ten-second increases in power to warm up my back and arms, and get ready to go hard.”

 

THE WORKOUT: “After fifteen minutes, I begin the workout known as 30-30’s. This means 30 seconds of intervals followed by 30 seconds of recovery, then repeat for 30 minutes. What may feel easy at first, quickly catches up after 10 minutes, so I always start this workout more conservative than feels appropriate.”

 

KEEPING IT GOING: “After about five minutes of 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, I start to see a common number of watts I am exerting during the 30 seconds. This is where I set a goal. Maybe it’s 190 watts I am hitting, I want to continue to reach that level or more for the next 25 minutes of this workout. This becomes increasingly hard around 20 minutes, and requires a certain amount of mental power. The 30 seconds of rest begins to pass too quickly, and I find myself becoming really focused in my own little world… forgetting where I am (maybe a garage, maybe a gym).”

 

FINISHING UP: “By the end of 30 minutes of 30-30’s, I am pretty worked, and feel like I have just done a race out on the snow. This is when I bring myself back to my surroundings, and finish with a fifteen minute easy warm down to help flush my arms out.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS: “Not only does this one hour pass really fast, but it is a really focused workout that feels like it truly helps build specific power. I always make sure I finish this workout with a little five minute walk. This helps flush all my muscles, but also helps make sure my back goes back to moving naturally after a pretty intense workout.”

Returning to Training After an Injury

Q: I had a crash on my rollerskis in mid-May which resulted in dislocated shoulder and significant rotator cuff damage. I’m now 7 weeks post- surgical repair, and was told no upper body work for another ~6 weeks. So I’ve lost a good 3 months of my planned training for next season (I typically do ~450 hours with the usual increase in volume and interval work getting closer to winter). What do you recommend in the situation when someone loses a large chunk of time through illness or injury? What’s the best plan to try and get in shape for the coming season?

 

A: Sorry to hear about your shoulder, rotator cuff injuries are notorious for taking a long time to heal, so it is critical that you continue to follow the 6-week recommendation. The main priority is that the injury completely heals to avoid any reinjures.

When it comes to reinstating in a training plan after sickness or injury, it is important for the athlete to take caution to come back into the training program slowly.

You can continue the training program without using the upper body. You can also continue to rollerski just using one arm with one pole, this can work especially well with V1 skating. If you have already taken a large portion of time completely off, you are going to want to start with Level 1 distance training to rebuild your aerobic system. Running and rollerskiing are great options.

After 3 weeks of consistent Level 1 training, you can begin to add in Level 3 training, and find strength exercises you can complete without use of the injured shoulder. Continue with Level 1, Level 3 and strength training until 4-weeks before your first big ski race event. When you reach the 4-week mark, begin to add Level 4 training to the mix, shifting from Level 3 to more Level 4 intervals. This will help prime your body anaerobically in an appropriate time frame for your big race.

Overall, when it comes to injury or illnesses taking care of the little things is exponentially important. Recovery tactics such as hydrating, healthy nutrients, balanced energy consumption, sleep and keeping inflammation low is critical to your training progress.

Pay attention to your body, don’t overload it, and best of luck!

Busting Myths About Cramping

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best advice and most interesting insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist.

For decades (almost a century, in fact), we’ve been told that cramping is caused by electrolyte imbalance or bad hydration. But new science suggests that this probably isn’t why you cramp during exercise.

So why do you cramp? It all comes down to something called altered neuromuscular control.

Take a listen: https://soundcloud.com/user-562497687/fast-talk-ep-26-busting-myths-about-cramping

Main Staples of Fall Training

Q: I tend to do the same training all year round. I do way too much long slow distance – or short slow/medium distance. How should I change my training in the fall vs the summer?

 

PRE-COMPETITION (FALL)

Training becomes quite specific to the motions and intensity of ski racing. Aerobic endurance is still the primary focus, but the means to develop it have become more specific and more intense.

ENDUARNCE

Training volume levels off or even decreases slightly to allow for the increase in intensity. Most of the training volume is aerobic endurance training – low intensity training of medium to long duration.

STRENGTH

  • General: General strength takes a back seat to specific strength. Max strength is the general strength focus in this period (for only 4 weeks). Strength endurance is the primary concern of a skier, but power and max strength cannot be neglected. Example: circuit using body weight exercises and more ski specific motions. Include some fairly ski specific max-strength exercises as well.
  • Specific: Rollerski specific strength sessions are the primary forms of strength training and should be predominantly endurance based. Skiers should also incorporate plyometric, explosive jumping exercises into their strength routine during the pre-competition phase. Example: 10×200 meters single pole, 10×200 meters double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.


INTENSITY

During the pre-competition phase, duration and intensity of “intensity” training should reach levels similar to competition. High intensity (VO2, above threshold) intervals are used. This type of training must be built up to, to be effective. Example: (LT) 2min, 3min, 5min with equal recovery, times 3 at LT. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 5x5min with half recovery at 95% of max. (target heart-rate will not be met until the second interval). Each interval should take you the same distance.

TECHNIQUE & SPEED

All training is technique oriented. Speed training is a great way to train the anaerobic system, but also to learn to ski relaxed and with smooth technique at a challenging pace. Example: 10-20×20 seconds incorporated into an endurance session.

by Andy at SkiPost, Cross Country Ski Source

Differences in Upper Body Power Between Men and Women

Q: I was recently watching… a biathlon world cup race on TV and one of the commentators said that the distribution of power between arms and legs is about

· 60% arms / 40% legs for men and

· 35% arms / 65% legs for women

I was shocked/surprised by the 60% arms / 40% legs for men; I know that strong arms (and core!) are important but I didn’t think arms take up so much more of the work load. I am far from being a pro, but I can hold my own in races and I am pretty fit, yet I feel like I exert nowhere close the 60% arms / 40% legs level, if anything I feel like I would be in the 60% legs / 40% arms area (or maybe 50/50, although I have no way of measuring this). But then again, I may well have a bad technique.

N.B.: BTW, I am referring to skating, not classic.

 

A: The best response to your question comes from a 2015 study by Hegge et. al. where they took 8 elite male and female skiers to find if upper body power was augmented by increasing exercise intensity, and if there was a difference between genders.

They found that a higher lean mass in the upper body of men meant:

1) A higher power output
2) A higher 1-repetition maximal weight lifting in a strength exercise
3) A higher peak aerobic capacity

They also found that during upper body exercise, men came closer to to their whole-body VO2max than women (76% vs. 67%).

Now, for the exact gender-based distribution between the arms and legs during skating, I am not sure. But the research from the article mentioned indicates that you can certainly obtain a high percentage of overall power from the upper body alone, and that elite men consistently show higher upper body power output than elite women, so it is possible that the commentator was on the right track.


Article Source: Are Gender Differences in Upper-Body Power Generated by Elite Cross-Country Skiers Augmented by Increasing the Intensity of Exercise?

Hegge AM, Myhre K, Welde B, Holmberg HC, Sandbakk Ø (2015) Are Gender Differences in Upper-Body Power Generated by Elite Cross-Country Skiers Augmented by Increasing the Intensity of Exercise?. PLOS ONE 10(5): e0127509. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127509

How to Shuffle Workouts to Fit Your Lifestyle

Which Workouts Take Precedence Over Others

When it comes time to plan your training week, sometimes it’s helpful to know which workouts take precedence over others. This is particularly useful if a skier has other obligations outside of skiing (work, personal life etc.) that may interfere with the amount of training one can devote during the week, and thus, adjustments must be made. In an effort to make adjustments to the plan that won’t dilute the integrity of the training program, we have a few pointers for planning a training week.


WORKOUT IMPORTANCE

In general, anytime you see a Level 4 workout, consider that your most important workout for the week.

The next important will be Level 3, or, threshold intervals.

Next are long distance workouts.

Taking the least importance, are the shorter distance workouts.

This means if you need to drop workouts from the week, start by eliminating the shorter distance workouts before the others.

 

STRENGTH

For strength exercises, importance changes a bit.

If you are in an easy week of training, general strength is of least importance, and can be considered in the same category as shorter distance workouts.

However, if the week is a harder week of training, then general strength becomes more important, considerably as important as long distance workouts.

Specific strength exercises are always to be considered most important, just like the Level 4 intervals.

 


Scheduling Workouts Within Each Week

Try to shuffle the days within each week to fit your lifestyle and schedule, but avoid “loading” up missed workouts from other weeks to “make up for it.”

Be sure not to have two consecutive general strength or specific strength days during the week. For example, it is okay to follow a general strength day with specific strength the next day, but avoid having two general strength days in a row.

It is okay to have two consecutive interval days within the week on occasion, since that replicates some race weekends in the winter where you race both Saturday and Sunday. However, a majority of the summer training should allow for at least one day of recovery between hard Level 4 or 5 interval sessions.

If you have a workout that utilizes the upper-body heavily (such as double-poling or specific strength) try to focus the next workout on the lower-body (running, cycling) to ensure proper balance and recovery.

If you have the opportunity to train with other people, feel free to change your workout schedule around so that you can have partners to train with. Sometimes there is more value from what you can learn from other athletes than following a plan perfectly.


Scheduling Workouts and Training Twice-a-Day

When time conflicts arise, or during high-volume training weeks it can be most convenient to have two workouts in one day. It is important to follow proper protocol with multiple workouts in a single day.

It is better to schedule only one interval session per-day. Try to make the first workout of the day the interval session, and plan the second session to be a strength or distance workout.

Be sure to allow at least 3 hours between the end of the first session and the start of the second session.

Always allow at least 48-hours between each strength session

Always allow at least 48-hours between each interval session

It is a good idea to schedule the “off” day after very hard efforts, race days or race weekends with travel for recovery.

Safely Re-integrating Back Into The Moderate Training Program

For the Intermediate Level training program (400 training hrs/yr), we suggest reintroducing yourself into the training week with these modifications:

1) Any interval session (Level 3-Threshold and Level 4/5 Anaerobic/Speeds) only do half of the prescribed repetitions, but keep the overall training time the same. Replace the time that you would have spent on the remaining intervals with easy Level 1 work as an extension of the cool-down.

2) Scale over-distance and distance workouts back by 25%-30%, so you are only completing 75%-70% of the prescribed time.

3) Go light on strength reps/sets. Don’t push it, complete only what you are comfortable with until you can complete all sets/reps with quality movements.

Go with the model for the next three weeks. After three weeks try to complete workouts as prescribed by the plan.

* At that time, if you are feeling overworked or that the workouts are too daunting, please reach out and we can look into more training plan modifications for you.