How do I train between my key races?

ENDURANCE: Training volume drops. Training frequency (number of training outings) can remain unchanged to avoid feeling stale.


  • Frequency: lower the duration of endurance training but keep the number of sessions the same.
  • Duration: lower the number of sessions but keep the duration the same.

INTENSITY: sharpening intervals; fitness has been gained; intervals now are for feeling sharp and fresh, not improving fitness level.


  • Peaking intervals: 3×3 minutes just below LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 3×2 minute above LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 4x30seconds all out with full recovery.

SPEED: same idea as with intervals.

STRENGTH: minimal maintenance strength if any at all.

RACE: achieving your racing goals is the focus.

PLEASE NOTE: it can be good to bump up to a high(er) volume of training between important races so long as the intensity is kept very low. Sometimes using alternative methods of training, running, cycling, etc is a good way to do this. This helps keep the skier fresh, keep the muscles “clean” and “clear.” You have to know yourself to monitor this.


Meet some of the Minnesotans skiing at the Masters World Cup

By Mackenzie Lobby Havey Special to the Star Tribune
January 18, 2018 — 4:55pm / Source

A grand skiing competition for the world’s masters arrives in Minnesota; racing begins Saturday.

Most of the recent media coverage involving sporting events in the Twin Cities centers on the upcoming Super Bowl, but Nordic ski buffs are gearing up for their own mega event.

The Loppet Foundation will host the Masters World Cup at Theodore Wirth Park, attracting more than a thousand skiers from more than 20 nations. Athletes, who range in age from 30 to 90-plus, will come to compete in individual races of varying distances (three race per athlete), as well as relays. The World Cup begins Friday and runs through Jan. 26.

Held annually across the Northern Hemisphere, the event is most often hosted by a European nation. The last time it was held in the United States was in McCall, Idaho, in 2008. What makes this World Cup particularly special is that this is the event’s first time in a major metropolitan area.

Offering ideal grounds to stage a championship event, Theodore Wirth Park is widely recognized for its pristine trails all in the shadow of the conveniences of downtown Minneapolis and the surrounding areas. What’s more, The Loppet Foundation’s impressive snowmaking capabilities mean that even with lackluster snowfall, they can still pull off a great event.

The large concentration of cross-country skiers and boosters in the area played a major role in landing the event here in Minneapolis as well. Many of those local athletes will be taking advantage of the opportunity to take on international-level competition here at home. We rounded up four of them to learn more about their training and what they are most looking forward to about World Cup racing.


62, Roseville

Year-round Nordic ski coach for The Loppet, other organizations, and individuals

Years skiing?

24. I started skiing at 38.

What races are you competing in at the World Cup?

15-kilometer classic, 10K freestyle, 30K classic

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Usually 10-12 hours a week. I do two weight sessions, two longer easy skis, one 5K race pace interval session, one 15K race pace interval session, a ski-specific strength workout, as well as seven hours of coaching on skis.

Where is your favorite place to ski in the Twin Cities?

Woodland Hills in Elk River for skating and Theodore Wirth for classic.

What are you most looking forward to about racing at the Masters World Cup?

The opportunity to compete in races where there will be only women in my age class. Racing is about putting it all on the line. When I race I try to ski the perfect race energy-wise, as well as tactically, so that when I cross the finish line I have emptied myself. When that happens, I am totally satisfied and content to sit and ‘just be.’

What other activities do you do in the offseason?

Marathon canoe-racing, biking, canoe triathlons, jewelry- making, and a monthlong adventure each summer, which have included paddling trips in the Arctic, hiking the Haute Route in Europe and paddling the Columbia River Gorge.

30, Minneapolis

Medical student (final year!)

Years skiing?

Since I was 2 — thanks to my parents — so I guess that is 28 years.

What races are you competing in at the World Cup?

10K freestyle, 35K classic, 45K freestyle

What does a typical training week look like for you?

I organize my schedule around learning medicine and providing patient care, so this means a somewhat opportunistic training schedule. I’m able to ski most days of the week this time of the year. My favorite workouts are those focused on strength and speed, which means drills to improve my ability to go up hills and speedily navigate technical parts of the ski trail.

Where is your favorite place to ski in the Twin Cities?

On a calm and clear evening, the trails of Theodore Wirth offer a silent and shimmering view the Minneapolis skyline — a highlight and unique feature not offered on most ski trails. It’s important to recognize the snowmaking efforts occurring across the metro. Those efforts make the ski season last as long as possible when there is little natural snow.

What are you most looking forward to about racing at the Masters World Cup?

Sharing the spirit of skiing with people from different cultures is invigorating, and the world is arriving in Minneapolis. I am looking forward to welcoming skiers to Minneapolis and showing off the supportive ski community that exists here in a metropolitan setting.

What other activities do you do in the offseason?

Coaching skiing with Loppet Nordic Racing, canoe-racing/trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, mountain/road biking, indoor rock climbing, and harvesting maple syrup with my family in northern Minnesota.

67, Excelsior

Professor, Department of Rehabilitation, University of Minnesota Medical School

Years skiing?

45. I started skiing in the winter of 1972-73, when I was a freshman medical student at the University of Minnesota.

What races are you competing in at the World Cup?

15K classic technique, 10K classic technique and 30 km classic technique. If I am so lucky, it would be great to ski a 5K leg of the 4 x 5K relay race, too. To do this, however, I would need to be named to my age group’s national team.

What does a typical training week look like for you?

Since returning home after completing the 2017 Norwegian [Birkebeiner], I put away my snow skis and got out my bicycle and roller skis. From the end of March until the end of November, I would typically roller-ski seven hours per week and cover 100K. I would also ride my bicycle four hours per week. Once per week I would perform a series of high intensity interval exercises. I also would spend about two hours per week on ski-specific strengthening exercises, as well as work on improving my balance and flexibility. When the snow flew at Elm Creek, Hyland Lake Park Reserve, and Theodore Wirth, I got out the skis. I’ve skied an average five hours and 70K per week. I have continued my strength, balance and flexibility exercises as well.

Where is your favorite place to ski in the Twin Cities?

Theodore Wirth is my favorite, especially the trail at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and the bog. I have been skiing there since I started skiing in 1972. Other personal favorites are Hyland and Baker parks.

What are you most looking forward to about racing at the Masters World Cup?

I am really looking forward to the camaraderie of skiing with skiers from around the world. I am anticipating a very wonderful event and look forward to making new friends from around the globe.

What other activities do you do in the offseason?

Living only 300 meters from Lake Minnetonka, I enjoy getting out on the lake with my wife in a kayak or canoe. I also have an almost 11-year-old St. Bernard, and my wife and I often take Beyla out for walks in the neighborhood or in the woods.

Experiencing HALO Neuroscience Through a Coach’s Eye

By Eliska Albrigtsen, CXC Team Head Coach (former World Cup competitor and 2011 NCAA champion)

When I joined the CXC Skiing coaches’ team this spring, I was very excited about all the different exercise tools the Center of Excellence in Madison has to offer to athletes and their coaches. Having a background in human physiology and biomechanics, most of these “toys” were well known to me, however, there was one exception that attracted me, HALO Sport.


Eliska Albrigtsen (CXC Center of Excellence)

HALO Sport
is a headphones like device that improves your performance by enhancing neuroplasticity of your brain via transcranial stimulation. Uh, what a heavy sentence! Although it sounds very complicated, the setup is actually quite simple. Do you remember the time, when you were much younger and learning was so easy? That was thanks to your neuroplasticity. Neurons – the strings running through your body, sending information back and forth between your brain and body parts – were somewhat fresher and therefore more plastic, more moldable to support your body and brain in mastering new skills. As our movement patterns solidify with age, our brains tend to become solid, less plastic, as well. This is the point where HALO Sport comes into action with its gentle electrical stimulus to our heads. As I mentioned above, HALO looks like headphones, not earbuds, but a nice big pair of headphones with a big arch going from one ear to the other. When I also tell you that that is where the motor cortex, the center of the brain that processes movement, is located, it should begin to make sense.

HALO uses the arch to plant three 1.5 by 2 inches plates containing 24 soft spikes each that stimulate your motor cortex by sending very gentle electrical vibrations through your cranium, the part of the skull that encloses your brain. This stimulation amplifies the natural amount of electrical impulses in the motor cortex and therefore enhances the plasticity of the brain.


Nichole Bathe (2017 U23 World Championships Team members) training with Halo at the CXC Center of Excellence.


When I learned about this process, my next step as a curious coach was obvious. I had to try this! At that moment, I was working with British National Ski Team athlete Nichole Bathe, who, due to her tendency for straight leg positioning, which is common in women athletes, developed a negative habit of skiing with “stiff legs.” This habit hindered her ability to lean forward to bring her hips over her toes, in all ski techniques. My decision was brisk and we scheduled Nichole’s HALO Sport sessions over the next two weeks.

HALO Sport is powered through their app that runs for 20 minutes and allows you to increase and decrease the electrical stimulus according to your comfort. The twenty minute period is the only time required to wear the headphones to obtain the stimulation, and it is also the most sensitive period for motor changes. However, the brain is powered by these twenty minutes for another hour after you take the headphones off. Therefore, I planned Nichole’s workout to start with 20 minutes of technique skills, in a controlled environment, with mirrors for a feedback, followed by her classic or skate rollerskiing session, to support her effort to improve her technique with freshly acquired skills from the twenty minutes of drills. We started with simple balancing exercises, such as a one legged stand in classic and skate style, and in just two days I could see and Nichole could feel the progress. Instead of a shaky quadriceps being in a new uncomfortable position, there was a confident calm muscle knowing exactly where to be placed. Nichole herself had to admit that it suddenly became quite effortless. We did not waste any time and added a new challenge into Nichole’s routine, a quick body mass transfer into a gliding position onto one leg. Soon enough, three days later, the task was simple to accomplish. I went on and challenged her to perform the drills on an uneven surface by standing on a half-cylinder that rocks side to side, similarly as Nordic skis do. In the next three days, Nichole mastered that challenge as well.

I have to admit that it was a great mental satisfaction for her as an athlete. Being able to accomplish a task that your coach keeps repeating throughout your whole ski career in just a couple of days feels pretty amazing. Towards the end of our fourteen day HALO Sport period, we really went for it and made Nichole perform all the balancing exercises also standing on rollerskis. Those of you who have tried to stand on the less comfortable sisters of Nordic skis, can maybe imagine how challenging it is to stand on one leg only, in perfect gliding position, while motionless. It does require pristine style that is accomplished only through supreme balance, muscle memory, and strength. While following these drills with an hour of rollerskiing, Nichole was able to increase her explosiveness as well, leaving her with a year’s worth of work accomplished in just two weeks.


Jed Downs (Birkie skier and CXC Masters Team members) working on technique before rollerski workout.


No athlete is perfect and we all need to keep improving every minute of our lives. But does it have to take that long to master a single skill? If you count yourself among one of those athletes who keeps hearing the same thing from your coach over and over, get your hands on a pair of HALO Sport. As a coach, I was pleased with saving my efforts as well as impressed with my athlete’s progress. I want to wish Nichole good luck with her season and thank her for being a subject in my trial with HALO Sport.

I hope this got you interested, if not in trying HALO, then at least in always trying to improve yourself or support others to do the same. Repetition and hard training do bring the fruit. The variable that remains is your time.

To train with CXC contact us at or for more information about clinic and camps visit

How to Have Fast Skis this Season

Have skis to choose from that will be fast in general given the conditions. Have skis that are well suited for cold conditions (according to their flex) with a “cold’ structure, skis that have a flex better for wetter conditions with a “wet” structure etc. This seems very basic, but isn’t the practice so often. Many people have multiple pair of the same. Have more options for your most common conditions.

Don’t ski on your good skis in rocky conditions. Yes, it could be that all you have is rocky conditions and then you need to make a choice, but often if you avoid using your good skis a week here and there, your good skis will not only be good this year, but for years to come.

Wax. Keep things simple. So often people “go for it” but only in one respect forgetting that having fast skis involves a combination of factors. Basically the speed of your skis will be determined by the factor(s) that is slowing your skis down the most being addressed or neutralized. Getting an A+ on a few things but ignoring a basic factor can clearly result in poor skis. Examples of factors for glide include ski flex, base structure, how the base of the ski has been prepared previous to adding race layers – black waxes, hardening layers, etc, ski preparation technique (using a burred scraper, not enough iron heat, too much iron heat, over scraping and under brushing, etc), wax application technique especially with top coats, and of course ski wax selection. For kick, it is mostly the same but also thickness of wax (especially compared to camber height), layers, smoothness of wax, sanding, if base layer was heated in or not, if a foundation was built (sometimes need a “medium” hardness wax between binder and a softer wax), if a cushion or cover was used, and of course wax selection.


Usually hard packed, often times in the form of hardened squeaky corduroy until it is skied in. The key words are “cold” and “slow”. For me, this is a specialty condition. In these conditions, having a whole lot of contact with the base on the snow is key. Of course the base needs to have a smooth cold finish on it and it needs to be hardened with cold glide waxes (and mixing in XCold Powder is surely important in cold slow conditions). A key variable though is long contact zones in the tip and tail with the snow. This will give the skis a very good “breakaway speed” yielding slippery skis at slow speeds such as climbing and great acceleration. In such cold slow snow, addressing breakaway speed is the primary concern. Generally speaking, to achieve such long contact zones in the tip and tail, the skis need to be softer than normal as well as be a ski with a lower camber (and soft tips and tails). These skis will not perform well in other conditions, but are superb in these specific cold slow conditions.

(Even up to freezing and firm conditions) The conditions might look just like the “cold slow snow” conditions, but perhaps temperatures warmed and/or the course got skied-in. In any case, the key here is that the skiing is no longer especially slow, but more normal but still cold. In these conditions, a traditional cold ski is the ticket. A traditional cold ski such as the Rossignol S1 has longer contact zones and a low camber but it is still more lively than the ski mentioned above. It will have a faster high end speed and handle better. For most people, this is their all around “cold” skis and are especially good in firm conditions.

(with firm conditions) – these conditions are generally pretty fast and the snow is pretty hard. There is more free moisture in the snow of course than when it is much colder. The all around type skis such as a Rossignol S2 with a universal or fine universal grind depending on where you live (how arid or humid it is in general) have a flex that is good in almost all conditions in this temperature range. These skis have a camber and contact zones that are middle of the road. For most of the ski world, these are the most commonly skis used.

In some conditions, a different type of ski is absolutely awesome. These conditions include a few inches of powder on top of a packed base (loose snow over packed), conditions where there is dirt and non transformed snow, and certain types of new falling/fallen snow. I have found that in conditions where there is 2-6 inches of new falling or fallen snow (all types basically) over a firm base, having a much stiffer ski (but in the “all around” or Rossignol S2 mold) is superb. The additional stiffness prevents suckiness especially in the form of a high speed drag and in general the skis feel much more “free” than with a traditional all around or cold ski. Additionally, these same stiffer skis are the ticket when the contact between the base and the snow needs to be minimized such as if very slow snow is falling (usually in the form of graupel snow which looks like styrofoam balls, falls around freezing, and can be extremely slow) or if there is a lot of dirt and well as powder/non transformed snow. Powder or non transformed snow is very sensitive to dirt on the base of the ski. Minimizing the contact of the base with the dirt reduces this braking effect greatly. It is the same with the graupel snow – if you reduce the contact of the ski base with this very slow snow which can feel like skiing on velcro, you reduce the braking effect of that snow on the skis. Where I ski, it is pretty common to get a few inches to a lot of snow on top of a packed base that doesn’t get groomed for a while. This is also very common in bigger point to point races such as the Birkie and Boulder Mountain Tour for example where they can only groom so much when it is snowing and then they just leave it. This is a “luxury” pair of skis for some, but for me, it is one of my core skis that I am grateful to have. Basically what I have is a very stiff pair of S2s that I use in these common (powder over hard pack) or problematic (graupel or dirt/powder mix) conditions. In more normal packed snow conditions, these skis are unstable (hard to ski on even) and not great.

Generally speaking, when conditions are very wet, you want to minimize the contact of the base on the snow. These skis have a higher camber that is also stiffer such as the S3 from Rossignol. These skis can be finicky. Small disparities in flex and where the skis have contact on the snow can result in big differences in handling and performance of the skis. Much of the time when conditions are very wet, there is also dirt on the snow. These skis are generally excellent in very wet snow and very dirty snow (wet dirty snow!). A great pair of these skis beats anything else in their condition (regardless of waxing nuances). They generally have a linear structure which is a good pattern if concerned about dirt and which also performs decently all around in different types of wet snow especially if the skis fit well (less contact). Basically these are moisture management skis and are usually clear based. While some people use these skis in other conditions, the design is such that they are at their best in very wet snow (where free moisture/water in the snow is the major obstacle to overcome in achieving fast skis) and they can perform poorly in other conditions especially more arid hardpack conditions. On the elite level, skiers usually have options within this category with the main difference being the base structure (new wet snow versus transformed snow versus very dirty transformed snow). In general though, a medium linear structure on these skis is universally quite good assuming the skis are a good fit. They need to be stiff. If too soft, these skis are a disaster in speed and handling.


The above graphic from Rossignol illustrates some of the differences in camber height and glide surface contact that I have been referring to.


For classic skis, so much more depends on the qualities of the skier. For example in past years, two of the athletes who I enjoyed waxing for the most were John Bauer and Karin Camenisch. Both of these skiers had the technique and fitness to ski stiffer skis. There were some races where I was able to select an especially stiff ski for them and wax shorter and thicker. We did this for example in races where we wanted to emphasize fast glide (snow was a bit sticky/grabby on the kick wax) but there were also some steep extended hills (example, think Hermod’s Hill at Soldier Hollow) where trying to do a running herringbone the whole way up would yield too much time and having “good kick” with a traditional ski wouldn’t glide fast enough on the extended gradual downhills. Other racers without their techique and fitness simply were not able to ski such skis and thus had less chance for the victory on these particular types of days.

My point is that what you are able to ski on and benefit from in classic skiing depends on much on your technique and fitness levels (compared to skating). The best all around classic skiers in the world ski on very stiff skis – why not as they are also the fastest and hold their kick wax better.

The classic ski recommendations include powder track skis like a Rossignol C1 which for a great many would be there all around skis. Many also call these “coaches skis” as they are so easy to kick. What is being given up though is glide and kick wax durability. These skis basically have a camber that closes easily and leaves little residual camber (the bases almost touch when you push them together). They are easy to ski and provide solid kick with little effort.

Hard track skis such as a Rossignol C2 are all around classic skis that don’t close as easily as powder track skis and have a little more residual camber. These are your all around skis.

Klister skis such as a Rossignol C3 are even more difficult to close and have substantially more residual camber. This leaves enough room under the skis for klister to be there without it icing or being worn off quickly. Also having this additional room under the skis yields faster skis in all conditions but especially wetter conditions.

Generally speaking powder skis also have more glide surface contact with the snow, hard track are middle of the road, and klister skis are more oriented for wetter conditions and have less contact. Similar to with skating skis, sometimes using a klister ski in dirty hard track conditions is a good option if the greatest concern is keeping the kick wax and gliding surface clean.

Some skis have a longer wax pocket than others. For most of us, this isn’t such a concern (getting too far from the basics), but in some conditions where the snow is breaking or shearing, having a longer wax pocket can keep the snow from breaking on itself (or shearing) and yield substantially better kick. This is often the case when there is new fallen dry snow on top of a hard track. The layer of dry snow often shears or breaks where the new and old snow come together causing the ski to slip. Increasing the contact area of the kick zone (not by simply waxing longer but by waxing longer on skis with a longer camber) addresses this issue and results in far better skis. Using a stickier wax in these conditions doesn’t affect much except to slow the skis down. Of course also very important is a skier’s ability to “kick” with finesse rather than just powering (and slipping) around the track.

In mashed potato type conditions (soft and deep), many people elect to use powder skis. This is often a mistake as a softer camber can result in the ski hyperextending yielding poor contact of the kick wax on the snow. A stiffer ski in these same conditions acts to trap and “cup” the snow providing a more solid platform to kick off (and for the wax to grip).

Bottom line is that in classic, far more than with skate, the skiers’ ability affects what skis can be used effectively.

Hopefully these observations will help you make wise choices going into the new season and you’ll have the great experiences that you have been hoping for!

by Ian Harvey, eBlast Series

Training History When Planning Training

It is very important to consider your training history when planning training. Training adaptations take time – weeks to months to years.

The easiest way to monitor and plan training according to ones training history is by tracking volume.

  • Training volume shouldn’t increase by more than 15%.
  • Raising your training volume or intensity too rapidly will produce a short positive spike in fitness followed by a long-term decrease in fitness, injury or over-training.
  • If last year you trained 300 hours, aim for at most 345 hours this year. If you trained an average of 10 hours a week during the fall last year, then aim for an average of 11 or 11.5 this fall. If you don’t know how many hours you trained in the past, try to recall how many times a week you trained, approximate duration and at what intensity.

Ultimately, through planning as we outline it here, you should be able to get more out of the time and energy you invest in training. Therefore, for most skiers, increasing the quantity of training becomes less important then improving the quality of training.

Source: SkiPost – Cross Country Ski Source

16-Week Birkie Training Plan with TrainingPeaks

Available through TrainingPeaks, the American Birkebeiner training plan builds from early November, and concludes on the Birkie, February 24th, 2018.

Log your workouts, plan and analyze your training.
Accessible on iPhone, Android, or the web.


We’ve come up with a training plan to meet the needs of anyone who puts a premium on Birkie Fever.

The plan is designed for multi-sport master and citizen skiers interested in participating in the American Birkebeiner and other marathon events.


Complementing each workout are coaches’ notes that provide tips, encouragement, advice and other additional suggestions to consider implementing during your training.

Current CXC Academy members, take 50% off your purchase. Message for a promo code.




Building Double Pole Capacity with Erik Bjornsen

by Jason Albert,

The 26-year-old Washington native was named to the U.S. Ski Team six years ago, and since then he’s made his way from the development or “D” team ranks to the big leagues — spending the bulk of each winter racing overseas in Europe on the World Cup.

Bjornsen shared the following double-pole-centric workout:

  • Solo, high-focus, double-pole distance session

Find suitable terrain and timing: “I choose the terrain based on how hard I want the workout to be. I try to fit this workout in mid-week between intervals sessions,” he wrote in an email. “The point is to get the biggest benefit without fatiguing the body too much.

“Most often I head up Campbell airstrip road. It’s a five-mile-long road, with a majority of the terrain measuring out at a gentle 5% incline,” Bjornsen continued. “There’s one steeper climb in the middle that’s about 500 meters long. For this workout, I go out and back twice.”

Warmup: 15-minute easy Level 1 (roller)ski to the start.

Go-time: Typically takes him 1 hour and 20 minutes to do the 5-mile section twice.

“The steep 500-meter section is VERY hard to double pole — that portion of the road is something you would for sure stride in a race. During this workout, I try to spend an hour at L2 [Level 2] and end up bumping up to L3 [Level 3] only when double poling up that steep segment (2 X 5min in L3). I like having the two short but demanding double pole sections in this workout.”

The important part of this training session is not the 2 x 5-minute L3 sections, it’s the time before and after that L3 effort. You have to figure out how to get the muscles to recover from the hill while still double poling and determine what gear/tempo to use while still applying power efficiently — and recover at the same time.

Cool down: 15-minute easy ski home.



  • The idea is to work specifically on double pole and upper body strength. You get an opportunity to work on all gears, from long double pole to very quick choppy double pole up the steep section.


  • You can gain a lot from just focusing on two intensity sessions a week. This is a way I find I’m able to gain quite a bit from specific double pole training. But ideally, you don’t fatigue the body so much that it takes energy away from the true intensity sessions.


Teammates Eric Packer (l) and Erik Bjornsen enjoy a clear day for training on Eagle Glacier near Girdwood, Alaska (Photo: Reese Hanneman)