Period Eleven of Training for Cross Country Skiing

Period Covered: JANUARY – FEBRUARY

Video Transcript:

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 off-season, we focus attention on our weaknesses and making sure we have a good, comprehensive training plan. But when it’s a competition season, we’re focusing in on where our strengths lie and that means being selective regardless of the athlete, being selective of competition because competitions take a great deal of stress and take a great deal out of the body.

This time of the year, we start to get a little bit fatigued and so one of the things that we try to target on an endurance training is to be selective on the type of terrain that we’re training at.

Due to the fact that most of our competitions are on very hilly and steep terrain, a lot of our endurance and distance training is actually on flatter terrain. That’s to provide our muscles, our legs and our arms a little bit of reprieve during the middle of the week so that they’re more prepared on the weekend for competition.

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 endurance capacity is still staying high through this competitive season.

We do that in a combination of ways, through just basic aerobic endurance training as well as during our intensity. If we’re doing a great deal of racing, we tend to be doing more threshold type intervals that we may add in some speeds or some Level 4 on top of that.

There are weeks when we’re really focused on preparation in our interval sets and there we’re going to do more Level 3 or threshold-based intervals where if we’re just focused more on our Level 4, we’re doing more just targeting the races and making sure that we’re really targeting those and we will reduce the volume and do just level four work and focus for the weekend.

Strength remains important. The volume again is much less but it’s basically stabilized from the last period or two and I use that as a bit of a misnomer because stabilizing doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doing the same thing week in and week out. We’re still periodizing and progressing our training and we actually push our athletes in the weight room because we’re always trying to get stronger. But what we’re doing is we’re being deliberate in targeting the strength sessions when they’re hard. They’re usually early in the week, maybe a Tuesday, and then maybe we do another session towards the end of the week that’s more core-based. So we will do a full body strength and then more core-oriented as it gets closer to the competition.

Recovery is important, making sure that we’re getting adequate nutrition, making sure that we’re getting in massage, making sure that we’re stretching immediately after our workouts.

All these things are important especially as the competition season goes on.

Brushes: when to use what and why

by Ian Harvey

    • After skiing and before hot waxing: brush out well using the Toko Copper Brush;

    • After hot waxing and scraping, for all waxes: brush out well using the Toko Copper Brush;

    • If using Blue (cold) waxes: finish by brushing out well using the Toko Horsehair Brush;

    • If using Red or Yellow (medium and warmer) waxes: finish by brushing using the Toko Nylon Polishing Brush;

    • If using topcoats such as JetStream Powder or Bloc: have a separate Nylon Polishing Brush specifically dedicated for brushing out JetStream.


That’s it! Just 3 brushes for hot waxing and 1 brush for JetStream.


There are two more brushes in the program which are the Combi Brush and the Nylon Brush.

The Combi Brush is a brush that is 1/2 copper and 1/2 nylon. It is simply a money saving option with a definite performance compromise as well. The Nylon Brush is very popular but I don’t use it personally. I think it is OK but doesn’t do anything particularly well. I prefer to use the brushes mentioned above.

The Copper Brush does everything that you want a metal brush to do (open up and clean the base, remove wax) but none of the things that you don’t want a metal brush to do (create “hair”).

The Horsehair Brush has fine but stiff bristles which are perfect for brushing out cold waxes. The bristles are fine enough to remove wax from the microstructure and they are stiff enough to remove hard waxes such as Blue quickly and easily.

The Nylon Polishing Brush also has fine bristles but is very soft and flexible. This brush removes less wax than the Horsehair brush and is perfect for finishing the warmer hot waxes and topcoats such as JetStream.

Period Ten of Training for Cross Country Skiing

Period Covered: DECEMBER – JANUARY

A lot of times here when we’re dead center in the competition season, there are a couple of things that can kind of fall by the wayside. Endurance training, strength training. But not only that, – basic health. Think about your recovery at this time of the year and think about how you can kind of stabilize and maintain a lot of things, 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, sport 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.

If your goal is right now, and those target races are right now, this is when you need to compete. Then you need to really focus on kind of tweaking back a little bit of the volume, tweaking back a little bit of the strength, so that you’re really well-rested and well-recovered to do target races right now.

On the other hand, if your focus is in the next two periods, those were your competitive season where you really want to target those races, then make sure that those – you’re still getting in an increased amount of volume as well as adequate strength. You’re going to have to make a decision and you may have to train through some races.

One of the things that I really encourage the athletes is to be selective in the races that you do. The goal is not to be the one that does the most races. It’s the one to be the best at the races that you compete in. So target the events that you want to do and prepare for those events. That includes unfortunately having to prioritize and train through some of the events.

New or Freshly Stoneground Skis Preparation

by Ian Harvey

Fast skis are something special. Most skiers are emotionally attached to their fastest pair of skis because they are really worth something. Fast skis make a person more “fit” (faster) and they certainly make skiing more fun as well. New skis or freshly stoneground skis have the potential to be your “fastest skis ever”. Following this advice will give new skis the best chance possible to reach their potential.


First off, check the skis for blemishes, waves on the base, top sheet cracks, rough spots on the edges, or sidewall dents. Then inspect the base more carefully. Usually new skis or freshly stoneground skis look great, but sometimes they do not. A pair of skis that has whitish and hairy bases or that has more structure on the base than what is desired will simply not run in anything except for really fast conditions or perhaps fairly wet corn snow. If the condition of the ptex is not good, a correction needs to be made or the skis will simply not run well. When it comes to base structure, it is far better to have a structure that is fine and then add more by hand as needed than to have a pair of skis that only runs when conditions are very wet.

Consider where you are going to do most of your skiing (or where you want to have your “best” skis) and compare the base structure to the conditions that you expect to be skiing in. If there is more structure than you want, that is a problem. In that case, I would have the skis stoneground with a finer structure. If the structure looks good, then you’re good. If it is too fine, that is OK too as you can add structure by hand.

Once we have established that the skis are in good shape overall and that the base structure and condition is good, we have three objectives: to get as much wax into the base as possible, to replace this soft wax with a hard glide wax, and to remove micro hairs. Toko, Swix, and some other companies sell “base prep” waxes. These waxes are fine for working on skis in general, but it is a simple truth that no single wax has the properties necessary to accomplish these objectives.

To get as much wax into the base as possible, a very soft glide wax (for warm conditions such as Toko NF Yellow or even better Toko Cleaning and Hot Box Wax) is needed. The softer a glide wax is, the better it will go into the base. The soft wax will penetrate both deeper and at a higher percentage than a harder wax. This is why we apply 5 layers of a very soft glide wax scraping and brushing between each layer. Brush out with a copper brush. The scraping and brushing cleans and “opens” the base allowing more wax to enter. Use a sharp Plexiglas scraper and allow the wax to cool completely before scraping and brushing. Scraping a ski while the wax is warm not only takes wax out of the superficial layer of the base, but it also eradicates structure (which we may have just paid to have had put in). The damage done by a small mistake such as uneven pressure on the scraper or too much pressure on the scraper or a bigger mistake such as having the scraper dig into the base will be magnified when the base is warm (and soft).

If your bases don’t seem to be taking in any wax, you might want to have them stoneground. Sometimes by the time you get your skis, those same skis have been hanging around for a long time in warehouses. The base material might be hardened from oxidation. Soon after a ski base as been stoneground is when it is able to accept the most wax, so consider stonegrinding your skis if you don’t think they are taking wax like they should be.

The ski bases have now been well-penetrated by a soft glide wax. This is only a half of the job though. Many of us are familiar with the experience of having glide waxed our new skis 15-20 times with a soft wax only to find that after 5 kilometers of skiing our bases already looked white and unwaxed. This happens because the bases only had very soft wax in them. For this reason, the base material itself became very soft and was not dry friction resistant. Dry friction is especially created by skiing on sharp cold new snow which is commonly found in the first half of a ski season. Before skiing, we still need to utilize the soft wax that is in the base “holding the base open” on a micro level. If we replace this soft wax with a hard glide wax such as Toko NF Blue, the base will be hardened and more resistant to abrasion. We do not simply start with the hard glide wax because, by itself, it will not penetrate as well. We need the layers of the soft wax to get in there and “hold” things open.

Apply 2 layers of the hard glide wax. After each application, allow the wax to cool completely before scraping and brushing. These two layers will harden the base. Scraping and copper brushing out the blue will remove any remaining micro base hairs. Follow these 2 layers the wax of the day. Your skis are now ready to show you what they’ve got.

At this point, you have just started. Just as important but far more rewarding is the rest of the process. I have found LF Red to be a superb wax for skiing and waxing and making skis faster. So, the next step is to ski a lot and wax with LF Red between each time you go out!


Twin Skins


Hello, I’ve ordered a pair of new Fischer Speedmax Twin Skins. Could you advise on best products to clean and de-ice the kick zone? So far I see that Swix, Fischer and Rex all offer such products, usually a cleaner and de-icer, but I don’t know if one is better than the others.


I also have a new pair of Twin Skins. I really like them for my personal training purposes in tricky conditions where finding good wax would take a lot of time. The prep I have done is to simply use the prep package that came with the skis and applied it to the skins and skied the rest of the season. I was satisfied.

I have not used the Twin Skins for races, just training. So, I have not done any testing of the various “skin” prep products yet. You can use any brand prep product on any ski brand’s skins. The different skins may be of slightly different materials, lengths or densities, but are all set up with the same theory of providing kick and glide. So, experiment yourself (or with your buddies as a group) with the different skin prep products and use the one you like best. (I would not be surprised to find out that there is not a huge difference and best choice may be the most convenient from both an application standpoint and from an availability at your local shop.)

Note, I had last year’s Twin Skin model and used it all spring without any new daily prep and I enjoyed my skiing, especially the low maintenance aspect in spring klister conditions. After passing my pair from last year down, I’ll probably do the same thing with my new pair.


Joe, thank you for the response. I’ve also decided the Twin Skins are terrific for training but would not
likely race on them. You answered my biggest question which is how often do you need to prep themcand apparently the answer is “not much”. Good to know. I ski almost daily here in Colorado so less prep will be a time saver.


I have always thought in normal conditions I can wax with kick wax that is far better than the skins, even if I have over waxed and have some drag.

If you do mess around some with different prep products, let me know your feedback. In CO, you may have some friends or acquaintances who back country with skins on the way up and take them off for the earned turns on the way down. May be ask them if they do anything to their skins and if so, how often. I’d be interested in feedback from a person not reping a wax company.

– answered by Joe Haggenmiller

Training Recommendation for Master Skiers

by Ian Harvey

This recommendation is specifically meant for master skiers.

One thing that I have noticed when out skiing is that most master skiers seem to go out and ski “at their pace”, which is generally medium-hard, for their workout and then go home. They then repeat this every time they ski. The question that I have for those who are doing this is if you are happy with your overall ski experience or would you like to be faster and have a more diverse skiing experience? Some might simply answer, “I’m happy doing it this way even though I understand that it won’t make me faster or fitter”. If that’s the case, then of course there’s not much more to say except for “enjoy!”

This practice of doing the same medium-hard type thing every day yields basically no improvement at all and overall is an extremely poor training plan if the goal is to become a faster fitter easier skier. Furthermore, based on what I have seen, most skiers generally ski this way to fatigue in an effort to get the most out of their workout. This also leads to overtraining symptoms and injury despite the fact that the potential reward for this training activity is very low. (In the risk reward ratio, this type of training is high risk and low reward).

When training is differentiated each day such that different systems are worked, the benefits become readily apparent.

Generally doing this brings more satisfaction, the skier feels better in general with more energy and less fatigue, and there is a clear marked improvement when compared to the “every day medium-hard model”.

Everyone trains different amounts, but as a general rule, if a person is trying to get faster, there should be a workout that involves intervals (intensity), another with specific strength (such as skating without poles, double poling, etc.) or sprints (multiple 15 second bursts that not only give an athlete speed and coordination, but also is a superb specific strength workout), and workouts that are long and slow which are designed to improve efficiency.

Let’s say one intensity workout and one sprint/strength workout a week are done. Sometimes another intensity workout would want to be added but otherwise, the rest of the workouts should be long and easy. I think we are all pretty good at designing intensity workouts and strength/speed workouts. It seems to me that we are really bad at planning and executing long easy workouts as strange as that might sound. I say this based on my observation of master skiers throughout the winter.

I recommend using a heart rate monitor. Try your best to determine your maximum heart rate.

Within the realm of master skiers, I have found that max heart rates can vary greatly. Also, if a skier only does long slow distance training, the max heart rate will be very low compared to after the same athlete does a couple months of hard intervals which will restore the body’s ability to go hard. This means that, depending on what the skier is doing for training, the max heart rate is not a static number, but needs to be reevaluated now and then.

Set your heart rate monitor to beep if you are going harder than you should.

For a long easy workout (any type) I would recommend making about 70% of your max heart rate the ceiling for your long easy workouts (when your monitor beeps telling you to slow down). Pretty much all heart rate monitors enable you to look at your average heart rate at the push of a button during the workout. I monitor this with the goal of keeping my average heart rate at 65% of my maximum heart rate or below. These numbers can be tweaked a bit, but this is the idea. I will go out for a ski or hike with the goal of finishing with my average heart rate below 110 bpm. When I do that, I find that I get everything out of the workout that I was looking for (a training effect that makes me more efficient) and a pleasant experience, but not what I wasn’t looking for (a build up of fatigue). This also makes it possible for people to visit and have nice conversations when doing long easy workouts. This is the way it is supposed to be for us master skiers. The hammerfests should be the exception.

During the dry land training season, for master skiers, I absolutely recommend that the activity for these long easy workouts is not skiing (classic or skate rollerskiing). I think they should be running, cycling, or hiking.

For master skiers to do these workouts on rollerskis means to either go too hard or to ski with poor technique. By poor technique I mean your technique will become very efficient at slow speeds (ie no weight shift, leaning over on a straight leg, etc) and when you try to ski fast again, your technique will impede you greatly. In the winter, you can do these workouts on skis, but find very easy terrain so you can ski with clean technique without going too hard. Save the harder terrain for your harder workouts.

If these very basic training principles are adhered to, it will greatly benefit the skiers’ overall experience if they are looking to feel better during and after workouts, have more fun and satisfaction from skiing, get faster, and feel healthier.

Good luck!

Period Nine of Training for Cross Country Skiing



We’re in competition season and we start to get away from maintaining a good endurance base as well as a strength base. Try to maintain quality versus quantity in these two areas.

The volume or the overall load of these two capacities of strength and endurance are actually lower because we’re focusing more of our attention on our intensity and there’s nothing more stressful on the body than actual competition.

We need to lower the volume of both our distance training and our strength. But we need to really make sure that those remain high quality. Almost everything that we do, when it’s endurance-based, is going to be on skis and we’re thinking about efficiency of movement.

That being said, some running, a little bit of running, maybe morning runs, is still a great thing to do to maintain that foot strike. That light plyometric activity will actually make you a better cross-country skier.

Strength training, I don’t want to use the term “maintain our strength”. I would rather say stabilize. But really look at the week – if we’re doing more racing, we’re going to make sure we’re still doing strength on that week but it’s going to be less. Maybe it’s one, one and a half times, maybe two times a week versus on weeks that we’re not actually doing races. Maybe we’re trying to get two to three strength sessions in.

So, look at the week. Make sure they still oscillate and focus on putting your energy in the races but still stabilizing both your endurance and your strength. See you next time.