Biathlon by definition includes two different activities. In the case of winter biathlon, it includes cross country skiing and precision small caliber (.22) rifle shooting. Two very opposing and different sets of skills to develop.
Throughout the next year we will be focusing on developing and improving shooting skills in conjunction with improving and/or maintain skiing skills. It can be expected to take from two to 5 years to become proficient at shooting and being a good shot. Do not expect to become proficient at shooting during the first few years of biathlon competition. It can also be said that it takes from 2 to 5 years to become moderately proficient at cross country skiing if you’re an experienced shooter wanting to take up biathlon. Don’t expect to be a good skier in one year!
The goal for new biathletes of all ages should be know and understand the safety rules of biathlon and to become familiar with shooting positions and shooting fundamentals. Throughout the year we will be focusing on developing shooting skills and range procedures for participating in biathlon. This will include a few files/handouts, videos and workouts that can be incorporated into a weekly or monthly routine and will help in getting ready for races.
Through the year at various clubs there will be opportunities to become “biathlon safety certified”, (which is required to compete in open biathlon races) and biathlon specific training camps and races. Like Nordic Skiing, biathlon requires an aerobic base to be successful. Good shooting cannot replace a good aerobic base and skiing technique. We will start the year working on base shooting skills combined with easy (Level 1 and 2) workouts and strength building. As the year progresses, we will start to include more intensity in workouts and shooting with a higher heart rate and getting into and out of shooting positions quickly.
All shooting drills assume participants have a background in rifle safety or are working directly with a coach, parent or other person who has been through and understands the safety aspects of shooting a biathlon rifle.
And finally, in the Words of Bill Meyer (a USBA coach from Minnesota):
“An important goal for newcomers is to get through a few local races their first season without messing up. Biathlon is complicated! It is not just putting your head down and skiing as hard as you can, but often there are multiple ski courses identified by colored signs open during a race for different classes of competitors, penalty loops to count, shooting safety rules, wind flags to watch and even different shooting sequences between different “formats”. So among other reasons, keeping a clear head by not going “brain dead” with skiing too hard in a race is also critical!”
Mark Torresani has joined CXC Academy as a biathlon coach, mentor, and motivator, – introducing the sport of biathlon through a series of monthly videos and training plan tips.
Mark Torresani is the Midwest Regional Coordinator for United States Biathlon Association (USBA) and is the biathlon program director and coach at Blackhawk Ski Club in Madison (Wisconsin). Mark has been an active coach and participant in Nordic skiing and biathlon for over 35 years. Since 1995 Mark has been helping to develop Nordic ski and biathlon programs and venues in the Madison area. Mark has been working with biathletes of all levels over the past 15 years and routinely leads biathlon safety certification classes and biathlon training camps. Mark works as a civil engineer for Tetra Tech in Madison, Wisconsin, and actively volunteers his engineering skills to help with the design and development of Nordic and biathlon venues throughout the Midwest.