Season End Suggestions

 

Welcome to March and the very last training period of the year. Hopefully this competitive season was a successful one for you!

This month no specific workouts will be posted here or/and to your TrainingPeaks Calendar, as we’ve hit the “Restoration” phase of the training year.

If you have access to snow, continue to do some ski workouts focusing on enjoying some springtime sun and crust cruising while still thinking some about your technique. However, do not get into a rut from being over structured, or you may miss out on needed regeneration.

This is a great time of the year to really focus in on not only recovering the body, but also recovering the mind. So, while adjusting to being off of snow, look at the activities that you enjoy to do and get out there and do those. Start to blend in multiple activities whether it be casual paddling (Canoe or Kayak), easy mountain biking, easy road biking, disc golf, regular golf while walking the course, hiking, rock climbing, Back Country or Alpine Skiing, backpacking, salsa dancing, swimming, snorkling, surfing, ice skating, fly fishing, etc.

IMPORTANT
Do not worry about any specific Speed, Level 4 VO2 Max pace or Level 3 threshold work, let any speed and intensity happen naturally while you are having fun enjoying different activities while you are regenerating from the past year’s training.

In the gym we are taking away the weight and just doing a lot of different activities. Staying strong while regenerating is a great thing. If we get too specific in our training, then we start to build asymmetry. We start to build tightness and we need to get back to resetting our clock and resetting our bodies, so that we’re ready for the next year to come.

We will be starting over with a new training year at the end of April.

In the meantime, have some fun chasing other adventures!

Period Twelve of Training for Cross Country Skiing

Period Covered: FEBRUARY – MARCH

Video Transcript:

Welcome to period 12 of Cross Country Ski Training. This time of the year, end of the season, we’re out of time. Most of the competition season is behind us. But we’re still having some targeted events. By all means, keep racing during this time. Find those selective opportunities to actually find races, find events.

Some major championships are still happening this time of year. When it comes to distance training, take advantage of the opportunity. This is a time of year when we have a lot of challenging type of snow conditions. Target those challenging snow conditions. This is a great opportunity to get better on our skis.

What that means is if it’s above zero Celsius or 32 Fahrenheit, don’t hesitate to put Klister on your skis. Embrace that opportunity and go out there and learn how to ski in tricky conditions. This will make you a better skier for next year, for this year, and for the rest of your career. So take advantage of that.

Also find those opportunities. It’s a time when the ground can freeze up and get a little bit faster. Don’t hesitate to work on your downhill competition and downhill skills as well. Get out on alpine skis. Get out on cross-country skis. But do a lot of different sliding sport activities, so that you’re improving your efficiency for the upcoming year. But not only the upcoming year, these last key competitions.

Strength training, we’re going to start shifting back to an actual full body strength. We’re going to get ready for maintaining what we have developed throughout the season. But now we’re going to really start to look forward towards really making sure that we’re moving into a general strength phase which we’re going to do in this last period of period 13 coming up, as well as the first period moving into the next year.

So we’re kind of moving into a transition from doing this complex strength, from max as well as high velocity strength, and getting ready to go back to full body movement. Intensity, like I said, just focus on the races that you’re doing. Keep racing. Enjoy yourself on snow and I will see you next period.

What to Wear Skiing in the Extreme Cold

by Brian Gregg

Brian is a 2014 Olympian, races for Team Gregg/Madshus and resides in Minneapolis, MN. 

There is a saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment. Subzero temperatures can be enough to keep you indoors on a brisk Winter day, but perhaps you have been planning all week for a weekend ski trip, or you have been training for weeks for a particular race. I have found that with the right equipment you can have a great day of skiing even on the coldest of days. I adhere to the FIS minimum temperature cut off of -4F for racing, but will ski in any temperature. Here are some tips to be able to enjoy even the chilliest of days.

WARM FEET

Our feet can swell in the cold and you don’t want any constriction of circulation. If you live in a super cold climate you may want to consider getting boots that fit a bit large. One trick for the random frigid day is to simply remove the insoles from your boots. I choose a medium thick pair of merino wool socks. If you choose too thick of a sock you risk not having enough volume in your boot and reducing circulation. Make sure your socks are clean as that will mean the fibers can insulate and wick moisture best. I have found that my feet tend to sweat more in fully synthetic socks and when the sweat freezes it is bad news. If space allows in your boots I am also a big fan of chemical toe warmers. Be sure to activate the warmers with plenty of time before you head outdoors. Another product to consider is over boots which zip over your regular ski boots. I recommend sizing these slightly larger than your boots so that they aren’t too difficult to take on or off. With warm feet you will have better balance and a better experience skiing. 

WARM HANDS

The simple answer to warm hands is to wear thick gloves. Mittens and split finger ‘lobster mitts’ can be good options. The challenge with this is that it can often become tricky to grip your pole or even fit your hand into your pole strap. Personally I prefer to wear my regular gloves and to add an Overmitt. The Overmitt is added after you put your poles on and goes over your pole strap so that you still have the normal feel of your grip. Many cold days I start skiing using this setup until my hands are toasty warm. Then, the overmitts can be quickly removed and tossed to the side or stuffed in a jacket even without taking your poles off. Chemical hand warmers can also work well and I usually store them activated in my gloves on my way to the ski trail so that they heat the gloves up. I position the hand warmers on the backs of my hand so that they don’t affect the grip and feel of the pole handle.

WARM UPPER BODY

A long sleeved base layer is a must on cold days. On windy days I sometimes opt for one that has built in wind stopper on the front. For additional heat I may add a vest either under or over my regular training jacket. On extremely cold days I will often start my ski with a down jacket over everything. With so many layers it can be a good idea to bring a small backpack to be able to stash clothes if you get too warm. It is important to not get to the point where you are sweating because that will make you really cold when the sweat freezes. 

WARM LOWER BODY

A must for men in cold weather is a pair of wind briefs. These are special underwear with a layer of wind stopper on the front. It may not be a bad idea to double down with a full length base layer that also has wind stopper in the front although usually a full length base layer or pair of tights followed by a pair of ski pants will do the trick.

WARM HEAD?

Balaclavas are great in cold weather, and so are buffs. I like to use both or two buffs so that I can have one that covers the part of my ears that my hat may miss and one that sits around my neck. You may also breathe through the buff to warm the air a bit before it hits your lungs. Another helpful product is the AirTrim face mask which has various sized filters for different skiing intensities and is designed to fit comfortably. The idea here is that the air heats up as it passes through the filter.

I prefer to have as little exposed skin to the elements as possible. I will put tape on my skin to protect it from the elements. You may cut KT tape to fit, or for a simpler option use AntiFreeze face tape which is pre-cut. Another option for exposed skin is to apply a balm such as Dermatone or WarmSkin. For eye protection I find that most sunglasses fog and freeze, I have had the best luck with shields on cold days. 

SKATE OR CLASSIC

Cold temperatures make for some very sharp snow crystals which aren’t the easiest to glide on. This is a great time to classic ski as it can be very easy to get a lot of kick. Ski in the track behind someone else as the person in front will help warm up the snow for the skier in back. Make sure your skis are prepared ahead of time so that you aren’t out in the cold applying wax or indoors at the lodge sweating with all of your cold weather clothes on. If you are waiting on a friend consider skiing out and come back to meet them so that your body doesn’t cool down.

DRINK AND EAT

When you can see your breath in cold weather you are actually seeing the moisture from your breath freezing. Remember to stay well hydrated, insulated drink belts may be your best bet, but sometimes even they freeze. Consider a good insulated container such as a Hydroflask filled with hot tea, chocolate, coffee of sports drink. Your body will be using energy to stay warm so make sure it has plenty of it. Keep your snacks warm in a pocket as they are likely to freeze themselves which can make them difficult to consume.

The key to enjoying skiing in the extreme cold is to have the proper equipment for you. You may need more or less than a friend.  Take note of the air temperature, humidity and wind chill during cold days and what you are wearing. I make a little chart for myself so that I know the layers that I am most likely going to want to wear so that I can enjoy a cold day on the ski trail.

***

Brian Gregg’s Personal Equipment Guide for Various Temperatures

 

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.

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.

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

 

Period Covered: NOVEMBER-DECEMBER

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.