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



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.

Period Eight of Training for Cross Country Skiing


We’re discussing period eight of cross-country ski training. One thing I want to focus on is multi-sport activities. A lot of times, athletes are not just a one-sport individuals, but involved in a couple of different sports.

Our general feedback and philosophy on multi-sport is that having two complementary sports is a great opportunity. Maybe it’s running and skiing or biking and skiing. This is great.

We often find that if you’re competitive, more than two competition seasons are really difficult to actually execute well. The reason why, if you go to a three-competition period of – maybe you’re trying to compete in summer, in fall and in winter. The challenge there is finding adequate recovery and adequate amount of time to fully prepare for each or any of those sports.

So we definitely support a multi-sport activity where you may have two competition seasons. But more than two if you really want to be competitive becomes difficult to both prepare and compete well.

With that being said, as we’re here – right on the cusp of a competition season, basically mid of October all the way into November, is really focused on this competitive season and the reason why I wanted to bring up multi-sport is if you just came off of, for example a running season, one of the things you really want to do is focus on the things you haven’t been doing. OK?

If you’re a runner and you’ve been running, you’ve got plenty of level four training in. But what have you maintained in the upper body? So a lot of the exercises and activities, if you’re multi-sport and coming off of a competitive fall is thinking about, “What haven’t I done? Have I not done enough upper body double pulling?” Then you really need to focus your attention on those sorts of things. Then in that scenario, do more level three training. If you’re purely training for cross-country skiing, then your intensity will purely be based primarily off of level four intervals, bounding, roller skiing, those sorts of activities.

If you’re in either scenario, select the type of terrain appropriate for cross-country skiing, meaning hillier terrain. We really want to focus more of our intensity work on the ups and downs and focusing on how do we get better.

On our distance type training, our endurance training, we’re really starting to focus on efficiency of training. We’re getting on snow hopefully. Whether we’re finding man-made snow loops or we’re getting ourselves into a camp scenario, find those opportunities to get on snow and focus on efficiency of training.

Again, polarized training is really important here. Once we get on snow, that’s an added stress. Make sure your easy days are easy. But they’re easy and you’re skiing with really good, proficient movement. You’re trying to learn how to ski and move faster at a lower intensity.

Strength training maintains stable, really focusing on more complex type strength where we’re actually introducing not only max and not only velocity, but the combination of both in a very ski-specific movement, more single-leg activities and movements that we’re doing specific for the sport.

Period Seven of Training for Cross Country Skiing

Video Transcript:

One of the things I want to talk about is strength and how we complement strength in the type of a routine where we’re doing a lot of ski-specific activities and high-intensity activities.

Regardless of the fact that we’re doing higher intensity training, we still want to do strength and that strength complements the type of training that we’re doing.

If the majority of your races are December, January, then we really want to focus on velocity-based type intensity or velocity-based strength. Another complement we can do is to blend the two and it’s called complex strength where we do a lift or we would do maybe like a squat with weight and then immediately after we do vertical jump and that becomes a super set or a complex strength where we do something that’s loading, loading of the weight as well as then taking the weight away and then doing something velocity-based.

Intensity during this time again needs to become more and more specific to the sport. If you’re doing more double leg activities, now we want to become more single leg activities and more specific movements to the sport. That includes in both intensity, distance, as well as strength training. It becomes very specific to the activity.

In recovery, this is a great opportunity to maintain or stabilize our full body strength and full body movement. So, think about being creative here, doing activities such as yoga or getting massaged. Those sorts of activities become really, really important as the intensity increases.

In endurance, because we’re doing higher intensity, more Level 4 intervals, more ski-specific, the volume may drop a little bit.

We’re focusing mostly on very specific activities of endurance but the actual overall volume starts to reduce as we focus more attention on the competition season. See you next period.

Period Six of Training for Cross Country Skiing

Video Script:

For Period 6, it is important to recognize that the race season is merely weeks away, and therefore, now is a great opportunity to make both strength and general training as ski-specific as possible. Similarly, now is the time in the training year when overall training volume should decrease, while training intensity increases. This means workouts are going to be very hard and efficient in the sense that all muscles and movement patterns involved are going to be closely related to those that will be utilized in the coming seasons’ races.

Throughout the summer the training plan has focused on high volume. If this has been accomplished, then you will have a strong foundation to build high-quality intensity sessions.

Training this period should include very impulse-driven, plyometric actives. These exercises will translate to an effective classic technique in terms of setting the wax, as well as helping strength the push phase of the skate push.

As workouts become more intense and ski-specific, recovery becomes even more critical. Nutrition, hydration and sleep all remain extremely important, but staying healthy and avoiding sickness as we enter the cold-salon is particularly important. Take a look at your lifestyle and how it relates to your workouts because it all relates heavily to your ski training. If you are experiencing stresses at work or school, make sure you’re accommodating that sort of chronic stress in your training plan as well. Check in with how you are feeling and modify the hours and repetitions set forth in the plan that makes sense for you and your circumstances outside of skiing.

In summary, Period 6 is all about the motto “less is more” meaning we will spending less time working out each week, but more sessions will prescribe more level 4 training.