The Pros and Cons of Time Trials

In all sports, there is periodization. No matter the definition, there is no arguing that sports in general all have their own respective phases. For many endurance athletes, it’s common to train more and more specifically as the season nears. As for us nordies, we are starting to get closer to the competition phase, so the focus generally narrows a bit. For me this translates to a slight decrease in overall training volume, and an increase in intensity. Without getting into the specifics too much, a good (or bad) way to do that is by implementing time trials into training…

PROS

Time trials can be a great addition to spice training up a bit! Until now, a lot of training time has been spent logging in distance hours and a large portion of Level 3 intervals(roughly 85ish% max), so it’s been a while since you really got to rev the engine. This is one reason why time trials can be highly effective. They remind the body what it’s like to go as hard as you can, to race, go absolutely full gas, open up the throttle, throw down the gauntlet, & lower the BOOM! You get the picture. Often without race like efforts before important races your body may feel sluggish and won’t be able to optimally perform because it’s not used to such intense efforts. Doing time trials in the Fall is also a great way to measure improvements from time trials done in the Spring, and they can certainly improve your high end efficiency (among other things). They also allow for opportunities to test things like pre race meals, warm-up routines, day before training, etc, so that when you get to the starting line you are dialed in and ready to go. Furthermore, adding time trials now can highlight areas of weaknesses where more time should be spent in training to make further improvements with the time left before the season opener.

CONS

While there are numerous advantages to implementing time trials into training, there are other things that you might want to take into consideration. One of the biggest things that can have a negative effect on a potentially golden opportunity, is having the wrong mindset. Personally I have been there. It’s easy to get distracted in comparing & analyzing variables such as rollerski speeds, weather conditions, training loads, one’s strengths and weaknesses, etc…I like to recognize such variables, but also keep it all in perspective and judge my performance accordingly.  Off season TTs can play mind games, so it’s always best to look for areas for improvement and if applicable, appreciate gains made from previous tests. For most of us, there are 8+ weeks left  before our first ski races, so regardless of any TT performance, there’s lots of time to continue improving!

Garrott Kuzzy
Lumi Experiences

Grateful To Train

By Gus Schumacher

Can you talk about the fall training blocks you have done in the past and whether or not you’ve modified it to see more success in your fitness/preparations for ski season? If so, why do you think you needed to make those adjustments? Are you doing anything different this year?

This year I’m following a very similar plan to what I always do. My modifications come generally in the form of pushing the amount and intensity of training that I can handle. Every year as I’ve developed I’ve been able to do a little bit more and that is a good feeling. I know that won’t last forever but I really appreciate consistency in my training so I generally don’t change things too much.

What is your favorite interval (level4or5) workout that you are doing this next month? How do you execute it in case readers want to try it for themselves?

My favorite interval workout this time of year is a basic 6×4-5min L4 set. It’s one we do all year but I like it because it really feels like a great fitness-building workout. The goal is to pace it like a race, so by the end I’m going about as hard as I can. With the breaks it ends up being the pace for about a 30-40 minute race so it’s really good practice for interval start pacing. I do it with bounding and classic and skate roller skiing, usually on a rolling uphill section or loop.

The fall intervals that are my least favorite are 12×1′ maximum bounding because you produce so much lactate it gets very uncomfortable. With longer intervals it’s hard to flood with lactate as much so it’s not quite as painful.

Does nutrition change for you as you transition from one training block to the next? If yes, how so?

No, my training blocks are similar enough that I tend to eat the same type and amount of food. It’ll change week to week based on intensity and training hours (more carbs for intervals, more calories for volume), but overall there isn’t that much fluctuation.

Using Karvonen Formula to Estimate Max Heart Rate and Training Zones

The Karvonen method is an estimate of your max heart rate and training zones.  However, it is an estimate that can still be quite aways off, especially compared to the gold standard of physiological testing in a lab or the field.  CXC does have a lab in the Madison area, and the ability to perform a VO2 max test and extrapolate much more exact estimated Heart Rate training zones based upon various measures of ventilation during a test.  The reason I say estimated Heart Rate training zones is that each day you are likely to have slight variations in your training zones based upon a number of factors, including hydration level, overall stress, work out temperature, recovery from previous workouts, etc.  But, physiological testing is able to give a much better estimate of your zones than the formulas used by Karvonen or those adopted by most multi-sport training watches.

If you want to dial in your training zones as precisely as possible, a physiological test in a lab is the way to go.  If you want to get in the ballpark, we can suggest using some of Karvonen’s work combined with simple field tests for your max heart rate and then taking your resting heart rate for a few mornings after you wake when it is at a relatively low level.

TO FIND YOUR MAX:

Use the highest number recorded on a heart rate monitor during a VO2 Max Test, intensity workout, race or time trials.

or

Do a simple field test.  Run or bike up a moderately steep hill for 2-4 minutes all out.  Do this twice.  Use a heart rate monitor and record your efforts.  Your highest heart rate should be very close to the max you will achieve in training, races, max tests, etc.

TO FIND YOUR RESTING HR:

Take your waking heart rate for a week or two and use your lowest number.

TO ROUGHLY ESTIMATE YOUR ZONES:

Subtract your resting heart rate from your max to get your Reserve Heart Rate (RHR).

Then for your heart rate zones, add your resting heart rate and percents of your RHR.

Level 1 is ~<72.5%

Level 2 is ~72.5-82.5%

Level 3 is ~82.5-87.5%

Level 4 is ~87.5-92.5%

Level 5 is ~92.5% and up

This should get you in the ballpark, until you have an opportunity to get in a lab.

Understanding the Elements of Endurance Training

The Cardiovascular System – Of Pipes and Pumps

By Betsy and Bob Youngman

Note: A more extensive treatment of this subject is presented at our website Brave Enough. The essential points are reviewed here.

 

In the simplest terms, when we speak about training for an endurance sport like cross country skiing, there are two primary systems that will be the focus of training – the “pump” and the “pipes.” The pump is the heart, which delivers oxygen-containing blood to operating muscles via a system of pipes (aka the vascular system). Different types of training are utilized to stimulate the development of these primary systems and these “types” of training will form the basis for a training program.

Obviously, our lungs play a central role in making sure that the “pump” has the oxygen-containing blood available to pump. Generally speaking, for a healthy individual the supply of sufficient quantities of oxygen is not a limiting factor for endurance activities.

The cardiovascular system is best developed by repeated bouts of long-duration, low-intensity activity. Such training involves continuous, low-level stress that requires significant blood flow to operating muscles. The heart is quite pleomorphic and will respond fairly quickly to training stimuli that require increased blood flow. While this blood flow and muscular activity will grow muscle, our bodies also respond to the training stress by increasing the output of the heart and maximizing blood delivery to the muscles.

Increased blood delivery is facilitated by increases in capillary density in the tissue in and around these muscles. Additionally, under this same training stress, cell organelles, known as  mitochondria , grow and become more numerous in muscles. Mitochondira, using primarily fat and carbohydrate as fuel, produce a chemical called adenosine triphosphate ( ATP ). ATP is what enables muscle contraction via a complex set of biochemical reactions. The more numerous and bigger the mitochondria, the more fuel that can be processed and the more energy available for muscular activity.

Because of these very positive adaptations, such long-duration, low-intensity training is the focus for that part of our endurance training devoted to developing both our “pump” and our “pipes.” This type of training is the “base” aerobic development that we have reviewed earlier and is fundamental to all training for endurance sport.

Lactate Metabolic Processes

At the other end of the intensity spectrum, relatively short (1-15 minutes), high-intensity activity will have additional and substantial impact on the development of the heart and it’s ability to pump oxygenated blood out through our “pipes.” Increased cardiac output can be particularly large for those who do not have a history of endurance training or for those who are just returning to training from an extended period away. For those with a consistent long-term training history (think years), increases in cardiac output with such high-intensity training are significantly less dramatic since the upper limit to the potential output (aka VO2max) is considered to be significantly controlled by genetics – i.e. there is a “genetic ceiling” for VO2max that can be approached but not exceeded. As discussed previously, declining VO2max represents one of the “Big Three” limiters to performance for masters athletes. Therefore for the aging athlete, where a progression away from high-intensity training is common, high-intensity training is critical to full development of one’s potential.

Importantly, high-intensity training will also provide the necessary stimulus for improved metabolism of a product of cellular energy production called  lactate. You likely have heard of accumulating lactate as a “bad” thing for endurance performance. It isn’t; in fact lactate plays an essential role in the energy production cycle in humans. We will not go into the details of this here but it is covered in the extended post on this subject at our website Brave Enough.

CXC Academy Q&A with Alayna – Training Zones

 

With CXC Academy training plans it is very important to stay within the prescribed training zone for each workout. These training zones each have a very specific role in your training. The length and frequency of these workouts fluctuates throughout the year depending on the emphasis of each training period, all leading to peak performance during your race season.

Let’s talk specifically about Levels 1, 3 and 4, some of the most frequently used speeds.

LEVEL 1 training is mainly used as a warm-up/cool-down speed or as an easy, recovery day speed. You should always keep your heart rate within your easy Level 1 zone. This is generally under 130 bpm. Individual heart rate zones can be determined through physiological testing.

LEVEL 3 training can also be referred to as anaerobic threshold training. These intervals are longer and should be conducted at a lower heart rate and speed than level four intervals. Think of these as your ski marathon pace; an effort that is sustainable over 2 hours. When skiing level three intervals, we look for a nice consistent heart rate with no spikes in effort or intensity.

LEVEL 4 training consists of shorter, more intense intervals than level three training. This is your 5-15km race pace. You should ski all terrain just as you would in a race, powering over the tops of hills and transitioning smoothly and powerfully through different techniques.

Make sure that you stay true to each training zone while conducting a workout. It is easy to ski out of your training level to keep up with friends or get in a hard workout. Each level has a role and it is important to stick to the plan.

***

Alayna Sonnesyn, a CXC native who now skis for the Stratton Mountain School T2 Elite Team, will be advising through a series of videos covering general training advisory, ski technique and user Q&As. Sonnesyn grew up in Minnesota and was cross country skiing by age three. She grew up racing in the Minnesota High School League and in CXC programs, winning a national junior title and skiing on scholarship for the University of Vermont. Her breakthrough race came at this year’s Slumberland American Birkebeiner where she took her first major win.

Throughout her ski career she has been a leader, including team captain for UVM. She has also dedicated herself to giving back to her sport, volunteering an guest coaching for Special Olympics, Green Mountain Valley School in Vermont and the Minnesota Youth Ski League. She received multiple honors from UVM in her senior year of 2018.

Recommended Training Regimen For Shorter Races

Q: I ‘m 67, and only race 10-12k races. I am unsure as to how this affects recommended training regimens.

Most information I read seems to be for racers that either do only long races, or both short and long. I suspect that over-distance/over-time training should still be done, but I am not sure how often.

I also am only able to assume that they only need to be about 25% longer than the length of time I typically race. I am also unsure how frequently intense aerobic workouts should be done by people who only race short distances. I assume that they should be done more frequently than is recommended for long distance racers.

So, I’m basically operating on a lot of assumptions and would greatly appreciate any guidance you could provide.

A: You’re correct in assuming that over-distance (OD) training should still be a part of your training. Even World Cup sprinters, who specialize in events that are between 2:30 and 4 minutes long, do large amounts of easy distance, and tend to train 800-900 hours per year.

I’m loathe to give hard-and-fast advice without knowing too much about someone’s training history. That said, regardless of what events you’re racing, I think a good rough guide is to try to get in [per week]:

* 1 very long workout. The length of this is dependent on the individual (age, training history, injury limitations) and/or conditions (shorter when it’s very hot or cold, or if the terrain is very hard).

* 2 strength sessions. Again, this depends on what you need to improve – for all I know, you’re a former powerlifter who’s just learned to ski – but working on core strength and improving the muscles you use while poling is rarely a bad idea.

* 1-2 intensity sessions. As you may have expected, again – this depends on a lot of different things. If it’s spring or summer, you’ll probably focus more on longer, easier intervals around your threshold, and if you’re trying to peak, you’ll focus more on very short and hard intervals. In general, though, I think it’s best to try to keep some touch with intensities close to your race pace.

Based on how much time you have to train and your level of fatigue, I’d fill in the rest of week with easy sessions.

Jason Cork
U.S. Ski & Snowboard

Training Periods for Cross-Country Skiers

TRANSITION OR RECOVERY PHASE (SPRING)
Recover from the physical, mental and emotional stresses of training and racing. Complete rest is fine, but active rest is better.

Preparation:
Begin building into your modes of training.

 


BASE (SUMMER)
Base training is so called because it is the base upon which later phases of training are built.

Endurance:
Aerobic endurance is the number one component of cross-country ski racing, and it is the component of ski racing which takes the most time to develop. It is the primary aim of the base training period.

Example:
2hr rollerski or run split between level 1 and 2 or a 3hr bike on hilly terrain split between level 1 and 2.

Please note: about 80% of all training is endurance training. The rest is strength, intervals and races, etc.

Strength:

  • General: power and strength-endurance are built on max strength. General strength develops overall tendon and muscle strength necessary to support latter forms of training. General strength is the focus through the spring and summer.

Example:
After building up to weight training for 5-6 weeks, include some ski specific high weight and low rep work.

  • Specific: specific strength becomes more a focus later in the summer and into the fall once a solid base of general strength has been established.

Example:
Endurance session using only double pole over gradual terrain.

Intensity:
Most intensity should be below the lactate threshold early in the summer. Anaerobic training such as speed is good, but hard aerobic and anaerobic intervals should be kept to a minimum early on.

Example:
2×10 minutes at 5 bpm below LT with 2 minutes rest between intervals. Start with 1-2 sessions a week.

Technique and Speed:
Speed training during the base period should not be done at a hard intensity (short bouts of speed with full recovery are recommended) and should be oriented toward using correct movements at race speeds – not at moving at an unrealistic pace.

Example:
Incorporate 10-20sec bursts of speed into your endurance training.

 


PRE-COMPETITION (FALL)
Training becomes quite specific to the motions and intensity of ski racing. Aerobic endurance is still the primary focus, but the means to develop it have become more specific and more intense.

Endurance:
Training volume levels off or even decreases slightly to allow for the increase in intensity. Most of the training volume is aerobic endurance training – low intensity training of medium to long duration.

Example:
Rollerski or run almost exclusively in level 1.

Strength:

  • General: general strength takes a back seat to specific strength. Max strength is the general strength focus in this period (for only 4 weeks). Strength endurance is the primary concern of a skier, but power and max strength cannot be neglected.

Example:
Circuit using body weight exercises and more ski specific motions. Include some fairly ski specific max-strength exercises as well.

  • Specific: rollerski specific strength sessions are the primary forms of strength training and should be predominantly endurance based. Skiers should also incorporate plyometric, explosive jumping exercises into their strength routine during the pre-competition phase.

Example:
10 x 200m single pole, 10 x 200m double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.

Intensity:
During the Pre-comp phase, duration and intensity of “intensity” training should reach levels similar to competition. High intensity (VO2, above threshold) intervals are used. This type of training must be built up to, to be effective.

Example:
(LT) 2min, 3min, 5min with equal recovery, times 3 at LT. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 5x5min with half recovery at 95% of max (target heart-rate will not be meet until the second interval). Each interval should take you the same distance.

Technique and Speed:
All training is technique oriented. Speed training is a great way to train the anaerobic system, but also to learn to ski relaxed and with smooth technique at a challenging pace.

Example:
10-20 x 20sec incorporated into an endurance session.

 


PRE-COMPETITION (EARLY SNOW)
The transition onto snow demands a decrease in training intensity because of the increased load of snow skiing. Training volume usually peaks during this phase of training.

Example:
Endurance sessions strictly at level 1. Intensity can be done on foot rather than skis.

Christmas Stars and Thanksgiving Turkeys: skiers who do not monitor their training intensity properly during this phase often unwittingly raise the overall training load too quickly. The result is often a short-lived spike in fitness followed by a long-term decrease in race performance. Racers who peak early are known as Christmas Stars or Thanksgiving Turkeys. Example for the early snow period of the pre-comp phase.

 


RACE SEASON
Proper base and pre-competition training leads to a high level of fitness, which leads to consistent races all year long. A properly trained skier should be able to aim at a certain block or a few blocks of races throughout the season and still compete consistently at a high level throughout the season.

 

BLOCKS OF NORMAL RACES

Endurance:
Training volume must rise after a block of key races where the volume will have been lowered.

Example:
1.5hr session mostly in level 1.

Interval:
Races and interval sessions must be balanced, but intervals cannot be neglected especially early in the race season. Be careful with intervals between race weekends, especially at altitude, as it can be hard to recover.

Example:
(LT) 3×7 min at 5 bpm over LT with 3 minutes rest. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 3min, 4min, 5min times 2 with equal recovery. Each interval should take you the same distance.

Speed:
If not done systematically, must be incorporated into distance or interval work.

Specific Strength:
For strength to continue to progress, specific strength must be conducted on snow as it was done on rollerskis early in the competition period.

General Strength:
Circuit strength that aims to maintain max strength and power as well as a general muscular balance is important. Rollerboard can be used here and with all circuit strength.

Example:
Circuit using a wide variety of body weight exercises as well as more dynamic exercises to maintain power.

Race:
Results are secondary to continued technical and fitness improvements.

 

BLOCKS OF KEY RACES

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

Example:
(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.

Example:
(Peaking intervals) 3×3 min just below LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 3×2 min above LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 4×30 sec 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.

 


Source: The Ski Post

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.

Example:

  • 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.

Example:

  • 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.

Source: SkiPost.com

Building Double Pole Capacity with Erik Bjornsen

by Jason Albert, fasterskier.com

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.

 


NOTES:

  • 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)

 

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Main Staples of Fall Training

Q: I tend to do the same training all year round. I do way too much long slow distance – or short slow/medium distance. How should I change my training in the fall vs the summer?

 

PRE-COMPETITION (FALL)

Training becomes quite specific to the motions and intensity of ski racing. Aerobic endurance is still the primary focus, but the means to develop it have become more specific and more intense.

ENDUARNCE

Training volume levels off or even decreases slightly to allow for the increase in intensity. Most of the training volume is aerobic endurance training – low intensity training of medium to long duration.

STRENGTH

  • General: General strength takes a back seat to specific strength. Max strength is the general strength focus in this period (for only 4 weeks). Strength endurance is the primary concern of a skier, but power and max strength cannot be neglected. Example: circuit using body weight exercises and more ski specific motions. Include some fairly ski specific max-strength exercises as well.
  • Specific: Rollerski specific strength sessions are the primary forms of strength training and should be predominantly endurance based. Skiers should also incorporate plyometric, explosive jumping exercises into their strength routine during the pre-competition phase. Example: 10×200 meters single pole, 10×200 meters double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.


INTENSITY

During the pre-competition phase, duration and intensity of “intensity” training should reach levels similar to competition. High intensity (VO2, above threshold) intervals are used. This type of training must be built up to, to be effective. Example: (LT) 2min, 3min, 5min with equal recovery, times 3 at LT. At the end of each interval you should feel like you could have kept going. At the end of the workout, you should feel like you could have done more. (VO2) 5x5min with half recovery at 95% of max. (target heart-rate will not be met until the second interval). Each interval should take you the same distance.

TECHNIQUE & SPEED

All training is technique oriented. Speed training is a great way to train the anaerobic system, but also to learn to ski relaxed and with smooth technique at a challenging pace. Example: 10-20×20 seconds incorporated into an endurance session.

by Andy at SkiPost, Cross Country Ski Source