Components of Endurance Training for Skiers

Endurance training can be divided into four areas: Basic, Speed, Anaerobic and Endurance-Strength.

Basic endurance training is for improving aerobic capacity and impact tolerance. Such sessions occur at 60-75% maximal heart rate (or, Level 1), depending on the skier’s experience and level. At least one long basic endurance session should be included in your weekly schedule. Basic endurance training should increase gradually throughout the basic endurance period.

Speed sessions are slightly faster than basic endurance training (Level 3/4), and are accomplished in interval format. Heart-rate levels during speed training should be around 75-85% maximum heart rate. Interval sessions can total 21-60 minutes. Each interval can be between 7-12 minutes. During speed training, breathing is accelerated, but only during anaerobic endurance training does breathing rhythm peak. Developing speed is important when training for a marathon, since part of the marathon is actually skiing at speed training pace. Include 1 or 2 speed sessions in your weekly schedule, depending on the time of year.

Interval training is a good choice when you first start working on speed, since it’s easier to keep up a good pace during short repeats and exertion levels are not too high. As you progress, you can add even-paced sessions to your schedule. Cut back on speed training during transition and tapering, when you replace some of the hard sessions with actual racing.

Anaerobic endurance training is generally very hard interval work, aimed at maximizing racing performance and oxygen uptake capacity. To make sure lactic acid levels remain at a manageable level, ski at just below full speed, in other words at 90-95% maximum heart rate, or, Level 4. Each of these intervals typically last 4-6 minutes. Anaerobic endurance training increases as the calendar approaches ski-race season.

For a goal-oriented active skier, including anaerobic endurance training 2-3 times a month is advisable. When tapering, training includes anaerobic endurance and speed work, as well as basic endurance and recovery.

For an active skier, sprint training is fast-paced interval training at 90-100% maximum heart rate. Repeats last 30-90 seconds. Recover for around 5 minutes. Do sprint work during transition and tapering periods. Training frequency is at about 4 times/month.

Endurance-strength is considered another category of endurance training. This type of training is typically done on roller skis during a “specific-strength” workout. These workouts incorporate repetitions between 150-250 meters each along a gradual uphill. There are three main specific strength exercises; double-pole, core-only and single-stick. Double pole is regular double poling, core-only is when the body is propelled by the initial crunch of the arms and torso without a follow-through of the arms and the single-stick is when a skier executes diagonal-stride arms while keeping the legs stationary so that all of the work comes from the upper body. For each exercise there are between 5-12 repetitions, depending on the time of year.

Pacing for Interval Training

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.

The Benefit of Bringing Heart Rate Down Between Interval Sets

The recovery period between intervals is an extremely important part of the workout. It allows us to focus on pushing that race pace without overstressing the body. By breaking up that workload we are able to spend more time in that Level 4 zone without the lingering effects of a full length race effort.

The 120 bpm mark is set to be solidly in Level 1 territory for athletes of all abilities and is used as a mark to show that full recovery is attained between interval sets. One sign of potential overtraining is an inability to recover between sets (an elevated heart rate for many minutes longer than expected). That being said, the 120 bpm mark is arbitrary and not specific to you. We would expect that you take at least 2 min to recover between each interval or until your heart rate is back to Level 1.

What are intervals? Why do interval training?

An interval workout consists of bouts of high intensity work alternating with periods of lower intensity or rest. By varying the length of the work interval and the length of the rest interval, a wide variety of workouts can be designed to achieve a range of goals. Here are some common questions about intervals.

Interval Q and A

Q. Intervals are only important for competitive athletes, right?
A. Wrong!

It is true that intervals are an important training component for anyone preparing for competition.

They help you:

  • Learn to compete with greater intensity.
  • Build the time that you can maintain a certain level of intensity.
  • Improve your speed of recovery.
  • Develop your body’s ability to switch between energy systems.

And they are a very time-efficient method of achieving all these goals. But recent research is showing that intervals are not just for competitive athletes.

Q. Why do interval training?
A. Doing intervals is the most important part of training speed. Keep focus on the aim of your interval training. A typical mistake is to ski too fast during short repeats, since having strength enough is rarely a problem, and distances are relatively short. Training intensity should increase gradually to prepare the body for harder routines. The central components of successful interval training are the right technique, mobility and speed.

You learn to pace yourself during interval training, since you ski faster doing intervals than you would during the targeted event, like a marathon. Increasing your speed reserve is also important to make sure your running technique remains comfortable. Moreover, interval work improves recovery time, important for skiing on uneven terrain.

Q. Can intervals help me lose weight and maintain health?
A. Yes. New research suggests that interval training may be a very time-efficient and effective way to lose weight, not to mention that it will build your fitness as effectively as longer, moderate workouts.

A recent study in Japan reached the intriguing conclusion that you would burn more fat with two 30 minutes bouts of exercise separated by a 20 minute rest period than in a single 60 minute session.

And finally, intervals add variety and structure to your workouts, which makes them even more interesting and helps the time pass.

Q. Why are intervals good for older athletes?
A. They have been shown to be the most effective workout for stemming the tide of aging.

A recent pilot study in Norway has shown that interval workouts may be more effective than longer, lower intensity workouts for reducing cholesterol, adjusting the ratio of fatty acids in the blood, and reducing the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. They have also been shown to be an effective therapy for patients with heart failure. Consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.

Q. Then why not do them all the time?
A. Because you can’t. Expect to be tired after doing intervals. If you’re not, you’re not doing them hard enough. You need to allow your body to recover for a day or two after interval sessions. Competitive athletes might do intervals as many as five days per week during a high-intensity speed training week; older athletes can generally do intervals up to 2–3 times per week.

Q. What should I know before I get started?
A. Warm up well.

The reason intervals are so effective is that they are intense. By working intensely, even for a short period of time, you place a greater demand on your heart and lungs, which in turn provides a stronger stimulus for physiological change. If all of your exercise is at the same moderate level, it will still burn calories, but it won’t inspire your body to make changes. In order to work at a higher intensity, it is even more important warm-up well and be sure you are using proper technique. We recommend at least 10 minutes of warm-up.

Source: www.concept2.com

Max VO2 Intervals (General vs. Specific)

General Max VO2 intervals are race pace intervals and work the cardiovascular system using a non ski specific mode (i.e. running, biking, swimming, etc).

Progressively work into the intervals until you hit your desired pace at the 30 sec mark. Make sure you are not starting them all out.


 

Specific Max VO2 intervals are race pace intervals and work the cardiovascular system using skiing or activities that simulate skiing very closely (i.e. classic/skate rollerskiing, bounding with poles, classic/skate on snow skiing).

Anaerobic Threshold (AT) Intervals

The anaerobic threshold (AT), also called the “lactate threshold”, is the exertion level between aerobic and anaerobic training. The AT is the point during exercise when your body must switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. The AT is a useful measure for deciding exercise intensity for training and racing in endurance sports.

Workouts to Raise the Anaerobic Threshold (AT)

Interval workouts are effective for raising the AT. For the best results, vary your workouts between aerobic work (where duration takes priority over high intensity), and higher-intensity intervals (where you will be just under or at your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)).

During aerobic metabolism, your body creates energy by burning carbohydrates and fats in the presence of oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and water as by-products (breathing and sweating). Most of our daily activities are fueled by aerobic metabolism.

Anaerobic metabolism kicks in when exercise intensity is greatly increased, and the aerobic system can no longer keep up with the body’s energy demand. This is the point at which we cross the AT. During anaerobic metabolism, the body burns stored sugars to supply the additional energy needed, and lactic acid is produced faster than it can be metabolized. Muscle pain, burning and fatigue make anaerobic energy expenditure difficult to sustain for longer than a few minutes.

The fitter you are, the longer you can fuel your body with the aerobic system before the anaerobic system needs to take over. You can improve your aerobic efficiency—and thus raise your AT—by doing high-quality aerobic work at a level just below your current AT. Monitoring your heart rate and finding your Training Heart Rate Range (THRR) will help you determine what your current AT is.

Building Stamina for Climbing Hills

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Q: Do you have any advice that would be specific to building stamina for climbing hills when ski season returns?

A: Consistent training throughout the year is your best way at improving your stamina and general fitness for the ski season. You’ll see the biggest changes in your fitness if you get onto a regular schedule with your training. With that consistency in training, doing specific target exercise can help with the areas you are trying to improve on. With you looking for improvement in your climbing, there are a few things I would suggest.

1. L3 hill bounding, ski walking, and moosehoofs (sub-maximal bound). Most ski specific training method you can do. Longer Level 3 repetitions are the best way to improve your climbing skills during the off season.

2. Endurance Strength: In the weight room adding in higher rep (15-20) exercises is a good way to work on endurance strength for ski specific muscle groups.

3. Rollerski Strength: Even though rollerski strength (double pole and single stick only on hills) works solely the upper body, those muscles play a large part in all ski techniques. That is why it is important to work on building a strong upper body. It helps us not to rely on our lower body as much and helps with having balanced technique.

4. Plyometrics/Spenst: Various single and double leg jumps can help us build explosion and fast twitch fibers in our muscles. A lot of times we become bogged down on hills when we are unable to transfer weight quickly from side to side.

Additional Resources:

An Outline of Nordic Training Modes
Ski Walk and Moose Hoof Combo

Videos:

–  Ski-Walking and Hill Bounding
–  Ski Walking Intervals – Workout Ideas

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