Base Training = Summer Training

by Andy at SkiPost

If you wanted to think about one thing that would likely give an improvement in your racing – it would be the addition of intervals. Many/most people go medium hard every day. They push their effort and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of their workout. But by going medium hard every day they never have the energy to go very hard. They get very good at going medium hard but can not increase their pace in a race. If they would learn to go easy on easy days and very hard on very hard days they would improve their race day performance much easier than by going medium hard every day.

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Below is more details on what to think about in your Summer base training. Base training is so called because it is the base upon which later phases of training are built.


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: 2hour rollerski or run split between Level 1 and 2 or a 3 hour 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.


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.

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.    


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.


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 20 second bursts of speed into your endurance training.

Having Hard Time Running in Level 1 for Long Distances

Q: I am having a hard time running in Level 1 for long distances. Just feels too easy. Do I need to stay in this level for 70-90 percent or can I jump to Level 3?

A: I am familiar with your hesitance with HR levels. As a skier, I was trained to always follow my heart rate. As a runner in college, there was a much higher focus on distance and time (speed). There seems to be a conflict between these two philosophies.

As I have never coached a running team, I will explain the philosophy behind the HR based training that we use on the skiing side of things. In an ideal situation, an athlete will go through physiological testing at the beginning of a season. These tests usually include a VO2 Max test and a Blood Lactate test. There are a lot of data that you can glean from these tests, but perhaps the most important are the specific heart rates associated with our training levels (1-5). These values can very greatly from athlete to athlete due to differences in anatomy, previous training experience, etc. My level 1 is especially high, topping out at 151bpm. If I were to follow a traditional “guideline” hr for level 1, I would barely be moving!

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 1.09.12 PMOnce those values are established, it is very important to stick within those training zones. We keep easy days very easy in order to push ourselves harder on the intensity days. There is a very simple truth that if you constantly train at a moderately fast speed, you will only ever achieve a moderately fast speed. An easy workout is designed to allow for recovery while still building an aerobic base. If we are running or skiing at a slightly faster speed you enter a “no-mans land” of sorts, where you are not recovering from a previous day’s hard work out, but you are also not working hard enough to challenge and push your anaerobic threshold.

In short, if you are basing level one workouts off of a general HR prediction, it very well could be too easy for you. If it is within your zone, we do want to keep our easy workouts in that heart rate range.

Hope this helps!



Trouble Keeping Heart Rate at Intensity Level 1

Q: As a beginner, I have been rollerskating as much as possible to learn how to be more efficient on skis. My problem has been with Intensity Levels. I just cannot keep my heart rate at Level 1. My question: Is this ok or should I be doing something like biking/running instead?

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 11.14.14 AMA: It is great that you are getting out there this early in the season but I would be weary on consistently getting your heart rate above Level 1 during your workouts. Right now the focus in the workouts should be towards building the base fitness so that the body is ready when we really ramp up intensity in the late summer and fall as we come in to the competitive season.

I would suggest that you mix up your mode of exercise and do some biking, running, or even hiking. Target your Level 1 heart rate for these workouts for a couple weeks and you will probably start to see your heart rate drop while roller skating to a more reasonable level for the pace you wish to go. Being diverse in your training right now will also keep you mentally fresh and you won’t be sick of it by the time fall rolls around and it is more important to get in ski specific workouts. Hope this helps out and keep having fun out there!