Pre-Race Prep

by Reid Goble, SkiPost

 

One thing I have learned a lot more about this year and gotten better at is how I prepare for a ski race. Beyond the hours of training and prep you do all year long, there are a lot of small, but important things that can maximize your success for race day in the week before or even minutes before you cross the start line. If overlooked, it can mean all the time and prep you have done all year long means nothing. This is something I have especially put a lot of emphasis on this year as I felt like I was not great on it in the past. I honestly didn’t have a consistent race day warm-up routine or plan for how I was going to prep. This year with help from coaches and teammates, I have really dialed it in and have a plan for what I am going to do the week before and morning of race-day.

Before I get started on pre-race warm-up, there are a lot of other things off the skis you can do to optimize performance. In my opinion one of the most important things is sleep. Obviously, the ideal athlete would always be on top of their sleep schedule and be fully rested every day, but this just isn’t a reality with everyday stresses and things such as travel. One habit I try to very hard to do is even when I do not have any races coming up anytime soon, I still don’t let myself change my ideal sleep schedule I would use before races, such as thinking “I can stay up late for these few nights”. As we all know it is easy to throw off our schedule, making it hard to get good rest when the time comes that it is very important. The most common major disruption to my sleep is travel. I think it is smart to always expect a travel day (especially air travel) to be many hours longer than planned with potentially little to no good sleep. Although this is a bummer, I have gotten good at never being stressed about this since if you take advantage of sleeping well when you can (such as the week leading up to travel), you can afford that one bad day. This is the exact same for the night before a race. Whether it’s because you’re in a new bed, anxious for a race and just can’t sleep. The rest you have gotten leading up to that is way more important than that one night and you shouldn’t even have to worry about it on race morning! Sleep and rest are incredibly important, but never something to stress about if you are consistent and smart about.

The other major thing you can do off-skis to optimize performance is food and hydration. Beyond just eating pasta the night before a race (a skiers favorite meal), it is important, like sleep, to be fueling your body well the week before a race. It is actually proven that the meal two nights before your race is even more important, so don’t just focus on that night before meal. I also like to make sure I always eat a snack right after every workout I do as soon as possible, even if it is cheap and small (I bring a banana to almost every workout). Getting back to the night before the race, my coach Andy Newell always urges us to eat a protein loaded snack before we go to bed. His favorite is a bowl of cereal. Hydration goes along the same lines, it’s not just what you do on race day, the days before are just important.

When it comes to actually putting the skis on there are many things to consider for pre-race. As a general guideline one should do some sort of intensity workout a day or two before race day to make sure the body is awake, but what you do and when you do it can change. My preference is usually to do intensity the day before the race. For this, a standard pre race I would do is 3-4min L2/L3, then 3-4min L3, and then another 3-4min L4, with plenty of rest in-between where I fully recover. Sometimes for a variety of reasons, such as conditions and timing, I may do intervals two days before. I like to make this interval set a little longer since I’ll have an easier day between this and my race. I usually do 2x8min L3, 2x3min L4, and 5x30sec speeds, focusing on some technical parts of the course. I’ll then keep the next day easy and maybe throw in a few quick speeds. Again, this is what I like to do and everyone is different so it is good to experiment around with something like this and find what works for you.

On race morning, as you know it is super vital to get in a good warm-up. For something like a sprint race I actually do a longer warm up and get in a decent amount of L4 so I am ready to go as fast as I can for the qualifier. An example would be at least 20min easy skiing and then 5min L2/L3, 5min L3, then 2x4min L4, with full recovery in-between these sets. I try to get this done with 15min left before the start and then I’ll do some short sprints in the starting pen on my feet and fire my muscles up with things like squats, jumping, pushups, etc. For a distance race, my warm-up is very similar, but I’ll do a little more L3 (such as 2x8min L3), then some shorter L4 intervals (such as 2-3x2min). Of course, it is important to realize that race morning doesn’t always go as planned and I often must change this routine if I am running short on time or races get delayed. Another thing I always do for races is take some caffeine about 30min before the start, my favorite is Science in Sport’s isotonic caffeine gel packs.

Stay warm,

Reid

How to Taper and Rest Between Marathons

Q: I’m an avid ski racer and most of my races throughout the ski season are marathon (~50km) skate races. This season I have been thinking more about how to properly taper and rest between marathons without loosing fitness. For example, ski the Birkie, followed by a two week break until the Yellowstone Rendezvous. I’m hoping to feel fast at the Birkie, and peak for the Rendezvous. What types of workouts do you recommend to make sure I recover from the Birkie but peak (instead of loosing fitness) going in to the Rendezvous? I’m very comfortable with interval training, but am not sure what types of intervals (duration/ intensity/ reps), if any, are appropriate in this late phase of the season.

 

A: First of all I am impressed that you are prioritizing a race in your schedule. It is easy to want to do well in every race you enter, but prioritizing one race each month can help you to have a truly great race rather than a bunch of so-so races.

I would recommend maintaining your average training load up until Tuesday before the Birkie, then I would recommend reducing your training load by 50 percent for the next three days.

Keep the training frequency the same, but just make each workout a lower load. If you normally ski for an hour, just go for a half hour. If you normally do 6*4 minute intervals, do 3*4 minute intervals. Maintaining the workout frequency will help you to still get the hormonal and physiological benefits of the training but the lower load should help you feel good and fresh for the race.

You will not loose any fitness over three easy days. After the Birkie, feel free to take a day or two off, or better yet get out for a super slow recovery ski, walk, bike, yoga or jog. Keep the intensity super low as the purpose of any training is to help your body recover. Hopefully by Wednesday you will begin to feel good again. Resume your normal training load and frequency.  Since you have already had a hard race effort, I would recommend threshold interval workouts with burst of speed thrown in. A favorite of mine is 6*8 minutes at level 3 with 2*15 second bursts in each interval. The focus of this workout is helping your body to buffer lactic acid and to improve your comfort and technique at speed. If you still feel the load from the Birkie, just do easy distance skiing with 10 x 8-12 second bursts of speed at 10 km race pace. Give yourself a good 2-3 minutes between each burst. The entire week of your target race drop your training load by 50%. If you get that restless feeling, that is a good thing, just save that energy for the race.

March is one of the most fun times to be a skier as you can essentially rest and race.

Good luck,

Brian Gregg
www.facebook.com/GoTeamGregg


Brian Gregg

Are specific races included in the training plans?

The plans are written to be a blueprint and a guide for your training, and not written knowing in advance what event priorities you may have with training in any given week or month.

With that said, – over the last couple of years we have received a fair amount of feedback regarding target races/weeks.

Nearly all who responded indicated that the Birkie/Korte (in the US) was their primary focus event. Others were looking to “tune up” and race well at either the Noque, Boulder Mountain Tour, or the City of Lakes.

With this information:

– We have planned to work back 6 weeks from the Birkie (end of February) to be our best. 

– Five (5) weeks out would be a big volume training week for the winter, weeks 6 and 4 would be stout medium weeks for the winter and can include some tune up events.

– Weeks 3, 2 and race week we would gradually cut back the training volumes and let people get sharp, rested and fresh.


We also had a few responses that target races are World Masters or the Iceland Marathon. If this is your program, train more weeks of our lead up to the last 6 weeks in either 3 or 4 week blocks (3 week going Medium volume, Big Volume, Recovery, or 4 weeks going Small, Medium, Big, Recovery) and then take our last 6 weeks and put it in so our Birkie/Korte Week lines up with your events.

Below are extra thoughts on tapering and peaking: https://cxcacademy.wordpress.com/?s=taper

Hope this helps!

Alterations to Training and Racing in Light of COVID-19

Q: There may or may not be races this winter. World Masters are definitely cancelled and other regional events are in the air. That’s fine, I will look to the following 2021/22 season for serious racing and take this unique opportunity to focus on continuing progressive training through a full 5-6 month ski season. I will race any events that do arise but just a rest day or so prep, no peaking plans. Would you suggest any alterations to the upcoming CXC training plan over the winter with this objective in mind?

A: Our training plan is generally set up to race on and off throughout the winter maintaining our base and building speed on snow, with a 5 week focus on the American Birkibeiner, since that is the event so many of our athletes focus on. Our understanding is that the Birkie is planning to offer some sort of festival/challenge/competition the last weekend in February, so we will continue that focus. If once we get to mid February and we start dropping our volume, you want to skip the 2-3 week taper we have going on and instead want to keep enjoying a higher training volume, go for it and look back to January for weekly ideas. At the same time, some time in April/May, I think you will want to take some recovery time and recover from a good year of training prior to jumping into your 2021-2022 training.  

Thoughts on Tapering and Peaking

 

by Joe Haggenmiller

There are many approaches to peaking for the big race. Personally, I think it is better to keep it simple and not go searching for the “secret”. My approach to “peaking” or “tapering” is not to do some secret voodoo style major adjustments to an athlete’s training plan. It is more about continuing to train consistently and work on the little details to be at your best – eating right, sleeping well, promoting recovery, reducing outside stresses, etc. The adjustment for me is to make sure to focus a bit more on rest and recovery leading into the big race(s).

A volume drop to about 80-90% of a normal small/recovery week in the week or 10 days prior to the big day is also in order, unless past experience tells you that you need to continue to do regular small weeks of training to not feel stale.

I also like to do prescribe some intensity workouts that are a bit shorter in duration with a slightly higher skiing velocity than goal race pace and plenty of rest. This should have an athlete feeling technically good at speed, may be even finding a new gear for your tool box, in the week or 2 before the big race and help an athlete feel sharp and confident.

More than finding the best ever secret intensity session before your big race to perform some magic, I think it is important to feel confident you have prepared well for the last year (or months if you got a late start) and you can come in with a little swagger from the preparation you have done.

If you haven’t done the proper preparation work in the weeks, months and years leading up to the event, there is no rabbit to pull out of the hat from the training or nutrition standpoint in the last days before the event. The best you might be able to do is invest in upgrading to some top of the line well fitting skis, poles or boots a few weeks out and then hoping your race waxer knocks it out of the park with your wax job – both risks that are better off avoided by good consistent preparation.

 

Joe Haggenmiller | Sport Development Director
U.S. Ski & Snowboard – Central Cross Country Skiing

E-Mail: joe.h@cxcskiing.org
Web: www.cxcskiing.org
FB: www.facebook.com/cxcskiing

Pre-race jitters – fight or flight!

Last week I was talking to my future brother-in-law, Nick, (yay!) about some of my nerves going into the season. As a marathon runner looking to qualify for the Olympic Trials, Nick understands the mental stress behind racing. He is also a psychologist and had some pretty insightful things to say. Nick explained to me that the emotions fear and excitement are caused by the same hormones in your body. Cortisol and adrenaline are both in affect and it’s up to your brain to determine whether you perceive these hormonal signals as fear or excitement. In addition, there is sympathetic nervous system arousal which causes the “fight or flight” mode. Nick used an example of being on a roller coaster. Half of the people on the roller coaster are thinking about how fun it is to go up and down and all around and perceive the experience as excitement. Meanwhile, the other half of the people on the roller coaster are thinking about how the cart could go flying off the track at any second and everyone could plummet to their deaths. These people are obviously taking the cortisol and adrenaline and turning them into fear.

Nick then explained to me that if you take the anchor, which in this case is the image of riding on a roller coaster, and you picture it going well, then you can switch the way your brain perceives the cortisol and adrenaline. For example, if the people fearing the roller coaster were to imagine themselves ahead of time on the ride and say out loud, “I’m excited. I’m excited. I’m excited!” Then, they can actually change the feeling of fear into excitement. He claims I can do the same thing for my racing!

Gotta get back into that fighting mode (PC: Jackie Schneider)

​I’m not saying that I’m afraid to race, or that I am not excited about the season. But I think my body is taking on both of these emotions right now and it’s causing a little bit of craziness inside my brain. So, I decided to take Nick’s advice and have been picturing myself in my first race this weekend. I’ve been imagining myself skiing really hard up and over the top of the hill and have been saying OUT LOUD, “I’m excited, I’m excited, I’m excited!” The first time I did this and actually said these words out loud, I got this tingly feeling all over my body! Nick told me that I can build this image each time I think about it by adding more details. My parents are on the side of the hill cheering, I’m catching the girl in front of me, my fingers are really cold, but I ignore that feeling and keep on going… all of a sudden my sympathetic nervous system is ready to switch from flight mode and into fight mode!

Source: https://www.asonnesyn.com/blog/pre-race-jitters-fight-or-flight

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

 

The Future of Cross-Country Skiing and Proposals how to Streamline the Competition Program

Pierre Mignerey, FIS Cross-Country Race Director gave an interview to www.xc-ski.de about the future of Cross-Country Skiing and proposals how to streamline the competition programme.

Pierre, there are rumours that there will be major changes to the competition formats after this season. First of all, who drew up these proposals and what was the motivation for thinking about changing the competition formats?

First of all, this is not a new topic. The Cross-Country family has been discussing race formats for a few years now. The world is constantly changing and every human activity needs to adapt. Cross-Country Skiing like all the other sports needs to take into consideration the expectations of all the stakeholders and it is now time for us to make some decisions. We can not only speak for ever.

That being said I don’t know if there will be any changes and how far we will go. At the moment there is a proposal on the table as the basis for future discussions and evaluations. In any case there will not be any “revolution”. Our goal is to streamline and simplify our race program. We want to use our traditions as a base and to make Cross-Country Skiing as attractive as possible for all the key stakeholders (fans, TV viewers, television, sponsors), as well for kids and young skiers.

To answer your question, the current proposal was drawn up by a small group of FIS and FIS Marketing Agency staff after discussions with many different stakeholders over the last two years.

One suggestion is to remove the skiathlon from the programme at major events and replace it with a 30/15km pursuit start. The pursuit event would be based on the results from the individual 10/15km competitions. Isn’t this a step backwards if you cut one of the most innovative formats from recent years?

I don’t think that this is a step backwards and I don’t think that this is the right question. Our proposal is based on a variety of analysis, concrete facts and as much as possible on impartial arguments. It is definitely not easy, sometimes even painful to remove a format from the programme. But at the same time it is necessary. If we want to change our sport, we cannot always create new formats, implement new distances, new elements in our World Cup calendar. We are convinced that Cross-Country Skiing must be easy to understand for the largest possible audience.

What are the special reasons for thinking about cutting the skiathlon?

We have tried to look at the plus & minus for each format and our conclusion is that in the case of Skiathlon the balance tilts more on the minus side. Skiathlon was introduced to bring both techniques together in one race and to create lead changes, race drama after the ski exchange. The concept is good but it doesn’t really work and for the most part of the skiathlon has become nothing more than a Mass Start with a ski exchange in the middle of the race.

Skiathlon is very demanding in terms of infrastructure, courses, stadium and snow: we need two separate course systems, a wide and long stadium and pit boxes. The consequences are that only a few venues can properly organise this format and that we have huge technical requirements, which are used only for one race format.

Skiathlon is also demanding in terms of skiing equipment and waxing with some expensive consequences for skiers and teams: specific equipment, more wax, more testing and more staff. This is probably even a bigger problem at the junior and COC level.
At the World Cup level we have to also mention the extensive TV production costs generated by the necessity of having 2 separate course systems, we need to have more TV cameras, more manpower, etc.

Additionally, this format is properly working only once a year at the WSC or OWG. Skiathlon doesn’t really fit in the World Cup program and we strongly believe that the title events should be the base of the World Cup program with the exception of the 30-50km. Skiathlon is also almost not used anymore at lower level such as COC or national competitions.

So to summarize there is a long list of “minus” for this format and it is pretty clear that the “price/quality” ratio is not high enough to maintain skiathlon in our race programme. In a world more and more focused on sustainability and cost control we believe that it is important to take into consideration also the environmental and financial aspects.

A second major break could be the cut of classic sprints. What are the considerations behind this possible step?

There are several arguments behind this proposal, which is based on detailed analysis.

First of all, we strongly believe that Cross-Country Skiing needs to be, and can be more attractive for kids and young athletes. Today there are a lot of attractive formats such as XCX (Cross-Country Cross) organised for the kids in many countries. But what we have been missing is the link between these formats and competitions at the top level. We need a better connection between what kids do, what they can see on TV and what their stars are doing. We all know the power of YouTube, social media and TV pictures. Some people would like to introduce the XCX as a new format.

From our point of view it makes more sense to integrate some technical elements in our existing sprint competitions. We are not speaking here about artificial elements. We would like to play more with the terrain, with waves, banked curves or even small jumps. Obviously it is almost impossible to implement these elements in classic technique.

In addition, the evolution of classic technique is each year creating challenges in sprint competitions. On the World Cup level we still have a few good sprint classic courses but what about competitions at the lower level, for kids and youth? It has become more and more difficult to guarantee fair competitions. One of our main principles is that Cross-Country Skiing must not become a sport where the Jury decides the final result.

It is also a fact that sprint courses are basically designed around a stadium with 1 or 2 uphills. It is a challenge to find proper climbs not far away from our stadiums. The consequence is that classic sprints will be more and more only double poling with running on skis. Is it really where we want to go? Is it the best way to promote the coexistence of both techniques and especially of diagonal technique? We don’t think so.

Finally, we believe that in terms of idea of a sprint means speed. And when you want to go fast, you are using the fastest possible technique and that’s skating.

Isn’t this the beginning of the end of classic technique?

We strongly believe that having two techniques is a part of our DNA and that our race programme should include both techniques. But I’m convinced that the best possible way to preserve and promote the diagonal technique but also as a consequence for the classic technique is to concentrate our efforts on the most favourable formats and the most favourable venues. Maybe less classic technique but higher quality will be much more efficient than a dogmatic 50-50% rule in all formats and/or all seasons, all competition levels.

If one day we need to stop competing in classic technique, I don’t think that it will be right to say that the beginning of the end was when we have decided to race sprints only in free technique.
Yes, we are facing some challenges with classic technique. I think the correct description would be the disappearance of diagonal technique, but we need to choose a pragmatic approach without dogma.

Proposal three is the introduction of a mixed team sprint. Does this mean that you cut a medal event (if there’s only one team sprint and not for both sexes separate) at the Olympics?

The opportunity to replace the team sprint per gender with a mixed team sprint needs further evaluation.
Yes, the Cross-Country discipline would lose one medal event at Olympics and World Championships, however, our athletes will not lose anything. Each individual athlete would still have the same potential number of medals.

The biggest challenge would be on the World Cup level. Having only one relatively short event on competition day would create challenges for the organizers and their financial income. One competition means less income. One race means also a shorter entertainment platform for the spectators on site.

On the other hand, mixed team events have become very popular and might help more nations to participate and have good results. As you know, having more nations participating and competitive at the highest level is one of the key goals for the future.

The decision must take all these aspects into consideration but if we collectively believe that our discipline will have a benefit with a mixed team sprint, I don’t think that we should be afraid to lose a medal.

When will the proposals be decided and who is involved in the decision?

The current proposal will serve as the base for further discussions during the upcoming winter. We also need to discuss it with the International Olympic Committee and the World Ski Championships rights holder and other stakeholders. Then we will see what should be adjusted and how flexible we can be and then establish a final proposal for the next FIS Congress. Implementation of any potential changes would take some time. Nothing will be immediate.

How to Peak for Racing for Beginners

by Karmen M. Whitham, CXC Skiing

My suggestion for any relatively new cross-country ski racer is to build the endurance foundation first, with A LOT of true level 1 volume. The time to do this is in the spring and summer and then come back to it for a short period after the fall intensity block. This allows you to put in major hours on snow and absorb the work you’ve just put in from your intensity training. Paying attention to the aerobic foundation is paramount at the beginning of your skiing career because it builds a foundation of fitness that acts as a spring board for anaerobic training. It’s the difference between building a house with a cement basement “foundation” vs. just sticking some plywood and drywall into the dirt. You’ve got to have something to keep you strong and stable.

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There is a caveat of losing speed however. Therefore, it is advised that you add simple speeds (fartlek) to your distance workouts. For junior athletes I like to surprise them with 15-30 second sprints during distance or over-distance workouts. I like this method because it also creates playful competition which reminds us why we love to mess around on skis in the first place. Alternatively, you can strategically plan sprints into distance workouts, for example, add 5×30 second speeds (take a minute between each to get the heart rate back to level 1) in the middle of a 2- hour ski or run.

If you keep distance workouts (with speeds) as the foundation of your training (4-6x a week) and add level 3 and level 4 workouts 2-3 times a week, you should not jeopardize your endurance capacity. In training blocks where level 3 and 4 are the primary focus, make sure you are still doing one over-distance workout per week. These workouts are designed to be at true level 1 in order to build mitochondria for oxygen transportation thus maintaining your aerobic fitness.

As for sprint workouts that are effective, I’m a big fan of “mock-sprint days” where you have a qualifier, and three more sprints after that with about 5-minutes of active recovery between them. Not only does this help build anaerobic fitness it also sets an environment for mental preparedness that will get the athlete ready for sprint competitions. Otherwise 1-km relays, time-based ladders, and distance based ladders are other ways to construct sprint, level 4 and level 3 intervals to promote anaerobic capabilities.

To train to be a cross-country skier means you are creating fitness in every aspect of human performance. You should think of training as an interplay between strengthening the aerobic and anaerobic systems as opposed to training either exclusively. That said, you may shift your attention to simply emphasize one system over the other, to coincide with the goal of your respective training period.