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

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.

Turning Strength into Speed on Skis

Q: When I’m roller skiing with others I find that if I fall behind and need to catch-up I can’t. It isn’t because I’m at 100% exertion I just don’t seem to be able to convert my strength into speed. What should I do? Are there sprint exercises I need to do?

A: Indeed turning your strength into speed on skis is a product of becoming more efficient at higher heart-rates. Becoming more efficient on skis means having higher velocity between your threshold heart-rate (Level 3) and your VO2max heart-rate (Levels 4 and 5).

To work on your velocity at these heart-rates, practice longer Level 3 intervals (between 4-8 minutes per repetition) and shorter but more frequent Level 4 intervals (between 2-4 minutes). You should limit intervals to 1-3 times per week on your moderate or harder training weeks.

Another tip to creating higher velocity on skis is to throw in “pick-ups” throughout your distance sessions. A pick-up is a 30-second speed where you start from Level 1 and slowly accelerate so that during the last 10-8 seconds you are at your top-sprint speed. These are great physically and mentally as they teach the body the difference between going fast and going as fast as you can gradually.


 

Ski Turnover Speed vs. Glide in Skiing

Q: My question concerns foot (ski?) turnover speed. As a long time runner, one of the areas I often work on is maintaining a high foot turnover, which is important whether running sprints or a marathon. I’ve read that one of the reasons Usain Bolt is as fast as he is because, even though he is relatively tall for a sprinter and therefore has a longer stride length, his turnover is the same as or better than his shorter-limbed competitors. Therefore, even though his foot speed is roughly equivalent to the competition, each stride is longer so he travels further at the same turnover rate.

How does one approach turnover speed versus glide in skiing? Is there a point where moving your feet or skis too quickly reduces ones glide length to the extent it reduces efficiency or speed?

John H.

 

A: In short, yes. There is a point where moving your skis too quickly reduces glide efficiency. This is often why coaches advise against “coming off the ski too quickly”. In essence, you want to create enough initial power immediately prior to the glide phase so that you can ride the ski with the remains of that initial impulse of energy. Executing that preliminary power phase too timidly results in a dead ski, which is often over-compensated by transferring your bodyweight over to the other ski quickly. Pretty soon you are going from foot-to-foot like a hot potato without allowing yourself to travel along on-top of the ski with minimal effort. Of course, there are times when it becomes more efficient to increase your tempo, transferring your bodyweight more rapidly, such as on a steep uphill.

On the flip side, you don’t want to over-extend your glide. Simply put, you want to avoid letting the glide of your ski become too slow before you initiate the next stride, a bit of momentum needs to remain. The trick is in the timing; after enough practice you will gain an intuitive sense for what the best turnover rate is according to terrain and conditions.

Good luck, happy trails!

Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach
karmen.whitham@cxcskiing.org


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Specific Speed Workout Pick-Ups

Specific Speed – Using terrain or resistance bands to aid a skier with building speed. This will create an “over speed” aspect which will help the skier on a neuromuscular level.

Specific Speed Workout Pick-Ups – Pick-ups done during specific speed workout. They’re usually 20 seconds in duration or shorter, and done in Level 5. There is really no particular set measurement value for Level 5 – it’s considered ‘maximum effort’, so whatever is your max you can go at – that’s your Level 5.

Choose before hand how you will be performing Level 5 spurts (diagonal stride, double pole, kick double pole, V1, V2 or V2 Alternate). Use one type of technique for effective and specific focus. You can also alternate going fast by moving your limbs at the highest cadence or by producing powerful movements.

As you get deeper into this workout, assess your tempo and speed. If you notice that the speed is dropping, you should allow a little longer recovery between each pick-up. The main focus of this workout is pace, so make sure you recover after each speed. Don’t let this workout turn into a modified Level 4 sessions.

Technique tip: bring the hands/arms back to the high position fast when doing Level 5. Up fast, then down hard and fast. The head and hands should come up together.


Speed sessions are slightly faster (Level 3/4) than basic endurance training, and 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.


Q: In the training plan it states a warm up of 13 minutes and then the speed work of 9 x 15 second pick-ups with some rest between repetitions. Does that mean that the main part of the workout lasts about 15 minutes with a total workout time of approximately 40 min?

A: Yes, it is a very light workout. The duration will increase later in the year. You can add a little more Level 1 for warm up and cool down to get it to 1hr 30 min of total time. Crisp technique, fluid and quick motion are the important elements of the speed workout and you have to be fresh to accomplish it. Finishing a workout fresh is also critical in establishing neuromuscular efficiency and that is the main reason to have it that light as well.



Alternative Methods for Speed Workouts

If rollerskiing is not an option, there are alternative methods to complete a speed session.

Running: Start in Level 1, then add a speed that is roughly 15-20 seconds. On a running track, 15-20 seconds generally equates to 100-meters. Speeds can be done on a running track for consistency, but also on uneven terrain, such as single-track trails for variety.

Biking: Similar to running, find sections of road or trail where you can integrate a 25-35 second speed, starting and finishing from Level 1. Increasing the time by about 10 seconds when biking is ideal considering that on a bike there is less impact, and the heart rate generally takes longer to increase while biking relative to rollerskiing or running.

I have problems getting my heart rate up to Level 5 during short intervals.

When you are doing short intervals (15 to 25 seconds), it is not often you will be able to get your heart rate up to Level 5.

Level 5 is the highest intensity possible, and more refers to the pace you should be targeting, which is a full out sprint. When done properly, you simply cannot sustain the speed and turnover for more than 20 seconds. With any intensity, heart rate lags behind. It is okay and actually common to not reach that max heart rate in that short period of time. One of the few times that you will actually reach that max heart rate would be at the end of a race or in an interval session that accelerates to a higher intensity at the tail end of the interval.

Focus in on your anaerobic speed, which kicks in after your aerobic systems cannot supply ample oxygen. The heart rate should not be the focus of your Level 5 speeds.

Typically, we tend to lean towards Level 5 intervals from 15 to 25 seconds and around 90 seconds to 120 seconds for rest. That way you can get your heart rate up sufficiently and also allow for full recovery in between repetitions.

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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.

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: 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.

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.

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.

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 20 second bursts of speed into your endurance training.