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).

Determinants of Performance

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Vo2 Max. Maximum oxygen uptake (Engine Size – how big is the engine?) This is the ability of the circulatory system to transport oxygen and of the muscular system to extract and use oxygen. Vo2 max is an excellent indicator of aerobic fitness, but a poor predictor of performance within a homogenous group of athletes.

Lactate Threshold. (RPM’s – how high can you race the engine?) Lactate threshold (LT) is the ability to continue using the aerobic system to replenish ATP at high speeds. It is expressed as power output at LT, velocity of LT or percentage of Vo2 max. LT is one of the best predictors of endurance performance.

Economy. (MPG – how many miles per gallon does your engine get?) Economy can be defined as the amount of oxygen that it takes for an individual athlete to go a given speed. More economical athletes will have a lower oxygen cost at a given pace relative to a less economical athlete. This can explain why an athlete with a lower VO2 max can still outperform an athlete with a higher VO2 max. Economy is one of the best predictors of endurance performance.

Strength. Strength is defined as the maximum force that can be produced in one all out effort. Muscular endurance is related to being able to maintain a submaximal force repeatedly.

Source: SkiPost

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Fall-Winter Season Intervals?

Q: Throughout the summer I’ve focused on Lactate Threshold interval training. What is the best way to continue the interval training as we transition into the fall/winter season? Should the focus go towards VO2 Max intervals? Should the overall “on” time decrease or maintain steady?

A: This is a very complex question to answer due to the confusion around the definition of lactate threshold, its purported benefits and costs of this method of training when contrasted to the potential benefits of other forms of training. In my opinion many of the often stated benefits of this type of training are not amply proven in science.

In my experience and in the majority of current research what we once thought of as the benefits of this type of training are in question. I believe there is some value in this sort of training in early periods of the training year, and for long distance races where the primary benefit of this type of training is on efficiency or economy. While there is no doubt that virtually all training can have some positive effects for endurance sports we should consider a cost benefit analysis. In other words minimizing the cost and maximizing the benefits. In the case of threshold training due to the required duration of training and with less than optimal benefits the cost is quite high.


Jim Galanes of Galanes Sports Systems

So the time to start with VO2Max Intervals is now. I recommend that you start conservatively, one session per week to ten days depending on fitness level and not more than 5-10 minutes of hard work time. Then over time you can first increase the volume of intervals in each session, followed by increasing the number of sessions. We have also found that for those not used  to doing these type of intervals it can be a bit easier to learn how to do them effectively by starting short, 30 seconds on/30 seconds off and gradually building the duration over several weeks. It is important that for these intervals to be optimally effective that they have to be done very hard, 90-95% of maximum heart rate. You heart rate will not get to that level as it takes the heart rate and oxygen deliver systems some time to ramp up to meet the energy demands. A good pacing strategy for these it is think of doing these at a pace you could sustain for 4-6 minutes and after a couple of minutes of intervals you will be right in the desired range.

Jim Galanes


Skier Self Analysis

Place a check in the box on the right that best agrees with the statement on the left.

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Checks moving from upper left to lower right indicate strength in Endurance and a weakness in speed. Checks moving from upper right to lower left indicate strength in speed and a weakness in endurance. Checks pushed right in the middle of the graph indicate a high-end fitness weakness, such as low VO2, lactate threshold and/or poor economy. Only testing at a qualified lab can determine where your physiological weakness in this zone lies.

You can gain some beneficial information from analyzing your performances in your five best and five worst races. See if you can find trends that might help indicate your strengths, weaknesses (area’s of greatest opportunity) with regard to fitness, strategy, diet and your race and pre-race habits. Things to consider are the race distance, technique, individual or mass start, snow and weather conditions (cold/warm, soft/hard tracks), course type (hilly, flat, steep, gradual), strategy (start hard/easy, attack the hills or ski an even tempo), nutrition (general, morning of, day before), other (travel, sleep, emotional state, race size.)



Will Max Heart Rate Go Up When Doing Level 4 Week After Week?

The answer to this is generally yes but not always. Ultimately, the most important aspect is that your pace is improving at the same heart rate. Also, you should find that you can maintain that intensity longer as time goes by. One’s max HR changes with time and fitness, so the lactate / VO2 testing and approximation to race paces for intensity approximation is more valuable than simply HR.

None the less, yes, you should find yourself maintaining high HRs for longer periods of time. The goal is to increase your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. This means that you can sustain higher percentages of your max heart rate – whatever number your personal max HR is.

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Substituting Cycling for Skiing During Training and Competition

I used to compete in a few mountain biking, triathlon and trail running race events in the summer months when I was a ski competitor. Each competitor will find balance between competition and training. Competition is an opportunity to test how well training is progressing as well as provide opportunities to test our tactical strategies in a real race setting. I found through experience that there is a balance that one must find between competition and training. Maintaining peak race fitness unfortunately can not be done all year long, so preparation, pre-competition and competition phases are necessary to develop, identify and plan out in your training.

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Bryan Fish, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Development Coach

My primary sport was always skiing and hence the summer events (namely mountain races and trail running races) were means of breaking up the standard mode of ski training to keep things fresh both mentally and physically.

First, it’s critical to set priorities. Is cyclo-cross going to become your primary sport in that period or is cyclo-cross a means of training for cross country skiing? The difference here will be the number of work outs that will be substituted from ski training to cycling. There are not right or wrong priorities here, but it is important to set what your priorities are for the upcoming year.

Secondly, timeline is also important. What are the dates cyclo-cross competitions will take place? Cyclo-cross is September through mid-December here in the US and Cyclo-Cross World Cup is Sept-early February.

It is important to understand what systems of the body are trained similar and different when evaluating cycling and skiing. There are a few key ideas to keep in mind as you substitute cycling for skiing during some of your training and competition.

The cardio-respiratory system is the mechanism that transports blood, oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles. This system is a pump and is increased and decreased with effort. This system is not sport specific and hence going hard on the bike and hard on skis is not recognized by the cardio-respiratory system. Hard is hard regardless of the sport. This is important as it relates to substitution of training modality.

The peripheral skeletal system does recognize differences in modality of training. The movements and muscles (motor units) recruited for cycling versus skiing are different. It is also important to understand how motor units are recruited. The body recruits slow twitch (aerobic) at low intensity and an additional contribution of fast twitch (anaerobic) motor units are added as intensity increases. The percentage of fast twitch to slow twitch motor unit recruitment continuously increases as intensity increases. Therefore we need to train both low intensity and high intensity for both sports. The priority will go to the sport you are presently participating in.

Following the lines of point number 2, cycling is generally non-weight bearing while skiing is a weight-bearing activity. This means that a majority of the time is spent in the bike saddle. The core and particularly lower abdominals and hips are worked differently in the saddle versus activities that are weight-bearing (standing up) like running and skiing. Cyclo-cross has more weight-bearing activities due to the dismounting, running and pedaling out of the saddle. In short, the movements and muscles (motor units) recruited are somewhat different.

Competition duration. Race time is a critical aspect to look at as well. 5km running races are like max VO2 efforts while most cycling races are over an hour (and often 1.5 to 3 hours) long. Bike racing requires a strong emphasis on threshold while a 5 km running race places the emphasis on max VO2. Substituting threshold training with cycling efforts is important.

Two efforts that are critical to substitute skiing for cycling is the threshold training and over distance training. Cycling events require a high demand on the aerobic system and threshold. It is important to get in continuous hours both at low and high intensity on the bike.

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Bryan Fish, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Development Coach


Summer Training – The Build Up

Cross-country skiing is a primarily aerobic sport. The best way to develop your aerobic system, and even your higher end fitness (V02 max and lactate threshold) is with easy to moderate (60 to 80% of max heart-rate) intensity distance (45min to 2hr) sessions. This type of training comprise about 80% of the training load, even for elite ski racers.

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This being true, it is also the case that the training week should be built around one to three harder training sessions. A harder training session is either a short hard session or a long easy session.

For instance many programs are built around two interval sessions and one long (3hr) easy (heart rate around 70% of max) session. Your body adapts to a certain stress after 4 to 6 weeks and so if you don’t change that stress, doing what you have already been doing will only serve to maintain what you have built.

It can be helpful to look toward your racing season and plan backward. You should end up with a plan that builds toward the racing season. The basic idea is to build your aerobic base over the summer, work on more race like aerobic and anaerobic fitness in the fall and early winter, and race fast in the winter.

In the summer then you would consider doing mostly easy to moderate intensity workouts with one session a week of harder training, and some strength training. As the summer/fall/early winter goes on you extend the duration of the workouts gradually, making sure you get lots of rest so that you are getting stronger and feeling better rather then getting more and more tired as the summer goes on.

There is a lot of training material out there, but this is the basic idea: training breaks the body down, rest builds it back to a level higher than before training. Remember REST builds the body up.