Pete is the head coach of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team, former Olympian and National Champion.
The World Cup is a variety show. There is consistency from team-to-team on only a few matters. Everyone trains a lot. That is the constant from team-to-team.
Some train quite slowly, some seem to be doing hard workouts nearly everyday, most practice some balance of hard and easy, but everyone trains a lot. And everyone rests a lot.
Some drink a social beer in the evenings. Some disappear into their rooms. But everyone gets a lot of down time.
Finally, there is generally an air of fun and enjoyment around the races. Those are the big constants. Little else is as predictable.
The lesson - make sure the big stuff is taken care of. This is certainly no less true when it comes to master athletes who have more limits on their time.
It also seems especially true with athletes who too often get caught up in minor details, secret methods and entertaining technique discussion.
The big stuff:
Train a lot, and well. Rest a lot, and well. Eat well. Take care of your equipment. Learn technique fundamentals. Have fun.
What does training a lot and training well mean? For World Cup racers or skiers wishing to race on the world cup it means many years doing quality ski training for over 700 hours a year.
But what does it mean for the master athlete? For elite athletes training volume depends on their level of development not on the time available.
An elite racer must make the time to do what must be done but must also make sure that each moment of that time is well planned and aimed toward a specific outcome.
For Master athletes this is also the case. You should not train as much as you can. You should train only as much as is necessary to accomplish your goals, and since time is an issue it is even more important to make all training as focused as possible.
I cannot say how focused the majority of other nations are in their workouts. The weight room is an example of this.
Some nations seem to have a strict plan that is followed with great focus. That plan differs greatly from nation-to-nation and even from athlete-to-athlete.
Some lift heavy weights, some do nothing more than body weight exercises, while other nations seem to wander aimlessly around the weight room doing a little of this and a little of that.
The nations that I am most familiar with practice quite specific workouts that have specific goals and means to accomplish those goals.
For the US Ski Team this is quite true. We have a specific aim for all our training sessions. We have technique goals, fitness goals and psychological goals for our training sessions.
We believe in making progress in each session and that specific goal orientation within those sessions is the way to make daily progress. For us this has been key to our World Cup podium results.
When it comes to technique it is easy to find examples of many different schools of technique. There are a lot of different styles of technique, but within most of these styles there are some fundamental similarities.
The goal of technique work is to go fast. Going fast means applying power to the skis and poles in such as a way as to propel the skier down the track as fast as possible for the distance of the race.
This basically means a body position that is relatively forward oriented, largely supported by the skeletal system, and which enables the skier to apply force to the skis and poles.
Within this broad framework there are many solutions, some which seem more sound or better than others. Some, while seeming ineffective or inefficient do allow if not support fast skiing.
We on the US Ski Team certainly subscribe to a theory of technique and it is the theory we coach and practice. For details on it see our comprehensive technique DVD at: http://shop.usskiteam.com/store/product.php?productid=16452&cat=105&page=1.
But even the practice of “USST technique” must be adapted by the individual athlete and will take on its own style.
Equipment care is something that receives a lot of attention.
On the world cup we consider it important to keep a layer of wax on the skis when they are not in use. We try to keep things fairly simple by having as few skis as possible in each skier’s fleet.
Poles and skis are well protected for travel and in storage and are kept in race condition. Otherwise it is only a matter of using your equipment, not obsessing over it.
Rest is the final major component of ski racing. World Cup athletes must balance a heavy travel schedule with training, racing and resting as well as some family, social and perhaps even some work.
Master athletes must balance a high load of activity as well.
The keys are maintaining good hydration, eating enough in general, eating healthy foods and a balanced diet specifically and getting plenty of sleep. Should any of these suffer much or last for more than a day or so, then the training must reflect this.
When these basics are taken care of then some of the details of training, technique and rest should be investigated and implemented. But, too often the cart and horse are tangled up and small details get in the way of doing the important things first.
Train well, rest well, get the fundamentals down, take care of your gear and have fun. Just like the World Cup.
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