Contributing Editor for The Master Skier
Justin is a member of the U.S. Ski Team and one of their strongest skiers. Justin is from Andover, New Hampshire
I made a major shift in the way I think about ski training last year. The actual changes might be hard to detect for someone looking through my log – the shift was more in approach than in the actual workouts I do. But I believe the results I had last season were a direct result of my change in approach.
- For years, I looked at training in the same way a majority of skiers do: a lot of easy training and some hard training. This might be accurate to a point, but this thinking led me to a set of priorities which, while common, is unhelpful. Basically my training priorities were: distance, then intervals, then other stuff.
The set of priorities that led me to the best results of my career are quite different and more complicated. I list them here, not in order of how directly they translate to fast skiing, but in how often I think about them in designing my training plan.
The first thing to think about when designing a training plan is rest. In order to become faster, you must train and then rest. No one would hope to get results from resting alone, but it is just as foolish to try to get results from training without adequate recovery.
Prioritizing rest means being aware of all the stresses in your life (work, family, social obligations, etc.) and organizing your training so that hard sessions occur at times when you will be able to recover effectively. It also means not trying to ?make up? a missed workout unless you are certain you will have adequate rest and recovery to make it worthwhile.
After rest, the next priority is technique.
It took me a long time to fully understand that all training is technique training. Every time you ski, ski walk, roller ski or do any remotely specific training you have two choices. You can train sloppy, inefficient, slow technique; or you can train crisp, efficient, fast technique.
There are several aspects to technique training. First, you need to learn from coaches, Master Skier articles and other sources about what good technique is.
Second, you need to work with a coach or a training partner – someone who can help you figure out what changes you need to make to your technique.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to pay attention to what your body is doing whenever you train, and work on making it better.
Every time you train with a friend, you should be paying attention to and commenting on one another’s technique. Every time you train, you should spend at least part of the workout doing technique drills, and using these drills to help you focus the rest of the time.
Another thing you should consider every single day is flexibility.
Not only does flexibility help when you are reaching for the finish line in a sprint, flexibility is the best guard against injury. For most of us, the tricky part to stretching is getting motivated.
I have found two things particularly helpful. First, I attend yoga classes once a week, so that I know I will get one day of really good stretching. Second, I have developed my own stretching routines that I do each day depending on how much time I have.
With defined routines, I can get a benefit in only five minutes, or fill 45 minutes with various stretches without repeat or boredom.
Skiing is a power-endurance sport. Achieving the power aspect of our sport requires a significant amount of strength training. We do several different strength routines focusing on core strength (abdominals, obliques, back and hips) that use a medicine ball and physioballs.
(Chris Grover has written several excellent Master Skier articles about core strength and I refer you to those for more details).
I also include spenst training under the heading of strength. Spenst training utilizes a variety of jumps, bounds and ski imitations to work on explosive power and strength in the legs.
Speed training is one of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your overall training.
By speed I mean just that – training the ability of the muscles to go fast, not the energy systems to sustain this speed.
By adding five to ten 15-second bursts of speed to a training session, with long recoveries in between, you can remind your muscles just what you are training for without adding any meaningful stresses.
The only thing easier than adding some easy speed to a workout is not adding it – which is why I am reminding you to do it right now.
Interval training is what makes you fast – there is no way around this. And thus intensity – interval training – is a very important component of any training program.
You should try to do either some sort of race or an interval workout every week – and more as you approach the races you are focusing on. But your intensity training will only help you if you recover thoroughly before and after (this is doubly true if you live and train at high altitude).
Certainly you shouldn’t avoid intervals, but make sure that you recover well afterwards so that they help you. One good interval session a week, with solid recovery before and after, is much better than two sessions with not enough rest in between.
My next priority is overdistance. Long, easy workouts are for me the most enjoyable part of ski training.
Going out once a week and training for whatever your body considers a long time helps in several ways.
If you pay attention to your technique, it can be very good for improving efficiency. It promotes capillary density. And perhaps most important, it tends to make the rest of your workouts seem shorter and thus easier.
Distance training is the last thing I consider when I plan out my training. This is not to say that I don’t do any distance training – at least three quarters of my training hours are distance or overdistance. Distance training is very important – but I rarely do it in isolation.
Distance training is used as a warm-up before intensity or even strength. It can be a setting for training technique, or speed.
I do my best to finish all of my distance workouts with at least a little stretching. And when I need to cut one workout from my week – I skip an easy distance workout, so I can keep the strength and the speed and the technique sessions that are almost certain to benefit me more.
There is one more priority that is particularly important for master skiers – fun. If your only goal in skiing is to win your age group in every race you enter, then strict adherence to a carefully prioritized training plan is crucial.
On the other hand, if you have good snow in early December, you might get more enjoyment out of skiing every day. You might not feel ready to do any intensity on snow, you might not feel like going in to a gym to do strength work, and you might be enjoying the skiing too much to worry about whether your training is ideal.
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