Contributing Editor for The Master Skier
Scott is pursuing a degree in Medicine at Tufts University. He is a former member of both the Subaru Factory Team and the US Ski Team.
This is the Race Season issue of The Master Skier and the last one published this winter.
Accordingly, it is the perfect time to look at what lies ahead in order to get ready for next ski season.
You may also want to go to the end of the article and read “Blocks of Normal Races” and “Blocks of Key Races” for ideas on how to improve your current race season.
First of all, when the season is over we should analyze what we need to improve on for next year.
Write down what your strengths and weaknesses are and how you plan to improve.
The first part of the training year starts after the last race. It is called the “Transition” or
“Recovery Phase” (Spring).
Recover from the physical, mental and emotional stresses of training and racing. Complete rest is fine, but active rest is better.
Preparation: Begin building into your modes of 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: 2 hour rollerski or run split between Level 1 & 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.
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.
Example: after building up to weight training for 5-6 weeks, include some ski specific high weight and low rep work.
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.
Example: 2x10 minutes at 5 bpm below LT with 2 minutes rest between intervals. Start with 1-2 sessions a week.
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 ten 20 second bursts of speed into your endurance training.
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.
Endurance: 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.
Example: Rollerski or run almost exclusively in Level 1.
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: 10x200 meters single pole, 10x200 meters double pole. Distance double pole session over all terrain.
Intensity: During the Pre-comp 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) 2 min, 3 min, and 5 min with equal recovery, Xs 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. Each interval should take you the same distance.
Technique and 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 x 20 seconds incorporated into an endurance session.
Pre-Comp (Early Snow)
The transition onto snow demands a decrease in training intensity because of the increased load of snow skiing. Training volume usually peaks during this phase of training.
Example: Endurance sessions strictly at Level 1. Intensity can be done on foot rather than skis.
Christmas Stars and Thanksgiving Turkeys
Skiers who do not monitor their training intensity properly during this phase often unwittingly raise the overall training load too quickly. The result is often a short-lived spike in fitness followed by a long-term decrease in race performance. Racers who peak early are known as Christmas Stars or Thanksgiving Turkeys.
Proper base and pre-competition training leads to a high level of fitness, which leads to consistent races all year long.
A properly trained skier should be able to aim at a certain block or a few blocks of races throughout the season and still compete consistently at a high level throughout the season.
Blocks of Normal Races
Endurance: Training volume must rise after a block of key races where the volume will have been lowered.
Example: 1 1/2 hour session mostly in Level 1.
Intervals: Races and interval sessions must be balanced, but intervals cannot be neglected especially early in the race season. Be careful with intervals between race weekends, especially at altitude, as it can be hard to recover.
Example: (LT) 3x7 minutes at 5 bpm over LT with 3 minutes rest. 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.
Speed: If not done systematically, must be incorporated into distance or interval work.
Specific Strength: For strength to continue to progress, specific strength must be conducted on snow as it was done on rollerskis early in the competition period.
General Strength: Circuit strength that aims to maintain max strength and power as well as a general muscular balance is important. Rollerboard can be used here and with all circuit strength.
Example: Circuit using a wide variety of body weight exercises as well as more dynamic exercises to maintain power.
Results are secondary to continued technical and fitness improvements. Example of an early race season week
Blocks of Key Races
Endurance: Training volume drops. Training frequency (number of training outings) can remain unchanged to avoid feeling stale.
Example: (frequency) lower the duration of endurance training but keep the number of sessions the same. (Duration) lower the number of sessions but keep the duration the same.
Intensity: Sharpening intervals. Fitness has been gained; intervals now are for feeling sharp and fresh, not improving fitness level.
Example: (peaking intervals) 3x3 minutes just below LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 3x2 minute above LT w/ equal recovery, followed by 4x30seconds all-out with full recovery.
Speed: Same idea as with intervals.
Strength: Minimal maintenance strength if any at all.
Race: Achieving your racing goals is the focus.
Please note: It can be good to bump up to a high(er) volume of training between important races so long as the intensity is kept very low. Sometimes using alternative methods of training, running, cycling, etc is a good way to do this. This helps keep the skier fresh, keep the muscles “clean” and “clear.”
You have to know yourself to monitor this.
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