I think about all of our activity in the years we were children, and what it has meant for my performance as an adult. I had a two-kilometer’s distance between my home and school. In the summer I would walk or ride my bike, and in the winter I would often use my skis. After a while I began to run parts of the distance, especially the last part home that was an uphill a few hundred meters long. It was fun to notice that I would become better and better, and running the hill would require less and less energy. By doing that I became more sure of myself, and I understood that I had a certain talent for running distances.
We were just as active during school. At the end of each class we would sit on the edge of our seats, ready to spring. As soon as the bell rang, we raced out to play soccer, or whatever else. We had picked the teams during class so we could make use of every available minute. We had five breaks of ten minutes each, every day. We did interval training before we had any idea what the word â€œintervalâ€ meant. And we weren’t the only ones who did this. Vegard Ulvang and I have talked often about our own upbringings and how different it was from what children are doing today. During a training camp in Central Europe we sat by the fire one evening after dinner:
â€œBoth of my parents were gymnastics teachers, and early on I had a certain relationship to sport,â€ said Vegard. â€œMost of it happened at a pretty high energy level, every day, year-round. Even the weekend after the last ski race we would have the first cross-country running race. And soccer is of course a part of everyone’s education, as my father used to say. All the boys had to play soccer, otherwise they would totally be out of the social circles—either in school or later in the military. We were in the gymnastics hall three times a week, we did orienteering and played bandy (like street hockey) in the streets. Nature and outdoor life is something we had as an early part of growing up. I did all sorts of things outside since as early as I was able to lie in the sleds my parents would drag behind them. Together with my brothers, I would run and hike for hours in the mountains. We fished, picked berries and spent the night in tents. I participated in area ski races every weekend from when I was 11 and began with systematic training when I was 14.â€ Most everything he said sounded familiar.
â€œEven though it wasn’t organized like today, we actually trained,â€ I added. â€œAll-around training. Once in the summer I did a bike workout to a mountaintop near my home. On the way up I remembered that this was a place we would ride our bikes as schoolboys as well. It was a tough trip: an elevation gain of 300 plus meters. It is a long, tough and steep hill. As a well-trained adult who is sponsored up over my ears, and with a feather-light bike with 24 gears and costing over $5000 dollars, I was still tired. I did the same ride as a boy, on an old beat-up bike, with a fishing pole tied to the bike frame and lots of heavy things packed in a pack on my back. And it wasn’t just me. Almost the whole class came with me.â€
Of course it was training. Even though we didn’t use that word. I have tried to tally how much we really did train as children, and have figured that it came out to about 24-25 hours each week. It is almost as much as I do today.