Svartedal About Altitude Training

FasterSkierOctober 4, 2006

Last years overall World Cup second place finisher Jens Arne Svartedal wraps up his summer training and gives advice for altitude training.

I’m getting on snow at the Dachstein glacier at 2600 meter altitude in Ramsau, Austria this month [editor’s note: this camp has already taken place].

The focus at this camp will be volume training on snow. I want to write a little about positive and negative factors regarding this type of training camp.

We live next to the tram base house at 1700 meters [see Brian Olsen's excellent article about training in Dachstein — This is Ramsau). The idea is to make it easier to ski twice daily. Skiing has priority at this camp and it’s important to live close to the glacier and avoid extra travel/waste of time.

We are at the same time getting a positive effect by living at altitude for 13 days. That will be a benefit when I get back home to sea level again. The training will then hopefully feel easier and I will achieve a performance lift if I’m doing everything right at altitude. That’s of course not a given.

– I wrote in August about how important it is to stay healthy and avoid overtraining when you get close to the season start. Training at altitude is a bigger challenge than training at sea level. It’s harder for the body to maintain normal functions at 1700 meter. The fact that we are skiing at almost 1000 meter higher than where we live (at 2600 meter) further increases the training load. The body’s immune system is reduced and you can’t handle training at the same intensity level as at home (at sea level). The recovery time increases and you need to decrease the training speed in order to train at an intensity level you can handle.

– I’m steering this with three instruments in prioritized order: feel, lactate and heartrate.

– The most important way of finding the right pace is by monitoring how I feel when I’m training. Your heart rate doesn’t always behave as at sea level so you can’t blindly trust the heartrate monitor (you shouldn’t do that at sea level either).

Lactate testing gives a better indication of how hard the body is working and how stressful the training is. Training at altitude isn’t a problem if you add up these three factors and think long-term and rational. It’s however not always that easy to stay focused and hold back when you have newly set tracks and great conditions. Many skiers to ski with make it easy to forget how hard it really is to train at this altitude.

The result from training wrong will often be sickness or overtraining that can be hard to get rid of. There are many examples of skiers that have ruined a whole season during a 2-week long fall altitude camp.

– This is one of the reasons that I’m not only positive to altitude training at this time of year. It’s natural to increase the focus on hard sessions and in general increase the training intensity from September. This is hard to combine with altitude training.

Early skiing (like in September) is no guaranty for good ski conditions. Poor ski conditions can greatly reduce the technical benefit you seek at this time of year. You are however still training the right muscles. I’m still of the opinion that it isn’t very important to get on snow now. It’s positive if the conditions are good, but rollerskiing at home will most likely give the same result.

I believe considering how much you risk that it’s safer and just as good of an alternative to delay the first snow camp until October since the season-start then is just around the corner.

I have by the way improved my double poling. I can feel that I’m moving easier, and that my top speed is increasing. It’s still a little from being very good, but I believe I will be able to keep up with the best skiers when the season starts in November.

I have evaluated my stair-explosiveness training and decided that I’m done with that for this year. I did 4 such workouts this summer. The stress from these workouts was too big and they didn’t give me the desired lift. I have not improved my performance in the specific explosiveness training I have always used. I will for the remaining part of the fall only use my old style ski specific explosiveness training.

I was not able to train as much as I planned in August due to sickness. I went into one of the traps that it’s important to avoid in this period. The early August camp was too tough and I caught a cold. Two additional rest days made for 11 days without training this month. The training I did do was however very good.

It’s now important to stick to my plan regarding volume and not try to make up for what was lost. I’m risking another setback if I’m adding anything to the plan at this point.

I need to make sure that I’m careful and don’t go too hard in the hard workouts at the Ramsau camp. The recovery time is long(er) and skiing at the glacier is tough. I will increase the intensity considerably compared to this summer when I get back to Norway. I will for the first time prioritize the hard sessions from September 10 to October 10. I’m starting the move toward a peak.
I’m leaving for another altitude camp, this time to Italy on October 10. At that time I will once again have to consider longer recovery time and tougher training conditions. Only one thing matters before that: HARD TRAINING!



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