How To Stay Fit When Skiing Isn’t Your Job

FasterSkierJanuary 3, 2009

Chad Giese is a member of the Saab Salomon Factory Team. He has raced on the World Cup, is a National Champion and a six-time winner of the Mora Vassalopet. This article first appeared in SkiPost – For more information on the Saab Salomon Factory Team, visit

While being a professional skier for close to 10 years I have had plenty of opportunities to learn what training my body needs to be fit. Over the years I tried new things, went back to the old Finnish text book, tried even newer things, and then finally settled in on what I know works for me. My coach, Ahvo Taipale, and I would refer to this process as: Plan, Execute, and Analyze. We did this over and over again; on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. It resulted in a mixture of new and old training methods, from swamp running to lactate testing, from specific strength to max strength, from interval blocks to muscle maintenance, and now this knowledge is becoming very valuable.

I have passed along the simple training principles that I used when I was training full-time:

Include intensity, speed, strength, distance, over-distance, and recovery into every week of the year. When each of these are done in the right proportion, at the right volume, and at the right intensity each week, success will no doubt follow. As a full-time skier I paid a lot of attention to the formula and near the end I think I got pretty close to figuring it out. Now, I am not training full-time, I have a full-time job, and a new son.

My new goal is to simply maintain my fitness and my base for as long as I can and there are a few workouts that I can rely on to make sure that I can still be competitive. Here’s the breakdown:

Speed: This is something that can go quickly so it is important that I do this at least once/week. Instead of a set speed workout, I incorporate speed into an easy run, bike, or ski by doing a few sprints.

Upper body strength: I can always turn to a good strength workout to make me feel fit again. Pull-ups are the essential part of my week and a good indication of my upper body strength. If I can do sets of 15 each week, I know my arms will be there when I need them in a race. This is a far cry from where I was at a few years ago, but not all that bad really. Double poling is really important. If I am able to get out on rollerskis or on snow during the week I will double pole for 1-2 hours. I use my legs much more than my arms because most of my training sessions are running or biking, so whenever I can I’ll take advantage of an upper body workout on skis.

Intensity: I find that I have to do something hard each week. Sometimes it is planned, sometimes it just happens, but either way my lungs get a workout. I hang onto my upper end a lot longer when I work my lungs and feel the lactate buildup at least once per week. Sometimes these are structured, such as 4 x 4 minutes and sometimes I find myself just running as fast as I can for as long as I can. It has happened more than once that out of the corner of my eye I notice the track at the college near my house on my drive home from work and 30 minutes later I find myself running 400s. Sounds crazy I know and I think I am almost over this, but sometimes my body needs intensity.

Over-distance: There is nothing better than a long workout to clean the system. If I can find the time to get in a good 2-4 hour workout each week, I’ll take it and consider myself lucky. As a full-time skier these workouts were essential to do many times a week in order to make it through a full racing season of 30 starts, but now they truly are a luxury. I feel much better when I can fit one of these in each week.

Recovery: I used to pay very close attention to this when I was training full-time because I was packing 10-12 workouts into each week. This meant I needed to optimize the recovery between each workout. Now, I have more recovery incorporated into my week and just have to make sure I eat a balanced diet and remember to drink water, not just coffee.

These are a few things that I know work for me and keep me in touch with my high end fitness, strength, and speed. A lot of the really tough workouts I no longer do, like swamp running, but this new set of key workouts give me what I need to maintain my fitness. I came across these workouts through the Plan, Execute, and Analyze process over the years and your list might be different. We’ll see in the coming months if these workouts have done their job or if I’ve done enough work. Regardless, it is always fun to put a bib on.

See you out on the trails this winter doing a 4 hour double pole interval with speed thrown in.


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