Kristina Trygstad-Saari races for the Saab-Salomon Factory Team. Kristina placed placed 3rd in the Team Sprint yesterday at US Cross Country Distance Nationals and the season for Kristina ends with two more national championship events: 15 km skiathlon pursuit, and 30km classic. More information on the Saab-Salomon Factory Team can be found at www.enjoywinter.com. This article first appeared in Ski Post – www.skipost.com
The countdown is on – two more races to go and the season is over. It’s hard to believe another season is coming to an end, especially since it feels as though West Yellowstone Ski Festival was only yesterday. However, after five longs months on the road this countdown is much anticipated; it’s time to start winding down, reflect on the past season, and start gearing up for the next one. As ski racers, the spring is our chance to attain mental and physical recovery from months of racing—a time to take a break from our typical training routines and venture out into the non-ski racing world. It is a time to just get away.
As the races wrap up, it is impossible not to reflect on the past months of racing, both the good and the bad—inspiring performances, disappointing results, goals achieved, goals left unachieved, unforgettable experiences, crushing moments…the list goes on and on. We always hope that our positive experiences overcome the challenging times, but when this is not the case we have to find ways to move on. We make goals so we have something to reach for, but there is always the chance of failure, and we have to accept this as a part of who we are and what we do. Hopefully disappointments can be turned into motivation and achievements can further fuel our drive to succeed. Every experience we have as ski racers is a step toward our ultimate goals; even if we feel we move a step backwards, it is still a step. We, as athletes, are always changing, and in the grand scheme of ski racing, these little forward and backward movements are what eventually bring us to where we want to be. It is important to look back on the season but it is even more important to apply what we’ve learned to the months and years ahead. It is time to move into the coming year with this in mind.
Within any aspect of Nordic skiing, there are innumerable ways to go about the post-race period and springtime training, as well as endless theories on what an elite ski racer should be doing during this period. I have always been a proponent of taking liberal amounts of time away from specific ski training, to give my body a rest, and also to take a mental break from competition and strict routine. I find the ski season to be just as mentally taxing as physically exhausting, and taking a lengthy breather is a crucial step in my yearlong plan. I am generally more productive and motivated after a solid period of active rest; adventures become a priority and activity tends to be recreational rather than training-oriented.
For an elite athlete it can be virtually impossible to abruptly stop physical activity after the racing season is over. However, physical activity goes far beyond the endurance realm, and spring beach trips or long backcountry excursions are never a bad way to keep the body moving in a non-training environment. It can be refreshing to be out of our element, putting our fitness to the test in a completely non-ski related way. April is a time to redirect our energy and make time for all the things we love to do—things that are put aside for full-time training and racing. A few weeks of travel, climbing, telemark skiing, crust-cruising and surfing are perfect ways to re-charge the system for the upcoming training blocks. This is a period to remain somewhat active but also a time to recover—a chance to regroup and re-motivate.
After a month of R and R, it is time to begin to throw a bit more structure in the daily activity; May is a time to bridge the gap between active free time and more specific training. Consistent strength training comes into play, as well as more structured and frequent endurance workouts, including mountain and road biking, trail running, canoeing, etc. The volume gradually increases, while the activities remain general and balanced, helping add to that fitness base on which we build our specific ski training. This well-rounded springtime progression is a good way to gradually build up endurance and strength, as well as a solid mental foundation for the long and vigorous months ahead. As ski racers we constantly train ourselves to push our physical limits, but it is equality important to know when to take a step away from intensive training. At times, rest can be more beneficial than training, and it is knowing when and how to combine these elements that make us great athletes. When April finally rolls around, don’t be afraid to set aside the skinny skis and find some adventure. Nothing helps heal the mind and body like getting lost in the woods.