August 24, 2009
August starts the downward push towards the ski season. Training increases and specificity transitions from an emphasis on general training to primarily ski specific training.
We had a particularly good camp in Ironwood with effective training, comfortable lodging (thanks Bob and Debbie – Wolverine Village) and well prepared meals (thanks Bill Pierce, Bob and Debbie). None the less, the most important aspect, in my opinion, was the attitude and focus during training sessions. The focus was there but so too was the joking afterwards. The athletes demeanor displayed both urgency in their training at hand, but also indicated they are remaining mentally fresh and loose. August is a taxing month of training and can be mentally challenging, but it was good to see the physical progress and positive attitude of the team.
It is critical to build up momentum and carry that into fall instead of perceiving August as an uphill trek to maintain motivation and focus. Many multi-sport skiers are scaling down their summer race season and starting to dust off their rollerskis. The athletes on CXC Team Vertical Limit have logged many miles on their rollerskis and any anxious novelty of putting away the winter boards to trade them in for wheeled ones has long past.
Remaining focused in training needs to be balanced with simply getting in physical fitness. This balance is analogous to the difference between urgency and patience. The goal is to remain focused and purposeful in training, but not so focused that training becomes tense – both physically and mentally.
The dynamic balance between these rivaling mindsets often shifts throughout the year. Race season brings a high level of focus and urgency and it is during this time that we need to emphasize patience – step back, take a breath and then hit the start line relaxed but ready.
The contrary is true during this time of the year. Dryland training can become old-hat. Many miles have been logged and the novelty of dryland training has worn off. This time of the year requires more attention on focus and urgency, for it is during the summer months that provide us the greatest opportunity to address our weaknesses and make our greatest gains. This requires not only hours and repetition, but the focus to execute and correct weaknesses. Find training methods to fuel your motivation, for example select training venues with great scenery. End your work on a beach, so you can look forward to a cool dip after a hot summer training session. In short, be creative, so training is something you look forward to.
It’s safe to assume eighty percent of the athletes’ total training is distance training this time of the year. Approximately sixty percent of that distance training is ski specific or rollerskiing for the most part. Stride length and stride frequency are individual, but a good ball-park estimation is forty ski strokes per minute while skiing at an easy pace. That means there are at least 9,500 strokes that an athlete has an opportunity to engrain efficient technique or not. It is critical to maintain focus on items other that 9,500 repetitions so monotony doesn’t creep in. The goal of keeping training mentally and physically fresh is the responsibility of both the athlete and coach. A training plan should include variety and progressive overload, so training stimulus changes. An athlete and coach also need to identify if the athlete has the patience, persistence and physical acuity to efficiently maintain 9,500 quality ski strokes. Most can not. Therefore other less specific modes of training may be selected or maybe a combination ski then run workout is appropriate.
Find methods to keep the spark ignited in your training. Work on one or two technical aspects while distance skiing. Play around with force output, stride frequency, body position, V2 up the hill, focus on the transitions or work on downhills. Try to master a drill that you have not fully mastered. In short, challenge yourself while logging all those hours. To improve skill requires additional concentration. New skills require a focus on only one or two elements or else the body and mind are overloaded. Work on one or two items for a short duration and then simply enjoy the opportunity to be outdoors skiing for a while. Go ahead and return to that drill you were momentarily working on after the brain and body have had a little recovery. A continuous distance workout can then become segmented into many different pieces and hence variety is built into the continuous training session.