It’s the end of summer and you’re sweating in the 90 degree heat as you pound the pavement with your poles and glide smoothly over the road while your heart beats like a well oiled machine at 180 beats a minute and your whole body screams as it tries to clear lactic acid as quickly as possible.
This is level 4 training or race pace training. This training isn’t something that needs to be done all the time during training, but it is one of the workouts that helps to increase a skiers VO2 max.
The goal of level 4 training should be to work at around 90-93% of your hearts max stroke volume according to USST World Cup coach Justin Wadsworth. This training can be done through interval workouts or time trials which would help to work on 5 and 10k race paces for women and men respectively. Race pace training is used to strengthen your heart so that as training season turns into race season your heart will be able to pump more blood effectively through your body. Level 4 also helps increase VO2 max so that while racing or performing at a high level of intensity, your body and neuromuscular system can work more efficiently. This means that you as a skier can keep good efficient technique longer into the race or workout, which usually translates into faster skiing.
Intensity training isn’t all about speed; it should be looked at as a progression as the year goes on, according Wadsworth. It’s recommended that skiers start out at level 3 training or threshold training, where the skier’s muscles can effectively handle the amount of lactic acid that is being formed.
According to Wadsworth, at the beginning of the training season, intervals should be kept light at threshold. A good example of this would be a 20 minute pace workout or 4×4 minute intervals with equal rest. As the training season goes on, and a skier gets more fit through threshold training, they should start bumping up the intervals with variations such as 6×4, 5×5 or 4×6. As this progression goes on and a skier gets stronger they can then begin mixing in some easy level 4 intervals around mid July. These workouts would then revert back down to the 4×4 minute intervals and the progression can start again while also throwing in level 3 workouts once a week.
Interval training should be done at least once a week starting May 1 and carried out until the end of the training season. These intervals should be done with an activity that requires the whole body, such as skate or classic rollerskiing, according to USST sprint coach Chris Grover.
When it comes to interval training, “variety is the key. Mix up the methods, the type, duration, and intensity of intervals to keep variety and [to] work on different aspects of your athletics,” said University of Utah head coach Eli Brown.
Threshold training is crucial to being a faster more efficient ski racer.
“It gets your efficiency and your aerobic system more efficient, working all the time with oxygen will help your overall training. When you get to level 4 training more aerobically fit, [it] helps speed recovery and allows longer harder training, helping neuromuscular [transmission],” said Wadsworth.
For the sprinters in the crowd, there are some sprint specific workouts that can be done in order to gain speed and efficiency.
Some of these workouts consist of 30 and 90 second intervals that are done at sub-maximal effort or a little below as hard as you can go according to Grover.
Some examples would be 8×30 seconds with 30 second recovery in between intervals and then 10 minute break in between sets. Another would be 4x90seconds with a 2 minute recovery between intervals and another 10 minute break between sets.
While doing all of this intensity on rollerskis, and working towards the goals of becoming a fasterskier, it is important to try to picture yourself skiing on snow to help with technique, said Wadsworth. The most important of all is being safe and conscientious of cars on the road. So for intervals, try and find a small loop with one good hill and safe way down and just ski loops.