Our Pro Workout series continues, this week shifting from rollerskis to running shoes for ski bounding intervals with XC Oregon’s Kristina Strandberg.
A native of Sweden, Strandberg is a consistent force on the U.S. racing circuit. A two-time SuperTour overall champion and repeat winner of the FasterSkier Continental Skier of the Year award, Strandberg earned a spot on the World Cup circuit for the start of last season.
She competed in seven World Cup events, with a top finish of 24th in the classic sprint in Rogla, Slovenia, before spending the bulk of the winter racing in Scandinavia. She returned to the U.S. for the SuperTour finals, and is now back in Bend, Oregon, training hard.
We talked to her about a staple of that training: ski bounding intervals at the renowned rock climbing mecca that is Smith Rock State Park, outside of Bend.
“It is so easy to push the intensity right to where you want it,” Strandberg says of bounding, “sometimes even more so than rollerskiing.”
While she varies the duration of the intervals over the course of the season, a common choice is a challenging 6×5 minute workout. The Smith Rock access road allows her to complete the session without excessive downhill running in between, while providing an ideal steady climb.
Pacing is a key component, and the ability to regulate heartrate is also critical. She starts the first interval at a controlled pace, with the goal of going faster and working harder during each successive repetition.
Starting too hard is a common problem, and one that Strandberg strives to avoid, pointing out that if she pushes her limits on the first interval, she will build up too much lactate and will struggle to complete the workout.
For example, explains Strandberg, “if I start the first interval at 170 (heart rate), and then push it a few beats every interval, I can easily finish around 180 without filling up with lactate.”
But while there is a fine line to ride, recovery is less clearly defined. Strandberg does not worry about resting a precise amount, usually taking three to five minutes between intervals.
“Usually what happens is that I might take three minutes after the first few, and then upwards of four minutes toward the end.”
Coach Justin Wadsworth has told her that resting as much as six minutes is fine, but she prefers to keep it shorter than the length of the interval.
At this point in the training year, Strandberg will do a bounding-type workout every few weeks. Her plan used to include interval blocks, and therefore many more of such sessions, but as some of her focus has shifted to other areas of her life, she no longer has the time for the extensive recovery needed to execute that type of training.
But the experience of periods of daily intervals has taught her to dial in the precise effort to maximize the benefit of the session.
And while individual pacing is key, it doesn’t mean that the workout has to be done alone. Strandberg often pairs up with XC Oregon teammate Evelyn Dong. Dong is a faster bounder, but Strandberg keeps her under control on the earlier intervals, then lets Dong pushes the pace as the workout progresses.
Technique is also important, and Strandberg stresses the importance of using bounding poles of appropriate length. She goes with poles shorter than her classic sticks, allowing her to push her hands all the way through with each stride.
Smith Rock State Park is 30 to 40 minutes outside of Bend, and one of the major appeals of this workout is the opportunity to vary training. Strandberg describes XC Oregon trips to Smith Rock as a “treat.”
“Workouts are workouts, and you do a lot of them over the course of the summer, so it is nice every now and then to pull an ace out of your sleeve,” she said.
Strandberg does point out that skiers need to watch out for rattlesnakes, and that the reaction of choice is “to scream like a girl” (which, rumor has it, even three-time Olympian Torin Koos is wont to do – at least according to training partner Lars Flora).
Despite the dangers of venomous snakes, getting out of town is worth the time. “It is really good for inspiration to go somewhere else and have a spot that you don’t do all the time. Smith Rock is just that.”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.