OSLO, Norway – Petter Northug had to sit out the World Cup opener in Gällivare (SWE) Nov 20-21, and it appears that it is taking longer for him to recover than what is expected from a normal cold. That could indicate that Northug has become overtrained in his intense preparation for the season.
Destroyed from training
Elofsson now works as an expert commentator for the Swedish television, and experienced having his career destroyed by too much training. Elofsson won the overall World Cup in 2001-02, and is a triple World Champion. In preparation for the 2004-05 season, he was completely sidelined, which also affected his attempt to come back for the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Seeing what was coming, Elofsson decided to retire in the fall of 2005.
Elofsson has no problem identifying with the issues Northug might be experiencing at this point.
“I don’t know Petter that closely, but what I’ve heard is that he has trained very hard this fall, which is necessary in cross-country racing, and he might have crossed over that fine line,” Elofsson said. “The critical thing is how long he has felt overtrained. If it’s only been a couple of weeks it might not be that big of a deal, but if he has felt tired and low on energy since this summer, it will take longer to recover,” he said.
Susceptible to infections
Former Norwegian national team coach Svein Tore Samdal refuses to believe that Petter Northug could be overtrained. He has never seen an athlete that has managed to train too much. Samdal thinks the overall load has become too much.
“Petter trains no more than six hours per day, so the problem is what he does the rest of the day,” Samdal said to NRK.
Elofsson has experienced overtraining first hand, and explains what happens. “Even to this day, the doctors can’t tell me exactly what happened to me. What we do know is that my body was overloaded, and that I had some sort of overtraining. Additionally, something had happened to my body which made it unable to absorb and tolerate the typical stresses that cross-country skiers put on their bodies. The intense training load is extremely hard on the muscular and nervous systems,” Elofsson said. “Muscles recover pretty quickly, but when you have trained very hard, it takes longer for the other activating systems to recover from overtraining. You catch infections more easily, and you constantly have sort of cold. You’re simply physically reduced,” Elofsson explained.
Elofsson was considered the savior for Swedish cross-country, and has experienced much of the stress that Northug is facing outside the track. Elofsson thinks these expectations could have contributed to sideline him at the start of the season.
“Of course, there is an extreme mental load on one individual once you have a breakthrough and succeed. You have to consider the overall stress load on these athletes, not just the physical training load. Everything contributed to the overall load on the athlete,” Elofsson said.
– Do you think the overall load on Northug has become too much?
“I don’t know Petter that well personally, but no matter how thick skin you have, you do absorb the outside pressures. And you have to handle it as well as possible, protect yourself from the outside stress,” he said.
Sad if Northug misses the World Championships
Elofsson doesn’t want to predict how long it could take for Northug to get back to his old peak, but he hope that Northug finds the groove well ahead of the 2011 World Championships in Holmenkollen. “It would be really sad if Northug didn’t come back in time for the Worlds. Everyone wants to see the top racers, and Petter is definitely one of them” Elofsson concluded.
From NRK.no, Nov 23, 2010. Translation by Inge Scheve
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.