Pro Workout: “Freaking Hard” Rollerski Intervals with Devon Kershaw

FasterSkierNovember 18, 2010
Kershaw going "freaking hard" at the 2010 Olympics
Kershaw going "freaking hard" at the 2010 Olympics.

This week’s Pro Workout is a first-person affair, with guest writer/athlete Devon Kershaw of the Canadian National Ski Team.  Kershaw wrote this just before leaving for Europe earlier in November.

It’s getting close to the racing season – crazy close. My first race is on the 13th of November in Bruksvallarna, Sweden – a season opener/tune up race ahead of the World Cup opener a week later in Gallivare – way up there (latitude-wise) in Northern Sweden.

For that reason I’ve chosen to describe a workout which I completed just this morning out here in Canmore as I continue to prepare for the season.

Coming off a three week altitude camp in Park City, and then some more higher altitude stints here at home in Canmore upon returning, I’ve been trying to get my body out of it’s labored/slow training mode that is the norm at high altitude and try and trick/remind it that I am indeed going to be racing in the very near future.

For today’s gem, it was out to our steep Canmore staple for uphill rollerskiing – Silver Tip (about 2-3km long and at times as steep as 14-15%) to bang out some quick stuff.

This workout is much like some fast 400 meter repeats on the track (if you were a distance runner). Most of it is diagonal striding only, as the hill is for the most part pretty steep, but up near the top there are some technique variations where the terrain lessens and you can bang out some kick double pole and even some double poling to break up the striding.

I try and go continually up the hill – taking my rest as I ski up slowly – but when I run out of hill I’ll turn the skis down and do embarrassingly slow shaky-legged, snow-plow type turns down the steep hill for a minute or so to keep the fun (ie. uphill) going if I am running out of real estate.

The actual workout is pretty simple:

– Warm-up classic rollerskiing for 30 minutes (or running, skate rollerskiing – it doesn’t really matter which mode you do this workout in, as long as you have a steep hill that’s long enough to continue working for the duration of the session – I mix it up,  but today I happened to classic rollerski).

– Do 2×4 minutes at low-mid zone 3 (threshold) with four minutes rest. I did these double poling only, and on the first one it was on flatter terrain, and the second one was up a steep hill.

I do this type of warm up before any really “all out” type intervals. It gives your body a chance to react right from the start of the “actual” workout (kind of like a warm up you’d do for a ski race in the winter). I feel that if I just ski easy and start going bananas right from the first set, I’d be destroyed pretty quick (ie. lactate spike) and the workout would be pretty useless/over…

– Then the “actual” workout begins.

2 sets of 5 x 1.5 minute “freaking hard” with even rest (1.5 minute rest) and 10 minutes of zone 1/easy skiing between sets.

The key to the workout – like if you were running on the track – is to keep the speed the same through every interval, even though you are carrying a tougher and tougher load. The first two should feel hard but not desperate, and the last one or two of the set should feel damn hard. After the fourth and fifth interval on the second set it should feel “keeled over, breathing excessively loud, borderline dry heaving” type hard.

My lactates (if you have access to a coach/equipment with analyzers) were 11.0 after set one, and 12.7 after set two.

The key is to keep the speed high. If you start too hard, you’ll be blown up too early and you might as well stop the workout or the set (if you feel like I described how I feel on the fourth/fifth interval of set two after the third interval in set one – you messed up the workout – and your body is probably so flooded with lactic acid that you might as well stop and find the closest ice-filled bath).

After that it’s a quick 30 minute easy zone 1 cool down and that’s the ball game.

A great workout this time of year – especially if you are coming off some volume (at altitude or not) and feel your body needs that lactate tolerance work to “shock” the system out of it’s lethargic/slow (because of your training long easy distance) moving ways.


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