Canadian Stefan Kuhn has made a rapid transition from elite skiing to elite coaching.
The former Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) member and Vancouver Olympian announced his retirement less than six months ago, and was immediately snapped up in a coaching capacity by the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA), one of Canada’s premiere training centers.
During his career, Kuhn was primarily a sprinter – as is evidenced by his 15th place finish in Vancouver, the best ever result recorded by a Canadian male in a sprint at the Olympics.
As a result, a large part of his experience, and his favorite workouts from both coaching and racing, are those focused on speed.
In an interview with FasterSkier, Kuhn explained that in the fall, his aim is to increase the focus on Level 4 intensity workouts, in order to bring up the athletes’ speed.
For his specific favorite speed session, often held on the rollerski track at the Canmore Nordic Center, Kuhn splits athletes into small groups of 3.
The athletes then ski in single file, in a follow-the-leader style at an easy pace. The person in front is in charge of starting the interval – anytime he wants, he can jump into a level 4 attack on the other two. The attack can last from a minimum of 10 seconds, to a maximum of 1 minute, and the other two athletes have to try and stay with the leader, much as you would in a race when someone increases the pace.
After each rep, the leader switches, giving each athlete an opportunity to ‘attack’.
For Kuhn, the goal of the workout is to teach awareness, reaction times, and mental toughness all at speed.
“A guy can go out super hard, and you think he’s just going for ten seconds, and you hang on,” Kuhn said, “But all of a sudden you’re a minute in and you’re just blown.”
Kuhn recommends that the full workout run about an hour and a half to two hours, with roughly two sets of 10 to 15 reps separated by a ten minute break.
He also suggests a minimum of at least a minute between ‘attacks’, in order to be completely rested and ready for the next one.
Kuhn has the unique experience of doing the interval set as an athlete, and now running it as a coach.
“It’s something I did as an athlete and really enjoyed, and now get to do as a coach, and athletes really enjoy it,” he said.