Wednesday Workout: Dreissigacker’s ‘Bread and Butter’

BrainspiralAugust 14, 2013
Hannah Dreissigacker (Craftsbury Green Racing Project/US Biathlon) closing in on a 31-second win in the 7.5 k sprint on Aug. 10 at North American Biathlon Rollerski Championships in Jericho, Vt.
Hannah Dreissigacker (Craftsbury Green Racing Project/US Biathlon) closing in on a 31-second win in the 7.5 k sprint on Aug. 10 at North American Biathlon Rollerski Championships in Jericho, Vt.

Welcome to Wednesday Workout, where we provide and break down training ideas on a weekly basis. This week, Hannah Dreissigacker, a 26-year-old member of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project who made the US Biathlon A-team this year, talks about how she’s made strides in her sport — specifically in shooting — and why combo workouts are some of the best ones biathletes can do.


As I’ve transitioned from being a Nordic skier who dabbled in Biathlon to what I like to call a “real biathlete,” it has been a constant learning process.  One of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome was my own hope that if I just trained with my Nordic teammates most of the time, and then worked on shooting as much as I could on the side, that would transfer to good biathlon performance.  Unfortunately, that sort of training only gets you so far in biathlon.

So although I know that most of you FasterSkier readers are not biathletes, this “Wednesday Workout” will be a little peak into what its like to really train specifically for biathlon.  This workout could also be done without shooting—each shooting stop only takes about 30 seconds, but it’s really designed to be about both the physical and shooting-specific training.

Shooting with intensity is what it’s all about.  From the point of view of getting better at shooting in a race-like situation, it would be good to shoot with a high heart rate all the time.  But since you can’t do intensity every single day, it’s really important to take advantage of the days that you are doing intensity by turning the interval workout into what we call “combos” in biathlon.  Since you stop between intervals anyways, you might as well be shooting during that time!  And even if the goal is a continuous intensity workout, a 30-second stop to shoot does not have much effect.

This is the workout that I feel has been my “bread and butter” this summer—I’ve done it more times than I can count and I think that doing it consistently has helped improve both my fitness and shooting skills.

Zero the rifle (shooting on a paper target to make sure that my group of 5 shots is centered in the middle of the target).

20-30 minute warmup.  I like to warm up nice and easy.

8 x 10-15 second “impulses,” also known as pickups.  After each impulse, I quickly put my rifle on my back and shoot while my heart rate is still high and my body a bit jittery from the short speed.  This is great practice for trying to calm myself down, and also for shooting with a pounding pulse.  I try to use a mix of techniques for the impulses, to spread the love.  A minute or two of easy skiing between each impulse is good.

6 x 5-7 minutes Level 3 intervals.  I really like the new rollerski loop in Lake Placid for this because it’s a real ski course with variations in terrain, a few technical downhill turns, and some hard uphills.  This gives the Level 3 training a lot of variety.  On the uphills, I have to hold back a bit and focus on relaxed technique and good glide.  But on the transitions and flatter parts I can really push and go for lots of power.   I like to end each interval on an uphill approach to the shooting range, so that my heart rate will be high when I come in to shoot.  And despite being tired, or hot, or sweaty or thirsty, I try to just focus on shooting quickly, efficiently, and normally every time I come in. I think about my breathing and about pulling the trigger gently.  Then after that I can get a drink and take a short break while I put my rifle on the rack again.  After successive intervals, I usually alternate prone and standing shooting.  And I also try to put a little pressure on myself when I come in to shoot—I imagine that I’m in a race, and think about how well I need to shoot to do well, or how many or few misses I’ve made so far in the day.

20-30 minutes continuous Level 3 skiing on the road, usually going for a total time of 1 hour of Level 3 work.  Occasionally we’ll do more L3 with shooting, and so we’ll skip the road part, but often we finish the workout out on the roads.  For one, this gives us some time to just ski continuously without shooting.  But it also generally gives us faster, flatter terrain.  It feels very different both physically and mentally to ski L3 continuously on a flat road than it does to be going up and down big hills all the time.

Short cooldown.  This workout can get long, so I keep my cooldown short and easy.


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