Welcome back to our weekly workout! Now that the racing season’s (generally) over and the training season’s (mostly) beginning, we asked the winner of last Friday’s 50-kilometer classic at U.S. Distance Nationals, Aku Nikander, what his secret is while training at the University of New Mexico.
In his first season with the team, the Finnish skier trains with the team near the 9,700-foot South Sandia Peak in a national park just east of Albuquerque. When the Lobos are not on the road racing during the season, they ski two to three times at Sandia or Red River a three-hour drive north of the university at some 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) in elevation.
While the altitude piece isn’t key, and can actually be a killer to those not used to working out thousands of meters above sea level, Nikander recommends a particular skate rollerski workout: 3 x 3-minute Level 3 + 5 x 1-minute all-out sprints, with 3-minutes of recovery in between.
“Because we have kind of special conditions here in New Mexico I decided to choose a workout that we used as a race preparation or prerace training before all the college competitions. We did it 2-3 days before the race.
Training speed in high altitude is usually slower than training in sea level because there is less oxygen to use and the threshold limits are achieved faster. That is why it is important to keep up the speed capacity in your training.
Also because we don’t have snow in the city we are doing this exercise on roller skis. Of course it works perfectly out on snow too, but this shows that if there is a bad winter and no snow, it is not time to panic because once or twice a week you can easily replace the skiing on snow with roller skiing. I think the transfer effect works from roller skis to skis well. We usually do this training as a team.”
The Workout: Rollerskiing Intervals + All-Out Sprints
Warmup: 30 minutes easy rollerski
Part I Intervals: 3 x 3 minutes Level 3, with 3 minutes of rest in between each interval
“This helps muscles to warm up and helps your cardio to be ready for the next part.”
Part II All-Out Sprints: 5 x 1-minute all-out sprint, with 3 minutes of rest in between
“The loop or course should be like this: the last 15-20 seconds are supposed to be uphill.”
Cool down: 30-40 minutes very easy skiing so that the body can remove the lactate that has accumulated to the muscles.
“The most important things in this training are: the part 1 3 x 3 minutes is really Level 3 because too hard pace would otherwise effect too much to the second part; I recommend that the first part is performed individually;
Second part is good to do in group because when you have people around you sprinting, you can really push harder and get more out of your muscles than doing it alone. Also you have to really focus and mentally prepared so you can get as high power as possible.
If you are mentally well prepared you can recruit muscles faster and produce more power. It is also important that the sprint ends up on uphill (that should not be too steep, rather one you can go V2). This is kind of specific speed strength training that improves your ability to ski faster. Speed strength is scientifically proved to effect on the performance in skiing. Uphills bring out this dimension because you have to use higher strength level than doing it on flat part.
This season we did this training once a week and [as a result] our team improved a lot in skating mass starts.”