Wednesday Workout: Ski Walking with Erika Flowers

BrainspiralJune 11, 2014
Wednesday Workout
The SMST2 Team hard at work last season. (Photo: Erika Flowers/SMS)

This week’s Wednesday Workout comes from Erika Flowers, a member of the Stratton Mountain School T2 elite team. Flowers graduated from Dartmouth in 2012 where she was a three-time NCAA All-American skier. Throughout her career with SMS, she has had multiple top-10 finishes at the U.S. Cross Country Championships. Keep up with Flowers and her training by following her blog.


Most of the workouts we do here at Stratton are pretty simple. Especially during the early training season, the focus is on quality, practicing good technique and building a strong base. Ski walking up Stratton Mountain is one of our basic go-to workouts that we use throughout the summer to improve efficiency at threshold, build explosive power, and fine-tune ski technique. Although we introduce more bounding towards the middle and end of the summer, we try to force the “walking” early in the season in order to practice a good forward body position and avoid simply running up the mountain with poles.

The basic workout:

25-30 minutes easy running/ski walking with poles plus a few short uphill pickups (15-30 sec.) to get the body primed and ready for ski walking at threshold

6×8 minutes uphill ski-walking with poles at Level 3 or Threshold with 2-4 minutes active recovery between each interval

20-30 minute cool-down

Total time: About 2 hours

A few notes:

Erika Flowers and Sophie Caldwell work together during their ski walking intervals in Stratton in 2013.
Erika Flowers and Sophie Caldwell work together during their ski walking intervals in Stratton in 2013. (Photo: SMS)

Equipment needed: Running shoes, water bottle and holder, HR monitor/watch, ski-walking/bounding poles (shorter than classic ski poles), a fun group who want to go charge up a mountain (or hill… depending on where you live)

Interval options: During the early spring and summer the ski walking intervals tend to be shorter (6X6-8 minutes). We will increase length and/or number of the intervals throughout the training season as we build fitness and total time at threshold (6X10-15 min. towards the end of the summer).

This workout also allows us to really dial in our heart rate at threshold by testing blood lactate between intervals. The goal is to maintain blood lactate levels around 4mM.

Recovery Time: The recovery time is largely dictated by terrain. We try to run down the mountain between each interval for 3-4 minutes so that we finish our last interval at the top of the Stratton.

If you have a smaller mountain you may need to run down a little further between each interval. Alternatively, if you live out West where the mountains climb for days, you may be able to take shorter breaks and still not reach the summit by the end of the workout.

Technique tips:

Our coaches emphasize a few basic technique tips for ski walking intervals:

1. Fall “up” the mountain with forward hips rather than reaching with legs

2. Use your poles; Engage your lats, core and arms to weight your poles and push off of them

3. Full extension with legs

The SMS T2 Team is joined by the SMS Juniors in their ski walking intervals.
The SMST2 Team is joined by the SMS juniors in their ski-walking intervals.(Photo: SMS)

Group/Team Suggestions:

The SMST2 team often joins the SMS juniors for ski walking intervals. This workout is great for groups because it is easily adaptable for different ages and abilities and allows athletes to work together and learn from each other.

Between intervals, the fastest skiers run down the mountain for recovery while the slower skiers walk down. This way, the slower ski-walkers can learn from some of the more experienced athletes by jumping in behind them at the start of each interval.

The younger skiers can hop in behind older athletes to mimic technique and practice keeping pace, even if just for a minute or two at a time. The interval number and length can also be modified for skiers of different fitness levels and abilities.


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