Growth is good, and when it comes to improvement, even the U.S. Ski Team has areas it wants to work on collectively. Sprinter or not, if racing’s in your future, chances are you could benefit from some speed work off the starting line.
That’s why U.S. Ski Team (USST) Head Coach Chris Grover adjusted one of his team’s workouts last week at its camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. Instead of doing 16 to 18 skate-speed accelerations on rollerskis (each lasting about 10 seconds), Grover and his staff decided to cut down the number of accelerations, or rolling speeds, and add some sprint starts (transitioning from double pole to skate).
The Workout: 4-5 x rolling speeds and 12 x sprint starts
Where: Bear Cub Road (about 2.3-miles long to a dead-end) next to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid
Why: “We decided that we wanted to change the focus of the session to improving skate sprint starting technique,” Grover explained in an email. “We had a very productive session where most athletes made some excellent changes, and we have a follow-up session scheduled for Park City in October.”
What: Warmup as usual, then begin rolling speeds: 4-5 accelerations (each lasting about 10 seconds), with about 3 minutes of recovery in between.
When you’re done with that, recover for 3 minutes, and move to skate-sprint starts. From a standstill, build speed off the line: double pole then transition to V2. After 10 seconds, stop, recover for three minutes, and start again (for a total of 12 times).
“We do practice starts regularly since they are important for certain sprints in some conditions,” Grover wrote. “We generally keep our speed training closer to 10 seconds for maximal neurological benefit and less fatigue.”
Length: The workout itself should take about an hour. With warmup and cool down, you’re looking at 2 hours.
Out of the USST’s 12 training days of camp in Lake Placid, there were about a dozen rollerski sessions scheduled and seven cross-training workouts. One of them was VO2-max bounding at Whiteface Mountain, an annual staple of their Lake Placid camp.
“Bounding/ski walking intensity is a go-to workout for most cross-country ski racers around the world, most likely because you can access grades that are not available on pavement for rollerskiing,” Grover explained. “You can find long, steep pitches that resemble some of the bigger hills you might find on a ski course, and the mechanics, body position, and power application of bounding is identical to good steep classic striding or herringbone.”
All of this can be done without worrying about cars or road hazards.
“The question has been asked many times why don’t cross-country skiers simply rollerski and ski for all training,” he added. “After all, runners run, bikers bike, and swimmers swim. For me, there are two answers to this question. The first is that the preparation period for cross-country ski racing is so long, and the training volume is so high at the elite level, that cross-training modes like running become essential for preventing over-use injuries and for keeping training mentally fresh for the athlete.
“Cross-training modes like running become essential for preventing over-use injuries and for keeping training mentally fresh for the athlete.” — U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover
“The second is that running provides increased leg strength because the athlete actually carries 100% of their own body weight (unlike biking or rollerskiing) and lifts that weight off the ground repeatedly,” he continued. “Agility is also improved by running, especially if you are constantly hopping from rock to rock in the Adirondacks!”
The USST camp wraps up on Sept. 7 following the Climb to the Castle on Saturday, Sept. 6, of which Liz Stephen and U.S. Biathlon’s Tim Burke are the defending champions.