Wednesday Workout: Reverse Pursuit Sprints with U.S. Paralympics Nordic

BrainspiralNovember 5, 2014
U.S. Paralympics Nordic national-team members Andy Soule (B team), Oksana Masters (A team) and Bryan Price (development team) doing some reverse pursuit sprints in the Oberhof ski tunnel in Germany in early October. (Photo: Eileen Carey)
U.S. Paralympics Nordic national-team members Andy Soule (B team, back), Oksana Masters (A team, center) and Bryan Price (development team, front) doing some reverse pursuit sprints in the Oberhof ski tunnel in Germany in early October. (Photo: Eileen Carey)

This week’s workout comes from U.S. Paralympics High-Performance Coach and Associate Director Eileen Carey, who traveled to the Oberhof ski tunnel in Germany last month with a few national-team members for an on-snow camp. 


This workout is designed to give head-to-head technical and tactical practice to a group of skiers with a wide range of speeds.  This type of workout is important for our program because we often have training sessions with athletes with a wide range of experience levels and/or with different impairments competing against one another.

The combination of the short duration and reverse pursuit format aims to create head-to-head scenarios in situations that may not exist in more traditional interval or speed sessions. We have had good luck using this workout to combine standing and sit skiers into the same heat so they all get the opportunity to compete even if there might not be anyone else in their Paralympic class.  This could also work well for a youth program, or any workout including athletes with a variety of ski speeds.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Prep: Set up a short course with some technical elements.  If your athletes have a wide range of ski speeds, a shorter course will help to facilitate more head to head action.  A slalom style course with cones can be really effective and simple if all you have is a small area (think early season!).  We usually shoot for between 75 meters to 300 meters depending on our technical and physiological goals for the workout.
  2. Warm-up: During a 20-30 minute warm-up, athletes ski the course, focusing on technical elements and trying different lines around tricky sections.  The solo practice helps build confidence and learn some of the unique elements of the terrain, conditions and other factors at play.
  3. Solo heats: Have skiers ski the course 1-3 times on their own at a race pace speed.  This is an important progression from the warm-up as additional speed always adds some new elements. The goal at the end of the solo rounds is for athletes to feel confident with the technical elements before adding the head to head component. During the solo heats, I time athletes to get an idea of the general times of each athlete or group of athletes. I usually time them to whatever section of the course I want them to be head to head on.  This helps set up the heat starts.
  4. Pursuit head-to-head heats:  Once athletes are confident on the course, line them up in pursuit format, but with fastest skier at the end. Start athletes one by one in reverse pursuit order depending on how long it will take each of them to get to the sticky section of the course. Repeat head to head heats 5-10 times. Once you get an idea of where challenges are coming up for each athlete, you can manipulate start times to force them to focus on that aspect of their skiing.
  5. Bonus tactical round:  If you want to add an additional tactical element, set up your course as a loop.  Complete the above workout doing one lap around the loop.  Once they are dialed with that, have them do the same format in two laps.  How does this change their tactics on the technical sections?  How might they ski those sections differently on lap 1 and lap 2?  The simple change can force some interesting changes and can be effective in starting a conversation about tactics in general.  This is a great session to video so the conversation can continue after the workout.  Plus, you will capture some great diggers, and who doesn’t love watching those on replay?
  6. Cool down: 20-30 mins

There are lots of different ways to do this workout and so far all we have tried are both fun and effective.   We recently had a camp at the Tunnel in Oberhof and this was a great technical and tactical workout to maximize the very small area that we had to ourselves. Be inventive and have fun duking it out!

The 2014 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Team before the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Eileen Carey)
The 2014 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Team before the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Eileen Carey)


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