This week’s Wednesday Workout comes from Caitlin Patterson of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project. Patterson has been at the forefront of domestic skiing all season with top finishes including a second place in the 20 k classic mass start at the 2015 U.S. Cross Country Championships in Houghton, Mich. Her home venue, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, recently hosted two weekends of SuperTour racing. She won the event’s 20 k classic mass start in front of a home crowd.
Some days you’re just not feeling at your best – whether the pressures of life are weighing down, you’ve been sick, or you’re just tired. Perhaps it’s overcast instead of the sunshine you’d been hoping for during your workout, or maybe you’re a busy racer keeping things mellow in the middle of the week but trying not to lose your racing sharpness. Regardless of your circumstance, this is the perfect kind of day for an easy distance workout with a few short accelerations. Even on good days I often find myself feeling sleepy when I start off skiing, knowing I want to be out for a distance ski but having a tough time getting up to speed and feeling like myself.
If my training plan calls for distance but I’m having a difficult day or my legs feel heavy, I like to spice it up with a few speeds and any other excitement that I can devise – especially if training partners are in short supply. It’s good to keep yourself on your toes because adaptability and agility are key components of ski racing. My Craftsbury Green Racing Project coach Pepa Miloucheva always encourages me to throw speeds into a workout – on these days it’s nothing structured, but rather impromptu speeds thrown into a distance ski wherever I feel like it. After speeds it’s amazing how good you can feel.
As for the other spice to really make the workout fun and light-hearted – do something that challenges you, or that you’ve always wanted to try on skis. It’s easy for your skiing to stagnate if you always do exactly the same thing, so push the limits and try something new every once in a while. See suggestions below.
- Easy distance skate or classic (one to two hours) with short speeds thrown in at random.
- Make sure the majority of the workout stays slow and conversationally-paced.
- Throw at least 4-6 all-out bursts. Keep these speeds short – 5 seconds is enough if that feels good, but you can also go go for 10 or 15 seconds. Do them on all kinds of terrain, especially including gradual downhills and corners. These should be about coordination and feeling fast, not necessarily something that will cause you to be more than slightly out of breath or to feel like the speeds were a workout in themselves.
- Wake up your body gently after an off-day or on a day when you’re feeling tired
- Add some spice to an otherwise slow and easy workout, to keep things light and make sure skiing stays fun
- Practice transitions around corners or over hills, and sharpen your ability to react quickly
The Extra Spice:
For the speeds themselves, find a friend (or several) to ski with and make arrangements when you start. You’ll ski distance together, but every once in a while one of you will instigate a short speed – the other has to react and try to catch up by the end of the speed.
(Sidenote: I did this workout with my brother, Scott Patterson, when I was in Alaska during December. It’s a good workout for unequal-speed partners, because if you’re the slower one, like I am, you just have to be tricky and do a good job of surprising your friend with the speed. Like carrying on a conversation, then starting your speed mid-sentence! Or starting it on a strange place in a downhill, just because. If you’re as competitive as we are, you’ll want to win every race, even if it lasts only 5 seconds!)
One of my favorite things to do on skis is 180s because they’re fun, challenging, and you can improve easily through practice. At first, find a flat spot with predictably groomed, nice snow. Jump up and fling your skis around so that you land facing the other direction, keeping your knees softly bent and ready to absorb the shock. Start with 90 if the 180 seems like too much – but challenge yourself to increase the spin.
Then progress to a moving 180, forward to backwards and backwards to forwards, and be sure to practice both directions. These are a great addition to a distance workout along with the speeds. When I’m in Craftsbury I ski from my house to lunch at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center most days, and I almost always throw in a few 180s in my favorite spots during the 5 minute ski back and forth. Something about getting airborne, even just a little bit, makes the world seem brighter.
I’d also highly recommend:
- Skipping on skis, racing someone on a nice twisting downhill
- Finding powder and gliding through some tele turns
- Skiing with your eyes closed for a few seconds, going off small jumps (with scouted landings)
- Taking adventures through the woods on snowshoe trails
- Any other unusual additions to a distance workout that you can imagine.
Most importantly, enjoy your time outside and the winter season and have fun.