TrainingWorkoutsWednesday Workout: Throwback Uphill Running Intervals with Stephen

Avatar Alex KochonOctober 7, 2015
Liz Stephen tucking in a World Cup race during the 2009/2010 season.
Liz Stephen tucking in a World Cup race during the 2009/2010 season.

This week, we bring you a past Pro Workout from U.S. Ski Team veteran and two-time Olympian Liz Stephen. Now 28, Stephen recently won her second-straight Trail Run National Championship as well as the Red Bull 400 hill climb. What’s made her so fast over the years? This workout from 2010 sheds some insight. Read original workout here.

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[circa Nov. 2010]

Some skiers love to run; others tolerate it. The U.S. Ski Team’s Liz Stephen is the former. And while uphill running intervals present plenty of challenge for most, Stephen not only wants a solid grade and 20+ minutes of active time – she wants a steady downpour, mud, slippery footing, and whatever else nature can throw at her.

“For me it is always more fun when it is raining out,” said Stephen. “It is muddy…your hair is all matted down. There is rain in your face, your glasses don’t work, feet are slipping.  You have to figure it out.  I like that kind of stuff.”

Her workout of choice consists of a relatively standard set of intervals – six four-minute repeats of hard effort building to maximum over the course of the session.

American Liz Stephen leads Norway's Ragnhild Haga during the charge up the final hill of the seventh stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski in Val di Femme, Italy (Photo: Val di Fiemme/www.fiemmeworldcup.com)
Liz Stephen (in black) leads Norway’s Ragnhild Haga during the charge up the final hill of the seventh stage of the 2015 Tour de Ski in Val di Femme, Italy (Photo: Val di Fiemme/www.fiemmeworldcup.com)

The optimal hill is long enough that you don’t have to go all the way down after each effort, keeping the rest period in the target zone of three to four minutes. The grade should be challenging but run-able. These are not bounding intervals.

Bounding may be more specific and powerful, but running gives Stephen a chance to work on quickness.

“It should be a fun feeling,” she said. “A hard feeling, of course, but not bogging down.

“You want to feel like you can be fast!”

Staying light and quick is a regular theme in ski technique, and this is a perfect dryland opportunity to apply those concepts.

At the end of the day, however, it is the rain that makes it for Stephen.

“I just like that feeling – being muddy, coming in and showering, drinking hot cocoa and sitting by the fire, stretching and reflecting on ‘I just got some shit done today,’” said Stephen.

And part of getting it done is learning to deal with the adverse conditions.

“Whether you are on the World Cup or at some Eastern Cup, there is still shitty weather and the rain still falls, and the course is still not groomed the way you want it to be,” she said. “There is always going to be something that is not ideal for you. You have to know how to do that, too.”

The rain may not raise your VO2max, or increase your foot speed, and mental benefits are hard to quantify – but Stephen sees real value.

“Honestly, did it make you a better athlete than if it was sunny out? Maybe, maybe not, but in terms of your mental approach, you feel you really accomplished something,” she said.

Stephen has been working on evaluating every workout – what went well, what could have been better. And, she concludes, “with running intervals in the rain, the positive is always that it is raining!”

— By Topher Sabot

The Workout: 6 x 4-minute uphill intervals (hard effort, building to maximum)

Optimal climb: Long enough that you don’t reach the bottom after each effort (with 3-4 minutes recovery in between), with a grade that’s challenging yet run-able (not bounding)

Think about: Staying light and quick on your feet

“It should be a fun feeling. A hard feeling, of course, but not bogging down. … You want to feel like you can be fast!” Stephen explained.

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Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon (alex@fasterskier.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.

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