Wednesday Workout: Crunched Training with Chris Pappathopoulos

BrainspiralApril 27, 2016
Chris Pappathopoulos, the inaugural CXC Marathon Cup winner, running with his 11-year-old daughter Tula. (Courtesy photo)
Chris Pappathopoulos, the inaugural CXC Marathon Cup winner, running with his 11-year-old daughter Tula. (Courtesy photo)

This week, we checked in with Chris Pappathopoulos, who recently achieved his season-long goal of winning the inaugural CXC Marathon Cup series, which involved eight marathons, one sprint and a 24-kilometer skiathlon in over nine weekends. Pappathopoulos, 35, of Madison, Wis., competed for the CXC Marathon Team last season. While the CXC Marathon Team is no longer, Pappathopoulos explained he would like to race the CXC Marathon Cup series again next year.


The biggest challenge to continuing to ski fast as one moves beyond their twenties is likely not so much chronological aging of your body as trying to squeeze training in to a life now filled with other higher priorities. As a mid-30s single parent with a full-time job, this is a challenge I am well familiar with. My solution has been to crunch training into the margins and wrinkles in the day and really focus in on high-quality training.

My prime training time is now from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. The goal is to complete much of the training before family members have woken up. Since my daughter is still too young to be home alone, I spent some time on Craigslist to outfit my house with a SkiErg and functional (though not pretty) strength training equipment. Finding space for these items is more of a challenge than the cost. I suspect many people pay more per year on a gym membership than the total outlay on this equipment was. This allows me to be home and still get quality training in.

If I don’t have dad responsibilities, I will rollerski in to work and do a standard workout with the added bonuses of knocking out the commute and saving gas money  at the same time.  I leave multiple changes of clothes and take multiple lunch meals in to work on the days I do drive to make this easier.

After getting out early in the day, my next-best training opportunity is to insert shorter workouts in where I can. Lunch hour at work is one example of this. Another example last year, before I bought strength equipment, was to do general strength work on Sunday morning when Tula was at Sunday School. This involved changing clothes in the bathroom as quickly as possible after church, using the 10-minute run to the gym as a warm up, focusing on high quality strength work and running back to pick up Tula.

One of my favorite training options is to work out with Tula. This used to involve pushing her in a stroller while I ran, or going for a bike ride with her on a trail-a-bike. As she got older and faster it would often be my running with her while she biked.  Now it is typically the two of us running or rollerskiing together or her biking while I rollerski. This may not give the ideal training stimuli, but it is well worth it in dad/daughter bonding time.

An example of a lunch-hour workout I do is specific strength repeats on rollerskis. I am fortunate that I have a decent hill to use that I can get to during lunch. The workout looks like this:

Lunch-Hour Workout

1. Change into skiing gear as quickly as possible.

2. Ski to the hill as a warmup. 15 minutes is about a minimum. If I wasn’t crunched for time, I would do at least 45 minutes of warm-up work.

3. Repeats on the hill. I am looking for a fairly steep hill that will take around 45 to 60 seconds to climb. The recovery time is skiing down the hill and often a little further before turning around and heading back to the start point. I shoot for at least 90 seconds of recovery.

For a lunch-hour workout I am usually only doing 2 or 3 repeats of the exercises I choose. If I have more time it will be 3 to 6 repeats.

The exercises I typically choose from are:

  1. Nerds: This is double poling up the hill with your elbows locked at your side and no crunch. The propulsion is coming just from an arm extension utilizing your triceps. This is probably the least productive exercise I do and the best to skip when short on time.
  2. Single stick: The upper body is moving as if striding, but there is no kick. The work is isolated to the upper body.
  3. Double Pole Crunch aka Locked and Loaded: This isolates the core compression phase of double poling. The shoulder and arm joints are essentially locked and the propulsion comes from the crunching motion. Make sure you are starting from a good high position with hips forward.
  4. Striding: Standard striding. Focus on precise, powerful motions with good glide.
  5. Double Pole: Standard double poling. This is a good opportunity to experiment with poling rate. Try shorter, quicker poling motion one repeat and longer motions the next. See which one is more efficient on the grade you are using.
  6. Cool Down back to work
  7. Change and back to the desk.

I try to hold the time close to constant for all exercises, which means I am not making it as far up the hill doing nerds as striding for example.

If nothing else, your ability to walk into a small, enclosed space and quickly emerge with a new set of clothes on may start to rival Clark Kent’s.


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