Update: This article formerly read that the Norwegian national team training camp took place in Farstad, Norway. The camp was actually held in Svarstad Vestfold, Norway and the article has been updated accordingly.
Booking a plane ticket for a 10-hour overnight flight seldomly stirs airline passengers to jump for joy. Yet when current U.S. Ski Team member Jessie Diggins clicked the ‘buy’ button for a red-eye flight to Oslo, Norway, departing June 18, she couldn’t contain her excitement. The Afton, Minn., native had spent plenty of time lunging to the line competing against Norway’s fastest nordic women, but the opportunity to work out with them as a training partner and short-term teammate was altogether new.
Diggins’s Norwegian Ski Federation (NSF) camp invite stemmed from a conversation she had with Norway’s women’s coach at the time, Egil Kristiansen. Following the final races of the Ski Tour Canada this past March in Canmore, Alberta, Diggins, 24, approached Kristiansen and asked about the possibility of joining one of their camps. Despite his initial response, she remained determined in convincing him the value of international shared training experiences.
“I said, ‘Hey, you know I’m always looking for ways to make summer training exciting, new and adventurous, and if you have a spot open at any of your camps, I would really love to come,’ ” Diggins recalled on the phone Monday, back at her training base in Vermont.
“The coach laughed, and then I was like, ‘No, I promise I’ll have a great attitude.’ And we started talking and he was like, ‘You know, we we’re actually thinking we might start inviting a new athlete to camps,’ ” she explained. “Previously the [Norwegian team] never really did that.
Three months later, Diggins found herself opening a forwarded email from the new Norwegian women’s coach Roar Hjelmeset with a list of available national-team camps for her to attend.
“They sent [U.S. women’s coach] Matt [Whitcomb] the official [invite] … and I booked my ticket the next day,” Diggins said. “I flew to Oslo on the night of the 18th … and I stayed with Astrid [Uhrenholdt Jacobsen] then I drove with her and Roar to the camp.”
Diggins kicked off her weeklong adventure with a rollerski in Drammen, Norway, the site of her first World Cup race before the Oslo World Championships in 2011.
“It was really funny that my first World Cup race happened to be this place where I was [now] coming to do intervals with the Norwegian girls,” Diggins said.
After that, athletes piled into the vans and made the remaining 45-minute drive up to Svarstad Vestfold, Norway, where the rest of the camp took place. During the next six days, Diggins immersed herself in the team’s workouts, discovered the difference between the Norwegian women’s training plans and those of the U.S. women, and baked banana bread with the team.
“If you’re a guest at a camp, you go there willing to work,” Diggins said. “At least I can do that. I’m willing to work, I’m ready to be there, I’m ready to just be jumping. Whatever they do, I’ll do, too. And that was really fun; that was the best part … I just tried to be as much a part of the team as possible.”
Team ‘Norge’ Sample Workout: Distance rollerski, ending with pickups
Length: 2 hours
End with: Set of 5 x 10-second pickups, done about three-fourths of the way through the workout. Start head-to-head for the pickups.
Diggins’s Top-Three Takeaways from Training with Norway:
1. Training is Training. “The biggest thing I found out right off the bat was that there really ARE no training secrets. In all the big ways, we train exactly the same as the Norwegians, which was really awesome (and reassuring) to find out,” Diggins wrote in a blog post. “The training plan for the camp was almost identical to one we would have at our training camps – a mix of long slow distance training, L3 and L4 intervals, strength and speed training.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Charge. According to Diggins, the Norwegian women hold eight camps throughout their training season, with two weeks “on their own” in-between. Post-training camp, the Norwegian women evaluate their own needs and write their own training plans for those two weeks in between camps. “The Norwegian girls, they are their own main coach in between camps,” Diggins said, “which I think is really cool because at the end of the day, you are the one in your body. You’re the only one who knows, oh, my legs are really tired, I shouldn’t do bounding I should just double pole or something. So I think it’s really cool that they take charge that way.”
3. Tally Your Worth as a Teammate. “The skill and ability to be a great teammate is often under-valued but can make the biggest difference in how you look back on your career and feel about your work as an athlete,” Diggins wrote on her blog.
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.