Along with fleeting daydreams of snow-covered fields, the summertime for many nordic skiers and coaches brings the search for another surface: perfect pavement. After living in Bozeman, Mont., for the past two months working as the new head coach for the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) elite program, Austin Caldwell deemed the newly paved roads running past Triple Tree Ranch his rollerski route of choice.
The best part about the route for Caldwell, however, is not just that his athletes do not have to dodge potholes or endure the consequential leg gyrations from rollerski wheels passing over pebbles. It’s also the interval loop the location provides.
Performing interval pieces on the same loop, to Caldwell, offers athletes an opportunity to track their improvements not only through one workout, but over the course of many. Caldwell’s workout of choice is done at threshold on the same loop so that athletes can track improvements as the workout progresses.
Caldwell says that the athletes should then return to the same location and perform the same workout a grand total of four times in the summer and twice in the fall. In order to track performance gains, Caldwell has his athletes calculate their average heart rate during each interval piece, along with the amount of time it took to complete.
“The main thing that I like about this workout is that people can look back at it over time and see improvements,” Caldwell explained on the phone. “We look at the average heart rate and look at the times down for each interval and it’s a workout we’ll come back to a few times throughout the summer and a couple times in the fall as well, so you can see improvements throughout the year and I think that that is very motivating in the long run.”
The Workout: L3 Rollerski Intervals on a Loop
Find: A smoothly paved loop that takes 13-15 minutes to complete. Use this for the intervals.
Warmup: 30 minutes skiing easy Level 1 (L1) with one Level 2-Level 3 piece
The set: 4 x 15 minutes
Each interval piece should be done on the same loop
5 minutes recovery between each 15-minute interval
Cool down: 30 minutes easy L1
Total time: 2:15
Paving the Way to Better Performances: Caldwell’s Top Two Tips
1. Summertime = strategy testing. According to Caldwell, summer is the time to test different pacing strategies, transitions, and technique work, especially during longer threshold workouts such as the one outlined above. “I like this workout because it gets people to actually think about where they’re going hard, where they’re pushing themselves and where they can recover,” he said. “In a workout like this at this time of the year, I tell [my athletes] to try different things and see what’s working for them, what’s making it easier? Focus on a certain up hill or relax until the top of the hill and hammer the flat … hop in behind people, stuff like that.”
2. Focus energy on the effort piece. In terms of where to focus during a threshold workout like Caldwell’s, intervals take precedent, while warmup and cool down are kept short and sweet. “Generally we’re taking five minutes recovery and for a cool down we’ll ski 30 minutes after the workout,” Caldwell said. “The main focus of the workout is the intervals. We’re not doing much extra than that on these days so the athletes can really focus on what’s working for them.”
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.