Following the addition of women’s nordic combined to the International Ski Federation (FIS) Continental Cup circuit, FasterSkier asked the top-two American women in the sport, Gabby Armstrong and Tara Geraghty-Moats, both of Women’s Ski Jumping USA, for a Wednesday Workout. Armstrong offers one for the a.m. and Geraghty-Moats the p.m.
As a 10 year old attending an end-of-the-year ski party, scoring the last piece of pizza is usually bonus enough. Not the case for Gabby Armstrong. Hers was getting to test the landing hill of the K18 on her cross-country skis.
Thanks to her New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) junior club coach Dave McCahill (who had a background in nordic combined), Armstrong was introduced to the jump hill by the time she was 10. Within a day of hitting the hill on her nordic skis, she joined the ski-jumping team. Soon after that, she entered any nordic-combined events she could. Though often the only female competitor, Armstrong was not about to let either sport go.
“It never really occurred to me to stop cross-country skiing,” Armstrong, now 18, said during a recent phone interview. “Even though a lot of coaches would say that I was the lone nordic-combined athlete, it was kind of fun going out against the boys.”
She’s attended two FIS Youth Nordic Combined Cups in Trondheim, Norway, and with the recent addition of women’s nordic combined to the FIS Continental Cup, she’s hoping to boost her event experience to an even higher level.
“Any opportunity I have to compete nationally or internationally, for either nordic combined or ski jumping, I’ll take,” said Armstrong, a member of the Women’s Ski Jumping USA national team.
In order to train for nordic combined, Armstrong jumps during her scheduled practice times and joins the NYSEF cross-country skiers whenever she can. One workout she likes when she’s not with the NYSEF nordic team is aqua jogging with her sister and cousin, an endurance athlete who also holds the unofficial aqua jogging record at Stanford University.
“She really knows what she’s doing,” Armstrong said of her cousin with a laugh. “It’s a workout I picked up last year and I found was really good for me, especially because my knees were really bothering me a little bit last summer.”
On days when she aqua jogs, Armstrong will often perform an afternoon plyometrics workout. According to her Women’s Ski Jumping USA teammate Tara Geraghty-Moats, plyometrics (plyos for short) are particularly important for the role they play in take-off body positioning during ski jumping and the complimentary body/hip awareness they provide for cross-country skiing.
“Plyos are really important, especially at this time of year, to build explosive power, the kind of power you that you’re going to use at the end of the take-off when you jump,” Geraghty-Moats, 24, said on the phone. “It’s also something that I feel is really undervalued in the nordic world. I always felt that plyos profited my cross-country skiing as well.”
An afternoon plyometrics session for Geraghty-Moats also provides an opportunity for new training partners. She has spent the past month in Lake Placid, N.Y., completing plyo practices with NYSEF, and plans to head to Park City, Utah, at the end of July and Europe after that.
“I really enjoy being able to train with people of different ages because it sort of lightens up the atmosphere,” Geraghty-Moats said. “Plyos is the kind of training, too, that you can have a huge spread of abilities work together effectively. I couldn’t really go out and do intervals with a 12 year old and have them push me, but with plyos I maybe adjust the hurdles a little bit and we all learn from each other. They get to see your technique and I learn so much when I’m helping teach and helping coach.”
Regardless of the workout, both Armstrong and Geraghty-Moats are excited about the upcoming Continental Cup schedule and the direction women’s nordic combined is headed: no longer just up in the air, but gaining ground.
“Norway and Austria are already there, they definitely have a core group of high level nordic combiners,” Geraghty-Moats said. “It’s going to take a couple of years in the U.S to build a strong women’s team, but I think it will happen.”
The Morning Workout:
Type: Aqua Jogging
Armstrong aqua jogs at least once a week. When aqua jogging, your feet should not hit the bottom of the pool or lake. The idea is to keep your body suspended in the water while mimicking the movement of running through deep water. Aqua jogging removes the stress of running from the body joints, but allows an individual to continue training their muscles in the motion of running. Ideal for those injured or looking to switch up their workout.
Terrain: Pool or lake
Equipment: Though Armstrong uses no equipment, there are aqua-jogging belts out there for those interested.
Warmup: 10-20 minutes of easy aqua jogging
The set: 2 minutes on-time, 1 minute off. Repeat this 6 times for a total of 12 minutes on (18)
(If you need a long interval session, complete 6 x 2 minutes on, 1 minute off a second time for a total of 24 minutes on)
Cool down: 10-20 minutes east aqua jogging
Total time: 38-78 minutes
*If doing the workout in a lake, Armstrong recommends bringing a buddy for safety reasons.
Armstrong’s Top-Two Tips:
- Don’t be discouraged by the distance. When it comes to aqua jogging, it’s not how far you get, but how long you go for that ultimately matters. “When you’re working harder, it’s slower progress forward,” Armstrong said. “It’s going to seem like you’re getting nowhere, but you’re still going to be working pretty hard.”
- Stay upright to keep the core tight. The importance of engaging the core is no new news for nordic skiers. To do so in this workout, Armstrong suggests athletes focus their effort on staying upright while aqua jogging, not leaning forward. “Making sure your core is activated and trying to stay as upright as possible will prevent your hips from floating up behind you into a doggy paddle motion,” she said.
The Afternoon Workout:
Type: Plyometric exercises
Geraghty-Moats typically does this workout at least twice a week (during rest weeks, she’ll do it once). During plyometrics, an athlete exerts a large amount of force in a short amount of time to increase their power or speed-strength. Exercises should be done in an explosive manner.
Equipment: Hurdles of varying length, a box jump, a track or a open field with a 100-meter stretch
Warmup: 30-45 minutes easy running, followed by 30 minutes stretching
For Geraghty-Moats, stretching is one workout aspect too often overlooked. “What stretching does is really allow your muscles to function efficiently,” she said. “For me, the hips are a big one. … That’s sort of the root of your center of balance and your coordination and often where people are sore and tight. I tend to do at least a half an hour of stretching before I start doing plyos.”
The Plyometric set: 6 x broad jumps, 6 x vertical jumps, 5 x telemark jumps, 5 x hurdles, 5 x 100-meter sprints
*See Geraghty-Moats’s exercise graphic below for more details on plyometric exercises and setup
Geraghty-Moats recommends using varying heights of hurdles to improve agility. “They range from knee to hip height,” Geraghty-Moats said. “It’s sort of like a downhill course, you have to react and be explosive and quick while also thinking about what you’re doing. It’s not just the same thing every time.”
Cool down: 15 minutes of body weight core (e.g. 1 minute of front plank, 1 minute of side planks, 1 minute of leg lifts, etc.) followed by 15 minutes jogging
“And always more stretching!” Geraghty-Moats added.
Total estimated time: 2-2.25 hours
Geraghty-Moats’s Top-Two Tips:
- Plyos take patience. “When you’re doing plyos, if you’re not used to putting your body in the air, it’s going to feel really awkward at first,” Geraghty-Moats said. “So just start small … it’s going to take two months before you really feel like, ‘Oh, I have something in my legs. I can get further off the ground than two inches.”
- Only the strong know when to stop. Rather than trying to push through a plyo workout, Geraghty-Moats suggests paying attention to your body and not being afraid to end the workout early. “If you have any sore ankles or sore knees, it’s OK to stop,” she said. “With intervals, we’re taught that you have to push through the pain. That’s not necessarily effective in this workout. This is more about being focused and giving yourself time. Quantity less and quality more.”
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.