Wednesday Workout: ‘Old Lady’ Interval Ladder with ’94 Olympians Hall and McCabe

Gabby NaranjaJune 7, 2017
Laura McCabe, 1994 and ’98 Olympian, during her weekly Wednesday interval workout. (Photo: Leslie Hall)

*Note: This article has been updated to include email comments from Laura McCabe as of Wednesday. 

Don’t let the name “Old Lady Intervals” (designated by Leslie Hall) fool you. The interval ladder she and Laura McCabe complete every Wednesday and submitted to FasterSkier is one that takes experience and willpower. Hall doesn’t recommend the workout for juniors, but more for masters and those with limited time for harder training efforts.


If their houses were any closer, Leslie Hall and Laura McCabe could probably comfortably hold conversations from the threshold of their front doors. For a little more than two decades, the duo have been neighbors, living within one-tenth of a mile from each other in northern Washington. But a street name and sidewalk view of the Methow Valley isn’t the only thing the two women share.

In 1994, they were teammates, representing the U.S. at the Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Two years later, they moved into their neighboring houses, and close to six years after that, they became co-coaches of Methow Valley Nordic.

For the past 15-plus years, Hall and McCabe, who are now 53 and 51 respectively, also share Wednesday mornings.

Following the birth of Hall’s second child and McCabe’s first, the women decided that neither was about to give up interval workouts. Even if it meant having their toddlers in tow.

“When she stopped competing and had her daughter, my son was close in age, so I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ … and she said, ‘I’m going out and I’m doing intervals and I’m carrying Novie,’ and I’m like ‘OK, I’m going to come,’ so then we just started going together,” Hall explained on the phone.

Every Wednesday for the next 51 weeks, the women completed the intervals with their babies on their backs.

“Once they got on a schedule where they were in preschool or something, we’d go off without them,” Hall said. “Now, we drop the kids off at the bus and then we go. It works for both of us because we don’t go into the office at a certain time, so that’s nice.”

The workout itself, which is a ladder-type interval set totaling 43 minutes of on-time at a pace Hall describes as “as hard as we can,” is not one she recommends for junior skiers, but rather those on a tight training schedule.

“It obviously wouldn’t be the best workout for someone, say a 14 year old, that’s not going to be the best workout for them,” Hall said. “But for a lot of masters or working people, they always go sort of medium-hard, so having a targeted interval workout helps raise their fitness. … They go easy [during easy days] because they’re either too tired from the interval workout or they know the interval workout is coming up.”

Both women continue to compete, with Hall jumping into local running and ski races that fit with her coaching schedule and McCabe racing internationally, competing in this year’s Fossavatnsgangan Worldloppet in Iceland (where she placed third in the 25-kilometer skate behind Caitlin Gregg and Britta Johansson Norgren), and the Masters World Cup in Switzerland (where she won two races).

“Leslie and I have been through a lot of life stuff together, starting with being on the U.S. team to raising our children together, going through the joys and difficulties of life as they are handed to all of us,” McCabe wrote in and email on Wednesday. “Working together as coaches, running the Methow Valley xc ski team and just being great friends. WE have kept each other motivated on Wed for some intensity for many years, as just that 1:30-2 hours pays off if you are consistent. Wed we discuss things that need to happen for the team, the kids, life etc and we both get a good solid workout!”

Hall couldn’t agree more.

“I think my favorite part is having someone who makes sure I get out and do it,” Hall added. “I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to fit in some hard training, and that’s really satisfying.”

The Workout

  • Terrain type: Hilly
  • Warmup: 15-20 minutes jogging followed by 4 x 30 second speeds
  • “Old Lady” (as Hall likes to call it) Interval Ladder: 5-6-5-6-5-4-4-4-4 minutes with 3 minutes recovery between each 
    • i.e.: 5 minutes on, 3 minutes recovery, 6 minutes on, 3 minutes recovery, 5 minutes on, 3 minutes recovery…etc.
  • Interval Effort: Between Level 4-Level 3
  • “We just go and go as hard as we can, which is another thing I don’t recommend for everybody necessarily,” Hall explained. “Some days it’s just naturally Level 3 and some days it’s Level 4. And also it’s longer than what most people would want to do, but that’s just what we’ve gotten to at this point.”
  • Cool down: 15-20 minutes jogging with 4 x 5 second sprints incorporated throughout to “clear out the legs”
  • Total time: 75-80 minutes

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Gabby Naranja

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.

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