Wednesday Workout: Building Intervals with Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt

FasterSkierMay 2, 2018
Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt rollerskiing in Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs, Quebec, last summer. (Courtesy photo)

It’s May 2 and the overall NorAm leader heading into the 2018/2019 race season, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt, is champing at the bit to get back at it. Like most other pro nordic skiers, the 25-year-old Morin Heights, Quebec, native spent the last month getting some off-ski R & R, which wasn’t completely devoid of snow. In April, Bouffard-Nesbitt and her boyfriend went surfing at Lawrencetown Beach near Halifax, Nova Scotia (brrr!).

Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt snaps a photo of her boyfriend Stuart and their boards while surfing in April near Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Courtesy photo)

“I was planning to travel somewhere a little more exotic later in April but opted to get all my wisdom [teeth] pulled out instead,” Bouffard-Nesbitt wrote in an email.

She planned to return to her training base in Canmore, Alberta, next week, where she’ll be “jumping right back on snow and right into some training camps” with her team, Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR). They’ll start the training season at Sovereign Lake in Vernon and Penticton, British Columbia, then head south to Bend, Oregon, in early June.

“I can’t even tell you how excited I am to dive head first into this training season!” wrote Bouffard-Nesbitt, who has had previous seasons derailed by a myriad of injuries.

Despite a late start, she finished last winter as the first Canadian woman in the overall NorAm standings, earning World Cup starts in November and December later this year.

So what’s one of the workouts she’s looking forward to this spring? That would be Rocky Mountain Racers’ “most tried and true workout”, which can be done skiing, rollerskiing, ski striding, or even biking.

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“It’s simple, it’s appropriate for pretty much any time of the year, and it’s reliable,” Bouffard-Nesbitt explained. “I found myself really looking forward to doing these intervals after coming back from injury. This workout kind of feels like ‘home’ for me, and I trust it to get me fit in a short period of time.

“It’s funny, even just thinking about this workout makes me happy, that’s how good it makes me feel,” she added. “When I got back to Canmore and started doing some on-snow intensity last December I was nervous about my fitness, but after a few of these types of workouts, within two weeks I already felt way more confident in my fitness and my race readiness.”

The workout: 6-8 x 5-minute Building Intervals

  • Warmup: 15-30 minutes of easy Zone 1 skiing

“We usually do a lap or two of the predetermined interval course to get familiar with it. I like to get up into zone 2 near the end of the warm up to get my technique right and set my technique intentions for the intervals.”

  • Intervals: 6-8 times 5 minutes, building from interval to interval, with around 3 minutes of rest.
    • First interval: Below threshold to wake up the body.
      • “The goal after the first one is to increase the distance you cover over every consecutive interval.”
    • Last two intervals: should be harder, “definitely into race pace. On the last two intervals we also like to increase the effort within the interval, so the last minute would be flat out.”

More on “building”: 

“I like the building aspect because you’re not demanding a huge effort of yourself right off the bat. You get really familiar with how much your body can handle, and I love the feeling of just having the reins cut loose for the last interval and seeing how much further I can push.

“Mentally it just feels great to go further and further every interval, and I love the challenge near the end of the set to make sure you’re primed to push harder in the next interval, and to convince yourself that you always have more in you. The last interval is usually pretty hard, but you rarely get to the end of the workout feeling crushed, because the intervals aren’t too long and you’re really only pushing hard at the end. So it covers everything from threshold to race pace and gives you a great race feeling by the end.”

  • Cool down: As long as you need, usually around 30 minutes.

“I love this workout because I feel like it gives me everything I need, including a bit of mental conditioning and confidence,” Bouffard-Nesbitt wrote. “It’s nice to start the intervals with a controlled effort to get a sense of how your body feels that day. Building from interval to interval allows you to work on your pacing because you’re always trying to make it further than the last interval while conserving just enough energy to go further on the next one. Seeing how much your increase in effort translates to the extra distance you covered also helps you become more efficient.

“I’m paraphrasing my coach John [Jaques] here to summarise – this workout is great because you are taxing different energy systems all within the same interval set,” she concluded. “And it’s a low-risk and adaptable workout in that you only continue to build if you can handle the previous interval.”

Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (c) holds off Zina Kocher (l) and Annika Hicks (r) to win the women’s freestyle sprint final at 2018 NorAm Western Canadian Championships in January in Red Deer, Alberta. (Photo: Doug Stephen)


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