It’s no secret that fast skiers are made over the summer. Hundreds of hours of training include running, bike rides, lifts, and rollerskis, all necessary for any racer hoping to be competitive in the coming winter. But coming off of the racing season, the general feeling is that in springtime it’s best to relax and have fun while starting to build a solid base of strength and endurance. We checked in with various clubs across the country to hear about their plans to kick off summer training during the month of May.
Fasterskier: What is your basic theory on training in May and what are you looking to accomplish?
APU: In May we have two goals: bridge ski-specific fitness to the training year and activate dryland training modes (running, strength, etc). This year we have a lot of snow, so we have been skiing 3-4 days every week. Most of the sessions are distance-based. We are now 4 weeks into some dryland, so most of the athletes are ready to bump up the running. Our favorite foot workouts this time of year include longer uphill efforts that provide low impact and a great place to work the heart. Last weekend we climbed a mountain of ~4000 ft gain in 1.5 miles.
Bend Endurance Academy: We find that living in Bend gives us an opportunity to utilize the month of May in perhaps a different slant than most of the Nordic world. While May might mean dusting the cobwebs off the rollers in some parts of the country or perhaps crawling out of “mud season” in others, we in Bend are taking a long awaited break. We finished our season with a solid month of crust cruising in April. We will be waxing the boards again soon- gearing up for a few weeks of skiing in June! We consider ourselves lucky.
Take time to be away from the regimen of skiing for a brief period. It makes you appreciate how great our sport is.
CXC: Elite and juniors kicked off the year with their first camp in Minocqua, WI May 7-11. The main objective for May camp was to conduct athlete assessments to set baseline general fitness levels of the athlete.
We commonly test VO2, general strength and conduct a 3,000 meter running time trial. Another important aspect of our May camps is to sit down and conduct individual meetings with the athletes to set goals and outline a yearly training plan.
We tweaked our personal meetings this year by having the athletes draft a self assessment in advance. The team filled out a self assessment that outlined strengths and weaknesses. This led directly into planning out the general training themes for each individual athlete.
GMVS: We use May as a building period while trying to make training as fun as possible and using all of the resources the Valley has to offer. Last week we hiked and skied Steins (a bump run on Sugarbush), road biked, ran, had two strength sessions and did a low intensity roller ski. Road biking is really fun here with lots of “gap rides,” each with over a thousand feet of vertical. With easy pace rides on this terrain you build a lot of leg strength and fitness.
SMS: We look at the spring as a time to start building base endurance and general strength. The goal is to prepare for more specific training in the summer.
Fasterskier: What are your athletes doing for endurance and intensity training at this time of year?
APU: For distance, most sessions are 1-2 hours. We will build up to longer workouts as the season goes. For intensity it depends on the individual; Kikkan has been doing some L3 to start building aerobic motor and a couple of non-specific races to keep in touch with racing.
Bend Endurance Academy: Whatever they want.
CXC: We got out on the rollerskis again and did work on technique primarily in the double pole. The double pole is the foundation of skiing – both skating and classic, so it’s a good place to start tweaking technique. We didn’t go beyond that. Simply getting the team out on rollerskis and logging some mileage was the primary goal.
Athletes enjoy competition, so our athletes recently competed in either a road running race or a mountain bike race. We did this instead of sending the elite athletes out onto the track for a 3,000 meter time trial. These “fun” competitions were a good balance of motivation and getting in some needed intensity to maintain and build upon their basic fitness. There is nothing like sending a competitive athlete out into a “fun” competition to get their motivation back in gear. It was also great to have other local ski racers like Chris Cook and Adam Swank participating.
Caitlin won the half marathon and all the men jumped into a single track mountain bike race. Previous nighttime snows transformed dry pavement to slick roads and made a technical mountain bike course even more technical.
GMVS: Endurance revolves around easy runs and long bike rides. Our longest run so far has been 90 minutes on our “teeter totter” loop, which includes nearly a thousand feet of elevation gain (meaning ski walking). On the road bikes we have progressed up to a double-gap (Lincoln and Appalachian) three-hour ride for the oldest. We also get to train a little bit with the alpine program as a handful of them are strong bikers, and that always adds a nice social component to working hard.
On foot we have done easy intensity—focusing on moving lightly—and letting the body adapt to the impact of running. We will run a 3000m the last week of May. We did our first ski walking intervals yesterday, which were actually a little more on the recovery side of things, focusing on using the arms and reintroducing ski-specific muscles. We do ski-specific drills, starting with coordination work that focuses on easy and open movement at least once a week. Even though these sessions are short, they create muscle memory while providing a nice place for the athletes to visualize skiing.
We have done two sets of threshold intervals on the bikes and will participate in three bike races this month. Vermont is pretty cool for road biking—it seems like there are three local races every week from now till the end of summer—so that gets the team out in the community for some fun competition and allows us to see folks we wouldn’t normally see.
SMS: We have a little bit of a biking focus and the team does a 100 mile bike in late May. Most of our training is pretty easy, but we usually do one intensity workout per week.
Fasterskier: What are the athletes doing for strength at this point (weight room, specific, splitting your firewood)?
APU: I wish it was all splitting firewood and carrying rocks. For strength in May, we spend 2 days in the weight room per week.
Bend Endurance Academy: Creativity is rewarded.
CXC: Reflecting back on our first four years as an elite program, we found that in the May and June camps four years ago, general strength was an area of focus. Presently, general strength does not appear to be a glaring weakness for our returning athletes, so we did not run the general strength assessment at the May camp this year. We worked with Dr. Jim Mullen at Premier Wellness in place of the strength assessment. Dr. Mullen tested the athletes for range of motion as well as symmetry. We felt this was more important for our senior athletes.
GMVS: Our strength training plan has now moved from “beach muscles” (which is our fun name for general strength) to a Medals Test Prep period. We will run the tried and true USSA Medals Test (with modifications we’ve made through the years) at the end of the month. We will be focusing a lot on leg power this year, as that is important for sprinting and for the shorter distances juniors are racing. We are also using our two Ski Ergs in every strength session to prep for the summer of roller skiing.
SMS: We are doing a general strength routine twice a week, which includes some arms, legs, and core, and takes about 45 minutes. The goal is to build general strength now and get after specific strength in the summer.
Fasterskier: What is your overall goal in having your athletes do this type of strength work?
APU: I believe the main role of strength is to enable more specific training through balanced bodies and aiding in recovery.
Bend Endurance Academy: Hanging out in trees is fun, right?
CXC: The objective of the range-of-motion tests were to see if there were any areas that the individual athlete needed to specifically address for both performance enhancement as well as injury prevention.
GMVS: Our May strength program is aimed at developing some general strength and addressing imbalances that could lead to overuse injuries during the demanding dryland season. With good reason, there is a lot of thought regarding Compartment Syndrome (CS) right now in the US. Imbalances and weakness in the major muscle groups can lead to overuse of smaller stabilizing muscles and completely derail all the hard work we do through the year. We have been using some exercises I used to recover from two knee surgeries to address this specifically. Core, lateral hip strength, and single leg exercises all help to increase stabilization. In regards to CS, this type of strengthening is beneficial in unloading the lower compartments, utilizing more major muscle groups for stability.
We also incorporate agility into our strength routine to help with speed, quickness, and balance that we don’t get in ski-specific training. As Nordic skiing is an “in-line” sport, unless you’re ripping down a sketchy hill or jumping, your body is not put into challenging positions. We spend hundreds of hours every year moving in this two-plane motion, so we need to address overall athleticism in order to be our best. Look at Northug at the Red Bull Challenge or Newell doing back flips—the best skiers have amazing proprioception!!
SMS: It’s good to have a solid platform to build off of.
Fasterskier: If you had to pick your favorite workout to do during the month of May, what would it be and why?
APU: Crust skiing in the Chugach mountains. The terrain is perfect for refining skate technique. It is easy to hold high speed and cruise for hours at a time. So far in May we’ve gotten in about 8 hours each week of skiing!
Plus May means we are getting ready for the glacier!!!!
Bend Endurance Academy: It would have to be going to the beach.
GMVS: Riding the bikes on the gaps is really fun. You can get as much as you want…and sometimes more.
Also, our ski on May 5th on Sugarbush. Skiing corn with budding maple trees alongside is a neat experience. We also hike the lift lines and have change collecting contests.
SMS: Group bike rides on well-paved, undulating back roads are a fun way to build some basic endurance and leg strength.