By André Santos
Last week, an interesting article explaining the importance of VO2max was published in the Visma Ski Classics website. As it stated; “those Pro Team Athletes who have the highest score tend to be the strongest skiers in our races”. Petter Eliassen managed to get high VO2 max values both running and double poling, training more than 700 hours per year at a professional level. But how can passionate amateurs reach a higher level with limited training volume?
VO2max block intervals may be a time-saving and efficient method for increasing maximal oxygen uptake for those who can not spend 3-5 hours a day training. Using this approach, an athlete will spend more time training at or above 90% MHR, and spending less time doing long and easy training. However, it is important to say that despite being more time efficient, it does not mean that it is more effective than a high volume approach. All roads lead to Rome, but you can choose whether you go hard or smoothly.
This type of training should be done during the off-season, so your body can adapt to the effort without a risk of being too tired during the season. High Intensity Training blocks have been used by some very successful cross-country skiers, such as Marit Bjoergen, Beckie Scott and even Petter Northug.
Finding the correct Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
Start by finding your maximum heart rate (MHR). According to the Cardiac Exercise Research Group, based in Trondheim, a good way to find your MHR is running or skiing at a very hard level for two 4 minute efforts. Then, run hard for another two minutes, and when the monitor shows the two minutes are over, continue running until you cannot take it anymore. The highest level you reached will be your MHR.
Training structure during regular weeks
During regular weeks, an athlete can do 3-4 high intensity sessions. These sessions consist of 3-8 minute intervals above 90% MHR, with a 3 minute rest in between, for a total of around 25 minutes. Different exercise forms should be used, in order to avoid local muscular fatigue. So, on Monday you can run with poles, on Wednesday you can double-pole and on Friday you can run with poles again. Regular weeks can be done by a period of 2-3 weeks.
Training structure during block weeks
During these block weeks, an athlete can do 6-8 interval sessions. The amount of intervals and time is the same as in regular weeks, but with an increase in the number of sessions. These weeks will be very hard to tolerate, at least at the beginning. But as time goes by and VO2max increases, it will become easier.