By Teemu Virtanen
In our long distance ski training article series we have gone through various exercise methods such as strength training, LSD (long, slow distance) and tempo training. We have also familiarized ourselves with heart rate zones and periodization. Today, we will focus on interval training, which is the most intensive form of endurance training. Let’s recall the meaning of the term again.
As described our article on May 3, interval training is a type of training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise anaerobic while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity. Varying the intensity of effort exercises the heart muscle, providing a cardiovascular workout, improving aerobic capacity and permitting the person to exercise for longer and at more intense levels. Interval training can enhance lactate threshold and increase VO2 max and improve your speed in skiing.
Speaking of enhancing your lactate threshold, interval training builds a fast, efficient base speed. And as we remember, lactate threshold is the point at which your body starts to accumulate lactate faster than it can flush lactate out of your system. By training at this level, you are teaching your body to use blood lactate for energy, so that you can ski faster without “feeling the burn.”
Two great examples of lactate threshold workouts are “threshold pace” and “threshold intervals.” The former is also called tempo training, which we covered in our last week’s article. The latter is as the word implies, an interval training session.
A great example of this type of workout is six repetitions of a 5-7-minute interval (6 x 5-7 minutes) at your lactate or anaerobic threshold level with two minutes recovery between intervals. Remember to do a good warm-up before the workout and a proper cool-off as well. As you are allowing your body some time to recover between intervals, you can go at a faster pace than you can go for a tempo training workout. You can also try shorter or longer intervals or start with shorter ones and increase them as you go, but the shorter you go, the closer you get to VO2max intervals.
Those are intervals that maximize the volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that gets transferred from your lungs to your muscles by building a stronger heart and capillary system. These intervals stress your body past race pace making it easier to maintain high race pace and do intervals and sprints during the race if needed.
These intervals are much shorter than threshold intervals and vary from 2-5 minutes depending on your capacity and performance level. One classic VO2max interval workout example is four repetitions of four minutes each (4 x 4 minutes) above your lactate threshold. This pace is just shy of all out and is best done on a climb, so that you are working hard for the entire interval. Be sure to take at least equal rest (four minutes) between these intervals, as well, to let your body recover before starting the next interval. And again, remember to include a good warm-up and a cool-off whenever doing this workout. Pro athletes usually do these types of interval workouts closer to their racing season and keep doing them in-between races.
Finally, we have speed training, which is an important part of training for all types of skiers because it helps you feel comfortable on your skis while going fast. Remember to focus on maintaining powerful technique. The benefit to speed training is neuromuscular, teaching your muscles to move fast.
This workout has short 20-30 second all our sprints with sufficient rests. It is important to take full recovery because speed is the goal of these intervals. You can do this workout in sets of e.g. 5 x 20-30 seconds and have a 10-minute break between your sets.