By Teemu Virtanen
This week, you have been able to read about strength training for cross-country skiing and periodization, block training. As the summer is just around the corner, many enthusiastic cross-country skiers are already thinking about next year’s long distance events and how to prepare for them.
2020 will certainly be an interesting year as there are no World Championships or Olympic Games for pro athletes to put their focus on, and for recreational and semi-competitive skiers there are more chances to be part of Visma Ski Classics as the brand expands. The upcoming winter season will be the first when there are two brands under one umbrella: Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour and Visma Ski Classics Challengers.
This means there should be a suitable for race for everyone in the calendar, and now it is time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. And work means, of course, dryland training over the summer and fall. The great thing about cross-country skiing is that it really cranks the heart and respiration rates and burns more calories than just about any other sport—up to 1,000 per hour depending on your intensity and speed.
When you start your summer training, you should keep in mind that that the biggest mistake you can do is to go hard every time you work out. In a nutshell, you should avoid training with the same pace and effort every time you go out and train. Instead, you need to balance your training and vary your speed and intensity. You need a lot of slow mileage, some intense intervals and constant strength training.
In yesterday’s article, you could read about improving your strength, and you will have a chance to learn more about resistance or weight training designed for Nordic skiers in the weeks to come. Now, let’s remind everyone of the three main categories of basic endurance training; aerobic, anaerobic and core training, and take a closer look at them all.
This is low heart-rate endurance, and it is the base that everything else builds on. Invest the training hours on roller-skis, wheels, feet or any which way you may find suitable, and it will pay off on snow. A rule of thumb is that you should keep it slow – the pace is good if you can comfortably talk when doing aerobic exercises.
You should do these long workouts several times a week keeping your heart rate at 65 to 75 per cent of maximum. If you are a more experienced skier and have done many long distance ski races, you can alter you pace to avoid repeating the same workload over and over again. Some sprints during your long workouts are also recommended here and there. Some of the long endurance exercises need to be done close to your aerobic threshold so that you can raise that level. That means a relatively good pace throughout the workout.
This means various intervals during your regular workouts or specific interval exercises. You need higher than race-pace to improve your capacity and system. That means pushing your effort beyond what is comfortable. You can first start with shorter intervals and repeat them often and then try longer ones when your body gets adjusted. These types of workouts aim to raise your anaerobic threshold and your tolerance to withstand lactic acid in your muscles while going fast.
Here are some examples. You can try three 10-minute efforts; six three-minute efforts; and eight one-minute efforts, with one minute of rest between efforts. Or you can do a 1-2-3-4-5 minute efforts with the same recovery times. The key is consistency between bouts. Work as hard as you can and your heart rate should be in the 85 per cent or higher range. You should always aim to finish each interval in about the same amount of time.
In addition to these specific intervals, you should also do race-pace workouts or long exercises that are a little slower than your maximum race-pace. Normally, these exercises vary from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, but for experienced long distance racers they can go all the way up to 4-5 hours. In those cases, you have to keep in mind that your recovery time from a hard four-hour training is quite long and you should take that into account when planning your follow-up workouts.
This means trunk circuits to improve your core strength, and of our sport’s three fundamentals; balance, weight shift and timing, the first two are dependent on solid core strength. You can find some great core exercises in our yesterday’s article and you can read more about the subject in our article published in January: https://vismaskiclassics.com/news/articles/the-power-of-the-core-learn-more-about-our-center-of-gravity/
These three basic training categories, strength training being the fourth, are just rough illustrations of what a cross-country skier needs to work on when aiming to do well in the winter. This summer, you will learn more about proper training for long distance skiing and find out how our pro skiers train on dryland.