By André Santos
As it was written before on this website, there are so many pieces to the training puzzle. To be a strong long-distance skier, it is necessary to organize training sessions, recovery, nutrition and mental training. But there is one element that is underrated too many times: sleep. We talked to some elite long-distance skiers to understand what the value of sleeping is in their daily routine.
Sleep is essential for every endurance athlete, to feel restored and perform well on the following day. During sleep, endurance athletes allow their hearts to rest, their cells and tissues to repair, therefore recovering from physical exertion and promoting cardiovascular health.
Not many endurance athletes face so many hard conditions as long-distance skiers do. Both professional and recreational skiers must ski for hours, many times using mostly their upper-body strength along the way, enduring the harshness of long and steep mountains or cold forests. And many times, Visma Ski Classics events take place in very low temperatures.
Quality sleep is essential for long-distance skiers to be able to face these tough conditions all over the winter. Both increased quantity and quality of sleep help long-distance skiers to improve their performance related to the Visma Ski Classics events.
Sleeping an average of 10 hours a night helps long-distance skiers become faster, have quicker reaction times, and helps the body to memorize the effects of training. Also, it helps to keep a good mood and motivation to train day after day.
On the other side, lack of quantity and quality sleep hurts the performance of long-distance skiers. It reduces the ability to react quickly and think clearly and increases the chances of illness.
But how much value do Visma Ski Classics Pro Team athletes give to the power of sleep?
According to Anikken Gjerde Alnaes, Team Ragde Charge’s athlete, the lack of sleep has a negative impact on her performance. “I need a lot of sleep,” says Anikken.
“Ideally, I need to sleep 9 hours a night. But there are periods in which I need to sleep more or less hours, depending on my training load and training cycle. But one thing is certain: the lack of sleep makes me feel off and affects my performance”.
For Øyvind Moen Fjeld, a former professional long-distance skier and now the Editor in Chief of langrenn.no - our affiliate, the quality and quantity of sleep is the most important part of recovery.
“Sleep is very important; it is the most important part of recovery. It needs to be prioritized and become one of the main parts of the job as a skier. When you lack sleep, you feel more tired, and the training effect is limited. Having said that, sleeping bad one or two nights in a row is not a problem if your overall sleeping pattern is good. You have to keep in mind that sleeping is like training, you see the effects over a long period. When I was competing, I had several nights before a race where I hardly slept, but I was still feeling well the next day”.
How should elite and recreational athletes develop their sleep pattern to improve their performance? Some useful tips can be as follows; creating a nice sleeping environment, cutting down caffeine after lunch, staying away from electronic devices before going to bed, avoiding unnecessary reaction to visual and other stimuli just before going to bed and so forth. It is also important to avoid overtraining, avoid training too early or too late and avoid thinking about the competition at all when the nighttime approaches.
With quality and quantity sleep, it is easier for both elite and recreational athletes to recover from the challenges of long-distance ski training and competition.