By André Santos
There has been a lot of research about traditional cross-country skiers, but the factors that lead to success in long-distance cross country ski have been almost unexplored. Now, a recently published article analyzes the physiological profiles and training characteristics of the world’s best long-distance skiers.
The journal Frontiers in Sport and Active Living has recently published a new article, whose research has been led by Per-Øyvind Torvik from Nord University and Guro Strøm Solli and Øyvind Sandbakk from NTNU. They investigated the training characteristics of world-class long distance skiers.
In order to do this, twelve world-class male long distance skiers reported training logs from their best season, including detailed information about the distribution of training volume, intensity, and exercise modes, as well as specific sessions that skiers employed during their most successful season.
The twelve athletes involved in this study are from Norway and Sweden and have been competing in the Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour for at least three years. They have achieved at least two podium places and have achieved at least one podium performance during their best season.
The researchers found that long distance skiers, in order to achieve their best season, trained around 861 hours/year, where low-intensity endurance training predominates. They perform long training sessions that last between 3 and 5 hours. They spend 88% of the time doing low-intensity sessions, 6% doing moderate-intensity sessions, and 5% high-intensity sessions. In addition, some specific sessions were done, such as long duration intensity session that ends with moderate or high-intensity intervals.
The athletes studied performed one or two moderate intensity session per week during summer and fall training, and during the winter, most of the intensity came from competitions. Many of the intensity training sessions performed during summer and fall aimed to simulate the most important races’ demands. For example one of the skiers who was training to win Vasaloppet reported that he used a session that started with 1 hour of moderate-intensity (between 82% and 87% MHR), followed by 2 hours of low-intensity training (around 72% MHR), and finished with 30-40 minutes of high-intensity training (above 87% MHR).
Other athletes who won Marcialonga reported a similar approach, doing 3-4 hours of low-intensity training and finishing with 15 minutes at high-intensity double-poling uphill in order to simulate the final climb of the race.
The demands of specific races guide these training designs. In addition, these athletes did regular high-intensity training using other exercise modes, like running, to improve their Vo2max.
Examples of training sessions:
LIT: 3-8 hours Double-Poling with 10 x 12-second sprints
MIT: 30 to 60 minutes warm-up, followed by 4 x 15 minutes with 1-2 minutes recovery between
HIT: 30 to 60 minutes warm-up, followed by 10x 3 minutes with 2-3 minutes rest between intervals
Heavy strength: 5 x 5 sets of exercises like deadlift, squat, pull-ups, bench press
Core stabilization: 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off during 20-30 minutes of different core exercises