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Last week we published an article featuring three opinions on the eternal question of the number of hours an elite skier should train.   This subject can become especially heated when you add the role of collegiate skiing to the mix.

It may not be particularly groundbreaking, but this article made one important thing clear – something that bears repeating, over and over – there is no simple prescription for excellence when it comes to training.

What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, and as soon as anyone tries to say “this is what needs to be done,” there are 100 exceptions.

Marty Hall’s graph in that article is a great example.  While it shows a steady progression of hours that is reasonable, the numbers are in no way absolute.  The graph shows an elite male skier plateauing at 1000 hours.  But Petter Northug is only training 850 to 875 hours this year, similar to last year, and Marcus Hellner is even lower, at an estimated 750 to 800.

Maybe the two of them will hit 1000 hours, but most likely they won’t.

Hellner also told FasterSkier that he doesn’t pay much attention to his yearly hours, as he is primarily concerned with how much he trains in the summer and early fall.

Pete Vordenberg gives the classic example of Torgney Mogren, the great Swede who trained a high-quality 500 hours.

And rumor has it that Bente Skari pushed close to the 1000-hour mark at her prime.

Then there is the question of how to count training.  Some people don’t add strength workouts to their total.  Some count time on a bike as half.

Kris Freeman is renowned for his six-hour rollerskis and frequent overdistance workouts.  He has figured out what works for him. Others do interval block training, and it isn’t uncommon for an athlete to dramatically change training at some point during a career – Marit Bjoergen had great success early in her career with a plan heavy on intensity and interval blocks, but after years of health issues and subpar performance, she has toned things down a bit and dominated the Olympics.

There does seem to be a general consensus in one area: Juniors in the United States are not training enough, especially given that how much they train sets them up for their prime years as a senior.

In many ways the whole question of hours can be simplified to the following. Kids need to train more, and everyone needs to work with knowledgeable coaches to figure out the best individual plan. The worst thing any athlete can do is blindly follow general guidelines or someone else’s training regime.

Figuring out what works often takes trial and error – how does the body respond to different training loads?  Can you train intervals five days in a row? What happens when you do less level 4? Thoughtful experimentation with experienced guidance is the best and only approach training.

One Response to “Hours: No Silver Bullet”

  1. Phil B Says:

    I think that there are a few commonalities that do come out of this discussion to be highly successful at anything, in this case skiing you:
    1. must love what you do;
    2.need to be talented – be it physically talented, mentally talented or both;
    3. must train consistently and systematically over a long period of time – 10 years ish?;
    4. have to be smart enough to identify those times when you need to modify your training (volume, intensity etc,) to what works for you, i.e. training programs have to be individual and evolve over time;
    5. must train a lot. What “a lot” is depends on the individual, perhaps a better term then is “as much training as can be tolerated while still seeing improvement” which is much more of a mouth-full than “a lot”;
    6. must recognize that physical training is only about a quarter of the puzzle. Nutrition, mental strength, attitude, equipment, technique, financial & emotional support are all vital parts of being successful.

    For what it’s worth, I hope that my comments can contribute to a constructive discussion.