Last week was such an adventure for me, and I was very honored and excited to accept an invitation to train with the girls widely known as the best Cross Country skiers in the world! I think it’s really awesome when people who are at the top of their profession, be it sports, business, computer designing or cooking, choose to share and pass on the things they’ve learned. It would be so easy to keep the secrets to success to themselves, but it takes a truly generous person to open up to others about what they’ve learned. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience this with my own role models and teammates on the US ski team, and from the first day I was on the team I’ve been constantly learning from all my teammates. So when the new head coach, Roar Hjelmeset, said I could come to one of the Norwegian girls training camps, I booked my flight the next day!
I wanted to train with the girls for a few reasons. I’m always looking for ways to keep training fun, new and exciting. I figured an adventure to a part of Norway that I’ve never been to, and especially in the summertime, would be really cool. I knew most of the girls and they seemed like really nice people so I was looking forward to getting to know them a lot better and making some good friends. Last but not least, I wanted to see if the training I was doing was on track! I’m always ready and willing to learn, and since these girls have been the best in the world for quite some time, I knew there would be things I could learn from them. And maybe I could even share a thing or two about my own training to spark some different ideas…or at least some good conversation about training philosophies!
The biggest thing I found out right off the bat was that there really ARE no training secrets – in all the big ways, we train exactly the same as the Norwegians. Which was really awesome (and reassuring) to find out. The training plan for the camp was almost identical to one we would have at our training camps – a mix of long slow distance training, L3 and L4 intervals, strength and speed training. Since the camp was only one week long, it was bigger in volume than a typical week at one of our two-week camps, which made sense. The Norwegian girls are able to get together for many training camps throughout the summer since they can all drive to camp, which I thought was really neat.
We talked about intensity zones and how we label them, which was a bit different. L1 was the same for all of us, and L3 threshold training is also the same – a controlled effort. L4 is different through – they break it up into L4 and L5, where L4 is faster than L3 but their L5 is the really hard stuff – the real “race-pace” intensity. I like that they differentiate between the two since you can go hard for 2 minutes, or hard for 6 minutes, and you can’t keep up the same intensity level for both since the 2 minute interval is usually much faster paced.
The biggest difference I found between our training ideas is about who writes the training plan. Most US athletes I know receive a training plan from a coach. I personally work with Jason Cork to write a plan, and although I contribute ideas and am learning to read my body and share what I think works for me and how I’d like to train, he sets down the plan in writing. These girls leave camp and after meeting with the head coach, have a general outline of what they’d like to accomplish before the next camp. Then they write their own plans out, and keep it super flexible, often changing workouts in order to train with other athletes or changing workouts based on how their body feels that day. In terms of overall hours, I was behind in previous years (I build up by adding hours every year since I was 15 years old) but this year I’m on track to have similar training hours to the Norwegian National team girls – with the exception of the girls training about 1,000 hours. I am NOT close to that, yet!
The Norwegian girls are also in charge of their own strength training plans, so in the gym they each do different things. This is another change from what I do at home – USST coach Tschana Schiller writes my strength plan and periodizes it to my racing plan for the year. Like with Cork, I give feedback and contribute ideas (“my double pole muscles need more work” or “I need more stabilization in my core”) but she writes out the exercises for me to follow with a year-long plan in mind.
And like us, they have really awesome team chemistry! They share training ideas and encouragement with each other, they dole out “awesome work!” and high-fives after intervals. They also had team activities like cooking dessert as a team and playing a stick-throwing game called Kube. This was so fun for me to see, because it seemed from the outside like they really get along well and support each other and now that I’ve been a part of the team for a week, I can say it’s a wonderful team to be a part of! Each and every girl was so welcoming and friendly to me, and being part of every team activity was a real treat. To me, this is the most important thing you could ever have in a team – the skill and ability to be a great teammate is often under-valued but can make the biggest difference in how you look back on your career and feel about your work as an athlete.
I loved how professional everything about the camp was. The coaches had every workout planned out beforehand with a route and the vans were being loaded 5-10 minutes beforehand. Nobody was ever late! As soon as we got in the door after training sessions, lunch or dinner was ready, having been prepared by the camp chef. It was a very efficient machine! Of course, at home, we don’t have the budget for that but when we train at the Center of Excellence in Park City, the USST chefs prepare dinner for us after hard training days and strength workouts, which is such a treat. At the end of each day the girls and coaches got together to asses how the day went – was the workout ok? The training location? The goals for the day? I liked the immediate evaluation.
There was one other overwhelming difference – they have a big media day every camp! It’s designed to be as easy on the athletes as possible so that they can concentrate on their training. I was also interviewed alongside the girls, and that night, there we were, on national television. It’s still so crazy to me how big this sport is in Norway! To leave camp and then find yourself in the newspaper and tabloids with a huge photo you didn’t even know was being taken….was very, very weird. But it’s so cool that skiing is the #1 sport!
Here’s the links for a few of the stories, in case you’d like to google-translate. Apparently, my nickname (after being translated) is “smile-duck”! Love it.
Another new thing? The Myr! I tried to learn at least two new words or sentences every day, and myr was certainly one of them! It’s this squishy, mossy bog that they often run in and it feels like trying to run across a pillow-topped mattress (I would know – I’m sponsored by Slumberland, remember?). It was super fun to run in!
The last night I made banana bread for the girls and I guess quick breads aren’t a super popular thing in Norway. But after all the girls copied down my Dad’s “secret” recipe for Banana Bread, it might become a bigger deal!
The training week came to an end much too soon, but I had an absolutely wonderful time. It was such a treat to train with these girls and make some great friends, and I can’t wait to see them again this winter!
I had an extra day and a half before flying home, and Kari Slind generously offered to take me with her on some more adventures! So after packing up, we drove to Tønsberg, a city on the ocean known as a big summer city. It was so beautiful, and we stayed with her family friends, the Mysens. They were so nice and us out on their boat to go waterskiing and cliff jumping! I loved it!
After a fun day, Kari and I drove to Oslo where we had a dinner party with Celine Brun-Lie, who I got to know when she came to our Alaska camp a few years ago. It was so fun to see her and catch up before flying back to the States! Of course, we found it hilarious that on our drive to Oslo Kari and I passed the enormous Norwegian wax truck. Skiing. Is. EVERYWHERE!
All in all, it was a super fun trip and I learned a lot about how we are so similar, and how we differ in some of the details. I made some good friends and it was an opportunity to me to grow as a person, having to come to a new country and be “the new girl” without any coaches or teammates with me. I loved the experience, and I feel excited and motivated to ski!