Another week has flown by (plus a few days) and I’m now writing from home sweet home Minnesota. The training camp in Lake Placid with the national team was great—good training, excellent company, and reasonable weather. Yesterday, I tested my triathlon ability in a local race, the Timberman Triathlon. I surprised a few people, including myself, and won the sprint course competition. There’s a photo of me below on the way into the bike-run transition. Anyway, on to the meat of this post—“General training philosophies” of the Norwegian training model.
Again, I feel that discussing Norwegian training is best done in reference to the experiences I had before traveling to Norway, which included a detailed and structured training plan created by the coach for the training group I was participating with—both in college and in Minnesota. In each situation, training plans had morning and afternoon sessions that I followed dutifully with not too much thought as to how they were formulated.
This “show up and train” mentality, if I can call it that, was challenged as soon as I got to Norway. I still remember my first workout with Team Statkraft Lillehammer, a roller-ski and shooting workout, where I asked the coach, Tobias, “What do you want me to do today?” I received a blank star and he said something like, “um… don’t you have something to work on? We are having easy skiing and shooting today…” There was nothing specific about how long the workout should be or how much I should shoot—simple things I’m usually told. After a somewhat confusing and frustrating workout, I launched myself into the encyclopedia that is Norwegian training.
From that point on I realized that planning on my behalf needed to play a larger role. At least in regard to the structure of easy trainings—intensity trainings were planed along with other time-trials or tests. This caused a greater thought process in choosing workouts, as well as asks the question, “What works for me?”
With my team this past year, there were between three and four important team workouts planned per week, and athletes were responsible to fill in exercises they felt focused on important aspects for the time of year (volume, strength, specificity, intensity, shooting, etc.). The coach always gave some input as to how your training should be modified or how to approach weaknesses that need addressing. I also should mention that training camps took place each month for one week—common for Norway. In these situations training was planned in detail.
Team training in Beitostølen
You might be asking, what are the ideas that make up the Norwegian training model? Isn’t that what I should be talking about? Valid point. However, just like here in the US, there are many different ideas/mentalities for training and I feel that considering the “Norwegian model” as a single frame of mind is close-minded and one-dimensional. There are many ways to turn a skier into a champion.
Stephen Sneider does a good job describing the basic ideas behind the Norwegian training methods in his article XC Endurance Training Theory – Norwegian Style. I agree with Stephen in that each week (on average) is structured around two interval sessions. That is, training outside of these interval sessions should enable a skier to execute the interval sessions with a high amount of focus (i.e. not tired from a strenuous workout the day before). Subsequent posts will discuss this more and other training topics.
So, the general Norwegian philosophies in my opinion are that athletes should remain fairly independent and free thinking—free to formulate his or her training into something they feel will provide success (a great reason to keep a detailed training log as well as dig up old training logs and look into what worked!). But with direction provided by a coach. The idea behind this is that each individual has a different recipe for improvement, and the best way to find that recipe is to allow athletes to think somewhat independently.
Secondly, I also want to mention that coaching in Norway is structured in a way where it really feels like the coach is working along with athletes. They seem to remain open to different ideas, but will make sure workouts are done in a professional way. Anything that looks out of place or needs improvement, they will not hesitate to discuss with you.
In my opinion, this independence is something to be strived for here in the U.S., but is unattainable for younger athletes simply because the knowledge base of ski training isn’t so readily available and it is difficult to observe top-level racers in training. Plus it’s hard to be independent especially if there are only a few competitive racers in the local community.
Finally, I’ll add that there is no excuse for hard work. To make it to the international level in Norway, a person needs to be among the best in the world. Therefore, Norwegians train like the want to make it to the top—a level that is readily observed. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, Petter Northug trained 920 hours last year!