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Don’t Forget to Think…

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

…or just because you read it on FasterSkier doesn’t mean you should do it.

Over the last month we have run two articles translated from the Norwegian website on the Norwegian National Team’s renewed focus on running.  While not earth shattering news, it is interesting to hear that this historically dominating ski nation sees running as a key component of a training regime, and one that should be increased, even at the expense of hours on rollerskis.

Information on training – how much, how hard, what to eat, the list goes on and on – comes in a steady stream on the internet.

On FasterSkier we feature workouts by professional skiers, talk to athletes and talk regularly to athletes and coaches about training.  Individuals and teams share even more info on blogs and other websites.

We all know that you have to be careful about what you read on the internet.  But this is not just a matter of identifying reputable sources.  When it comes to training, every piece of information must be carefully considered in relation to yourself (or your athletes if you are a coach).

It is easy to imagine someone reading the articles on the Norwegian Team, and instantly deciding to substitute bounding intervals for a number of intensity sessions. And while this could work well for some, it could actually be a poor choice for many.

A junior who has not logged many hours on rollerskis and needs to develop the strength endurance to be a successful ski racer would benefit by emphasizing rollerskiing in the summer – particularly if they run cross-country in the fall.

Same goes for a Master who has limited time and can rarely do workouts specifically for upper body strength.

On the other hand, a strong experienced athlete may benefit from the efficiency of training and foot.

The point is obvious – who you are, and where you are in your ski racing is the most important factor in making training choices. There is no magic formula – no one right way.

Just because Andy Newell or Peter Northug does a certain workout, or trains in a particular way, that doesn’t mean it is right for you. It is striking how many ways there are to be fast in this sport – the only certainty is that it takes a lot of hard work.

So don’t blindly change your training just because you read some article on FasterSkier. Ask questions, think critically and make well considered decisions. Training is an interesting combination of science and art – a balance of physiology and one’s personal sense of their body and what it needs. It is often a fine line between skiing fast and struggling along, overtrained, undertrained, or just not properly trained.

Ultimately no one can tell you what to do but yourself.

Hours: No Silver Bullet

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

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.