If you're not in ski-training mode, now's the time to start! It's July and the days are getting shorter. In just a few month we'll be on snow again.
To help you out, Central Cross Country Skiing has produced the DVD "Wake Up! Its Time to Train" to help you get started. A mix of discussion by the who's who of the US Ski Team and CXC Skiing and video footage of training, drills, and racing, the DVD is just what you need to get motivated.
To get the most out of this DVD, be sure to sit down with a pad of paper, a pencil, and your remote control - you'll want to stop the DVD often to take notes.
What does it take
USST head coach Pete Vordenberg starts "It's Time to Train" with a discussion of the time investment needed to be the very best. The discussion is mainly for high school skiers and their coaches, but is interesting nevertheless for the masters skier. To be good, you need to make a serous investment in skiing, serious is fun. Pete argues that the more investment you have in the sport, the more fun you'll have.
Testing and Physiology
Pete next describes the standardized fitness testing program he uses to judge an athlete's progress and that allows him to compare athletes from different regions of the country. Video footage show each fitness test so you can replicate the test on your owns. Pete also discusses the best time of year to complete the tests.
Next, Randy Clark (University of Wisconsin Hospital Sports Medicine) goes into a extensive discussion of exercise physiology. Topics covered include:
Pete Vordenberg, Bryan Fish (CXC Team Head Coach), and Matt Whitcomb (US Development Team Head Coach) each discuss strategies for coaching new XC athletes: fitness is key!
Drills and Technique
The next section of "Its Time to Train" shows footage of over 25 different rollerski and dryland drills, both classic and skating, some in full motion, some in slow-motion. Study this carefully - these are all drills you can (and should!) do on your home turf. Take notes!
One of the best video sequences shows a rollerskier doing a speed session, then transitioning to a World Cup skier in the last kilometer of a 50k race. If this footage doesn't bring home the need for doing speed sessions, nothing will - You have to see it to believe it. It also reinforces the theme throughout the DVD: training specifically for skiing pays off during ski races.
The Key to Success
The fittest skier wins. The DVD talks about what it takes to be the fittest skier: consistency in training, support from training groups and clubs, steady progression in training. For the master's skier, or high school athlete, or any athlete, you need to figure out how to be the fittest person possible given the time constraints you have in order to be at the top of your game.
In a section on multi-sport athletes, the DVD argues that to be good at one sport - any sport - you need to commit to that sport. Some crossover is OK, but you want to do sport specific activities year around. You can't be great is you spread yourself too thin.
Key Components of Training
To help you increase your fitness, the DVD describes key components of training: distance, intensity, and strength. The coaches are big fans of interval training and provide multiple tips for getting the most out of interval training. They also do a good job of describing what intensity to use for different kinds of intervals.
And interval training is not something you just do in the fall: it's year around, according to the "It's Time to Train".
US Development Team Coach Pat Casey argues that strength training facilitates endurance training. He describes how to periodize strength training from spring through summer, fall, and winter by changing the intensity or ski-specificity of strength exercises.
Casey is a big fan of body weight exercises because they use more muscles than weight machines. He also stresses the importance of core muscles.
This section ends with video on nine key strength exercises.
Sprinting vs. Distance
US Ski Team Sprint Coach Chris Grover argues that sprint training is excellent for skiers because it forces you to deal with speed, balance, coordination, and strength - skills that cross over to distance racing.
He then goes into details about how to do speed work, making it clear that speed work is not intensity training. He the describes how to periodize speed training across the year and gives examples of typical speed sessions.
The final sections of the DVD are more motivational. They show the success of Central Cross Country skiers at last fall's West Yellowstone SuperTour and describes the pipeline that leads from through CXC to the US Ski Team and the World Cup.
As you can guess, this DVD is geared toward the racer. Although some of the discussion directly addresses the high school or collegiate skier, almost everything in the DVD is of use by the serious master skier. Just having videos of different drills - both technique, speed, and strength - made this video very worthwhile for me.
So, Wake Up! It's Time to Train...