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Personally Tailored Training Plan Boosts US Cross Country

Fri, Sep  7, 2007 - By US Ski Team

WANAKA, N.Z. (Sept. 6) - U.S. Ski Team athletes found midwinter snow for cross country training again in New Zealand while some teammates fine-tuned their own training with their grassroots club or personal coach at home. "There's more than one way to get the job done," World Cup sprint racer Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) said of the individualized training approach.

The U.S. Ski Team heads out for a long tour while training in New Zealand (credit: Pat Casey/USSA)

The annual U.S. Ski Team camp at The Snow Farm was blessed with a storm shortly after the Ski Team arrived in late July, providing "great conditions," according to Sprint Coach Chris Grover. "It was definitely thin [cover] when we got down there, but then we had a day and a half snowstorm - the winds were so high at one point they couldn't even groom - and then it was plenty of snow, blue skies, cold temps...really good conditions for another successful camp."

The camp included Olympians Newell, Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) plus Development Team skiers Leif Zimmermann (Bozeman, MT), Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID), Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT), Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) and newcomer Alexa Turzian (Sun Valley, ID), the youngest U.S. cross country gold medalist after winning the 10K freestyle title last January during the U.S. championships at Michigan Tech. Grover said Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who claimed her first World Cup podium last winter - a week before Koos earned his first top-3, was training on Alaska's Eagle Glacier with U.S. teammates Tazlina Mannix (also Anchorage) and Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) and the Alaska Pacific University Nordic program. Among others, Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) also trained at home.

Newell, whose sprint podium in China after the 2006 Olympics was the first U.S. top-3 in a World Cup race since 1983, said, "I feel better than I've ever felt." The Ski Team's approach to individualizing training regimens makes sense as skiers gain experience, he said.

"There are so many different ways to ski and train, and there's more than one way to get the job done," Newell said. "You need to have confidence in what you're doing, and what I'm doing this year is some new strength training. I don't think any other cross country skier is doing this kind of aggressive strength work, but [Conditioning Coach] Zach Weatherford has helped my skiing so much over the years, and he's made me faster every year, so I'm taking a little change and doing more strength training.

"Really, this is one of the great ways the Ski Team works now, at least with the older guys," Newell added. "As you get older with the national team, you should learn from your training, from keeping your training logs - and my logs go back to my first year at Stratton [Mountain School], back to 1997-98. You learn how your body reacts to different kinds of training...and we're personalizing our training more. Koos and Cook and I go to New Zealand, Kris stays home, Kikkan trains on the glacier in Alaska. We work with the national staff but also with our own coaches at home.

"Cook and I need to work on different things to get better. I've been working a lot on double-poling and building strength, and that's the opposite of Cook. He's big and strong, so he's working more on intervals [speed workouts] and that kind of thing."

Grover said the camp also helps lay the groundwork for the Team's final preseason camp with everyone in Lake Placid, NY, in October. Newell and Koos will head to Europe for the season-opening World Cup races Oct. 27-28 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Cook will rejoin his club program with Idaho's Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and the others will resume training with their clubs in conjunction with the U.S. Ski Team.

Leif Zimmerman going full-on during a sprint simulation in New Zealand (credit: Pat Casey/USSA)