Monday, August 20, 2001 - Perspective
NSDT Update: Summer Training

- By: Shane Stevens

In Canmore, the Development Centre and National Team athletes are quickly nearing the end of the summer training period, and before we all know it, we'll be on snow and starting another race season. For most, the very biggest hours of the year are behind us, or they soon will be. For the men's team, we will be finishing our big base period at our on-snow training camp on the Haig glacier at the beginning of September. Most of the athletes will complete between 25 and 30 hours for the week, providing everything is going well and our monitoring tools show us that we're handling the hours and the altitude like we should be. It's this base of hours built up throughout the summer and over previous years of training which will enable us to do the best quality of work possible through the fall, make the most of the coming intensity sessions, and continue to be strong though the winter.

For cross-country skiers, the summer period is where most of our base-work is done, and it is just as important as any other time of year for those wishing to have a successful race season. This base-work is the foundation for all the other training we will do, and the bigger and stronger the foundation, the more training we will be able to handle in the future. A common analogy is to compare your training to building a pyramid, where the bigger the base you start with, the higher you will be able to build it. The athletes on the National Team and the Development Team all have very carefully planned and periodized training programs which vary from athlete to athlete depending on their age and where they are in their skiing career.

Our training plans start at the end of April and take us right through to the end of the race season. The spring and summer months include plenty of LSD training (Long Slow Distance, 60-70% of max heart rate) which is mostly done roller skiing, ski walking and running, as well as some cycling for recovery workouts. During these workouts, a lot of attention is paid to doing proper technique and improving any weaknesses. We also do a lot of strength training, ranging form general to endurance strength, as well as specific on-ski strength. Most of the intensity we do is zone 3 work (just under anaerobic threshold, 25-30 beats below max heart rate) in order to boost our anaerobic thresholds, with some hard intervals and time trails done at certain times. All these different types of training are done at specific times and are done for specific reasons; it's very important not to train aimlessly, but to have a purpose for everything you do.

Cross-country skiers also have to think in the long-term. We have to realize that it takes years and years of training before our bodies will be strong enough for us to compete at an elite level. Our anaerobic thresholds, capillary densities, and oxygen delivery and utilization abilities, as well as all the other limiting factors which we are faced with are things that take a long time to improve and increase to their full potential. All the very best skiers in the world have had to be intelligent and patient with their bodies and their training plans, and have never lost site of where they want to go and what it takes to get there. Anyone hoping to compete at their very best must not only be willing to train long hard hours year after year, but also to train as intelligently and patiently as the best skiers in the world do, from the beginning of the training year, right through the summer and into the winter.

(Shane Stevens got a relatively late start in cross-country skiing, but his sport rich background helped him to quickly improve. He is now one of Canada's top male skiers. Several years ago Shane made the move from Manitoba to Canmore, where he trains with the National Senior Development Team.)

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