Saturday, October 4, 2003 - Perspective Update: Variety of Training

- By: Erik Carleton

I am excited about being a new member of the Racing Team. My years on the Development Team were extremely valuable, however I see my current situation as a great opportunity. With more autonomy, I have been able to customize my activities to gain maximum enjoyment and thus increase the effectiveness of workouts. The variety in training is big part of what makes cross country skiing such a great sport. I am trying to take full advantage of this fact.

After struggling last race season, I decided this year I needed to take a look what had been working in the past, and try to rediscover the magic, so to speak. I asked myself what I did in years when the results came easily. Last year was arguably my best year of training ever. If you like numbers, I did 675 hours, the most I had ever done, but only 15 hours more than my previous biggest, so not an unreasonable increase. I felt great all summer and fall, and my physiological tests showed improvement. For example, I made my single biggest leap ever in the uphill roller ski time trial, taking over 30 seconds off my best time. I spent the most time on snow in the off season ever, skiing in every month of the year, without ever leaving the Northern Hemisphere! It suffices to say I was really looking forward to the racing season.

I will not dwell on the results, but they were far below expectations. On the flip side, the highlight for me was the 50k at Nationals, when I went from almost not wanting to race, to placing 5 th, my best ranking in three years. Those last two laps (of seven) my back was so tight I could barely move, but with Will "the Stallion" Fitzgerald breathing down my neck, I found a way to keep going. Also, I was led to believe I was catching Shane, the next guy ahead (thanks, Phil). That was the only bright spot in an otherwise miserable season.

I do not think anybody can pin point exactly where things went wrong. One thing was evident, though, I lost my confidence early, and it never came back. It may have been some sort of physical and mental burnout, but I would certainly still recommend skiing in every month, if it at all possible.

What be will different this year? Well, Canmore is a great place for someone taking a more casual and varied approach to ski training. The outdoor activities are endless. Of course, there will always be the classic workouts like running, roller skiing, and ski striding. Then there are less recognized (in terms of xc ski training) sports such as road cycling, mountain biking, swimming, hiking and orienteering. New activities for me are numerous and include kayaking, canoeing, skating and backpacking, or, as I like to call it, carrying a big orange refrigerator on your back. Paddling has been a great addition to my training. It was a small victory when I figured out how to navigate a white water kayak in a straight line on a lake, despite the water conditions. If you think it is easy, try it! My next challenge will be climbing; it will be fascinating to take advantage of the abundance of solid rock and interesting routes in the Bow Valley. Also, attempting to return to my roots in off-season training, I have added more hiking, biking and road running races to my regime. I hope you find your training as fun as I do mine, it makes motivation easy to come by.

Did you notice I didn't mention strength? It is not that I have not done any, but it could be the subject of its own article. Strength training is an area that depends highly on your body type, physical development, and experience. Some older senior athletes do not ever visit the weight room. Part of the difficulty is measuring improvement in ski-specific strength. There are many approaches, but a good rule of thumbs is to work on your weaknesses plus core and stability. Side bridge on the physio ball is a favourite in these parts. For balance try the Bongo Board, or a homemade version composed of a log and a plank (warning: do not stand beside, board may shoot sideways unexpectedly). Another new exercise, climbing a rope (no legs), seemed a lot easier in grade four. Also, keep in mind, that without technique, strength is wasted, and too much bulk is just extra weight to carry up all those type A climbs. Can you imagine a World's Strongest Man finalist on cross country skis? Take some time to consider if your strength program is right for you.

This entire operation may seem to be lacking focus, but the idea is that the pieces will fall into place in time for ski season. Nothing is done without a purpose. Remember that making one team or another has nothing to do with your goals in skiing. Your preparation changes, but it comes down to what you want, and what you are prepared to do to get there. Train hard and train fun!



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