November Training and Early-Season Pointers

It's November; snow is falling in some places, there's a nip of frost in the air, and ski season is starting to seem real!  Below are some training summaries from a couple of racers and, at the end, a discussion of early-season training from a Norwegian coach, shamelessly copied from some newsletter, to help you rein in your enthusiasm for those gorgeous groomed trails; with any luck, it's gonna be a long winter and you want to pace yourself.

Middle of the pack overall, age group podium, world masters distances:


I actually really love November dry-land training. The summer is over and I can smell ski season approaching. As I do my workouts, I imagine I am on skis!


I still have a goal of doing something active-- just walking by the lake, for instance-- every day. But biking is out because of the wet weather (I don't like taking the corners on hills fast with wet leaves all over the place.)


Here are my getting-ready-for-skiing workouts:


1. For the last few weeks I have worked in more intervals. I have started doing what I think is a really fun interval exercise at Genessee Park, which has about a mile-long figure-eight trail with several slight inclines. Here is how it works: 20 seconds ski-walk followed by 20 seconds ski-run as fast as I can, then 30 seconds ski-walk followed by 30 seconds ski-run as fast as I can, then 40 seconds of each, then 50, then 60 and then down the same scale, and then up again. I do this for about 30 minutes (and am pooped but getting a little less pooped each time.) I am working towards going up to 90 seconds by December. I do this once each week. (I got the idea for this from some ski-training publication but can't remember what that was.)


2. I have also started indoors on the ski-erg, at this point only doing 20-30 minute workouts 2 times/week.


3. I am continuing to do a 2-21/2 hour ski walk/run on Wednesday on the KSC course. I am so looking forward to this moving to skis!


4. I do weight training 2-3 times/week. Some of this has moved towards what I have been working on with my PT around strengthening muscles that support my creaky knees. That is going really well--- thank god for physical therapy!!


5. Sometimes, but not every week, I am doing a hill interval. About 90 seconds ski-walking up a hill 6-8 times. These are great workouts but I prefer the interval workout in Genesee Park and I figure they accomplish about the same thing. 



Completely mediocre marathon-racing mom who trains to maintain sanity:


A training miracle occurred for me the other day.  At the end of a set of uphill L4 intervals, nose running and heart pounding, I heard my timer ding and I came to a stop with my hands on knees to try to catch a breath.  All of a sudden I heard a little voice in my oxygen-starved brain that said "I want one more". As a completely mediocre, 46-year-old athlete with a very full work and family life, I have to say that this is not a voice that speaks to me often.  Usually that voice in my head says things like "is this what a heart attack feels like?" As I started jogging back down the hill, the voice got louder and when I got to my starting spot, I thought "why not?" and went for it again. It hurt, but it was the best interval session of the fall, hands down.


November is my absolute favorite dry-land training month of the year.  Gone are the sluggish feelings that haunt me every August. In their place are a little extra energy from the cool weather and a strong motivation in the form of Silver Star skiing over Thanksgiving. I don't even mind the rain.


So what does a November training plan look like for a mediocre, middle-aged athlete inspired to do my best for the upcoming racing season (but still facing the reality of my life)?  Right now, I'm trying to get 10-ish hours of moving time a week.  A couple of those days involve running (mostly intervals), roller skiing (mostly L1 double poling to build upper body strength), strength workouts to prevent injury, and yoga to keep everything moving.  Last spring, I got very interested in the idea that a major component of balance is hip and glute strength and I have been working on that all summer through plenty of squats and RDLs plus plyometric exercises that focus on landing on one leg from various angles.  I may be hallucinating from lack of oxygen again, but I think it is working! 


Early-season pointers from a pro:

Norwegian coach Erik Bråten was interviewed by about transitioning from dryland training to snow and offered these thoughts.

The three most common mistakes when transitioning to early snow:

  • You ski for hours with such a low intensity that you don’t ski with the correct technique.
  • You ski for several hours with a slightly or substantially too high intensity to maintain proper technique.
  • You go from training 100 percent on dryland to 100 percent on skis as soon as the facilities with early snow open.

“The problem with many facilities with early snow is that, in many cases, they are laid on tough loops. And there are different snow conditions than there are in winter. This means that the snow can become sugary, which makes it even more demanding,” says Bråten.

 “It’s only the national team and elite skiers who can keep the heart rate down at A1 level (easy distance training) and maintain the technique on the tough tracks, at least now early in the season when it comes to the transition between dryland and snow.”

“Many people tend to ski a little too fast when they get on early snow, precisely because they want to ski well technically. But the danger is that all training then becomes a little too tough. And if you also train a little too long, you risk coming to the competition season more tired than well-trained,” he explains.

What advice does Bråten give before the first sessions on snow?

“Put the watch away and ski at the speed you need to achieve good technique. And train an hour instead of one and a half. Also, remember that easy training is still important. When you do a little harder session on snow than you had planned for, it is a good idea to alternate with some leisurely rides on rollerskis or running.”

 “That many people go to a training camp for maybe four days to get early snow is one thing. But it is important to get used to skiing on snow. It is much better to train well on dryland than poorly on snow. Therefore, it is good to ski some hard intervals on dryland even if you have access to snow. In general, you can use both rollerskis and skis until Christmas.”