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The Ups and Downs of Spending a Year on a Training Center
By:  Steffan Lloyd   (2013/07/04)


At the end of the ski season, in the year before this last, I made the decision to move to Quebec City, train with the Pierre Harvey Training Center, and finally make the move away from a club environment.

At 21, I was one of the last of the skiers my age to move to a training center. For each of the past years, I had toyed with the idea of moving to one. I wanted to do everything I could to be the best that I could be, but the convenience of Ottawa was hard to ignore. On one hand, training centers offered better support, more one on one time with the coaches, and the opportunity to train with some of the best athletes in Canada. However, on the other hand, the Gatineau Park… is awesome. The training opportunities here are great. There are so many networks of trails that after 12 years of living right in Chelsea I haven’t had a chance to explore them all. Parkways are closed on the weekends for rollerskiing, and there are extensive sets of bike paths. Universities nearby are to study at and provide a nice distraction outside of training. So… tough decision.

So I did end up moving to Quebec City, and I trained there for a year. Here is what I thought of my experience.

The Good:

  • The amount of resources and support provided to you is amazing. You’ve got doctors, physiotherapists, masseuses, strength coaches, dedicated wax technicians, and coaches who work with you full time. It is quite nice. Problems are dealt with quickly. If you’ve got an injury they can get you in to see a doctor or a physio usually the same or next day. You have somebody who takes care of all of your equipment and helps you with sponsors. Sacha at CNEPH helped get me sponsors, and figure out how to get the most out of my skis. On trips, your skis are waxed for you before each workout, and travell-waxed afterwards. Coming from Nakkertok, this was quite a treat.
  • You get to train with fast people. At CNEPH, we got to occasionally train with Alex and Lenny, but even when they were away we were still a fast group of guys that would push each other in all the workouts.
  • At races, your waxing is usually spot on. There is a big difference between a club coach trying to wax for all his athletes at a race, and a team of 4 wax techs waxing skis for just you and 5 other athletes

You also get to go to some pretty cool places. This is in Tignes, France during a Glacier Camp. Spoiler: I didn't fly that far.

Here is me on the glacier. That was quite a nice day, and later that day 2 fighter jets did a fly by.


  • While the training and support is great, the time you spend outside of skiing can be dull. This is a problem I think most of the training centers share. The problem is that the best places for training aren’t always the best places to live. Mont Saint Anne had great trails, but there wasn’t much going on there — so you can start feeling shut in.
  • Because you’re living on your own, likely not working, and likely not at school, things get boring pretty quick. If you find yourself wanting to go to a training center, try to think of ways to fill your time beforehand. For me, I was working and taking correspondence classes. I thought this would be enough — but after going through 5 seasons of True Blood in a matter of weeks in my spare time I realized that things were getting a bit dull.
  • For better or for worse, the better part of your day is spent focused on training. What I mean is everything you do is related to training. You wake up, you train. You get back, you eat, then stretch, then nap. You get back up, and you train again. You get back from that, eat dinner, and then maybe hang out with your friends — from training.

That said, there are a lot of really cool places to explore in Mont-Saint Anne, as demonstrated in these self portraits taken over a summer of long solo exploration workouts (my favourite kind).

That's right. A bridge. On a trail.

What? A waterfall? Pro tip: you can swim in a little oasis pool at the top of this waterfall.

Not Impressed? I found a bigger waterfall.

The biggest waterfall yet. Wow. This is it from a different angle, I'm sure you recognize it.

I am very glad to have had the opportunity to spend a year on the national training center. The training and support I received there were awesome, and at the level I wanted to train at, it was the next step for my progression.

However, by the end of the year, it started becoming too much for me. I began to get bored in my spare time, and the lack of distractions from the constant day-to-day focus on training was weighing on me. I realized that I was so focused on training that I wasn’t doing it because I enjoyed it; I was doing it to make myself faster.

I decided that by continuing to train like this I would end up hating skiing. After another lengthy contemplation this spring, I decided I would go back to Ottawa. From there, I would join XC Ottawa, and train on the extensive trails and roads around my house. I wanted to be in a state of mind where I was training because I loved to train, not because I want to win. I don’t mean that I don’t want to win (I do very much) — I just mean that I care more about how I get there than where I get.

So far, this has been working out very well for me. I am enjoying training with XC Ottawa a lot; the team is great to train with. Most importantly though, I feel that I’ve reestablished a good balance between skiing and the rest of my life. This fall, I’ll be continuing my engineering degree in my spare time. In the summer, I’ve spent my time expanding my web design business, and providing updates for my online training software, SportLog.ca.

To those reading this, who are themselves deciding on going to a training center: though at times I may have painted an unappealing picture of some of the aspects of training centers, the fact remains that they are the best way to be the fastest you want to be. My advice would be to try to take steps before going to these training centers to avoid the problems I encountered. Figure out a way to attend school while there. Try to get a job while down there, and get a hobby to keep you occupied. 

Plus, at XC Ottawa we get to have croquet tournaments.

...and make intense workout videos with my Ottawa-ian friends (Zeke).

Interesting Reading. . .
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