.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Workout of the Week: 5 seconds on, 5 seconds off
By:  Megan McTavish   (2014/07/19)

This past Wednesday evening XC Ottawa skiers did an interesting workout while rollerskiing in Gatineau Park on the closed section between P8 and P9.

The prescribed workout was 20 minutes of classic (mostly double pole) rollerskiing with 5 second accelerations followed by 5 seconds of active rest. This is pretty difficult to time, so the best way is to figure out approximately how many pushes you should do. For example Karl figured he should do 6 pushes for the "on" part and 4 pushes for the "off" part. The 5 seconds on should be quite fast and the 5 seconds off quite easy. The workout feels like a zone 4 effort but heart rates are more like zone 3.

I talked to our training guru, John Suuronen, to get an explanation about the workout, more specifically the "Why" and the "How".


For a while now experts have been critical of attempting to make improvements in performance with increases in volume, especially for athletes who are already well trained and doing high volume. Much greater improvements in performance, it is said, come from higher quality training especially at speeds greater than race pace. Also, some are
skeptical of higher volumes of intensity (up to 25% of total vol.) due to the fear of injuries and/or illness.

When John read about these 5:5 sec speed workouts he saw a way to increase the volume of high intensity work while hopefully reducing the risks. This belief was based on the claim in the article he read that this workout is easier to recover from and produces less stress on the physiological system.

The workout does allow for the body to adapt to numerous vigorous accelerations and allows for muscle patterning to be developed for fast skiing with attendant technique improvements that come from skiing fast.


When doing these workouts the athlete should focus on correct technique. When the technique starts to fall apart the workout should be ended.

A progression from flat terrain, to a bit of an upslope, to a greater upslope to possibly a weighted vest can be used.

This type of workout can be done in both classic and skate modes. Diagonal work has to be on an appropriate upslope to allow diagonal.

The duration of the hard effort should not exceed five seconds. If it continually does the theory is that it will take longer to recover from the workout.

We did the workout on the relatively flat section between P8 and P9, and therefore focused on double poling.

So, if you are looking for a new workout to try and think this sounds interesting give it a try!

Interesting Reading. . .
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