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Athlete Diary: Working on Weaknesses
By:  Sheila Kealey   (2006/08/23)


Itís been a good summer, and this month I think Iím finally seeing some of the benefits of my dryland training. Throughout much of June my muscles were pretty sore and still adapting to the plyometrics, strength workouts, hill bounding, and grass skiing (itís fun!) weíre doing with XC Ottawa. It probably didnít help that I was still keen on racing a few triathlons so was trying to get my cycling and running back up to speed.  I guess my muscles have adapted to these new stresses and now Iím feeling faster and stronger . . . I was told that my two legged hops no longer look ďanemicĒ so I take that as a good sign!

My guide is a fairly structured training plan designed by XC Ottawa coach John Suuronen. I often need to adapt this plan to accommodate work and family priorities, or to incorporate a little triathlon training. When the training program and every day life are colliding, I try to be adaptable, creative, and simply focus on certain ďkeyĒ workouts that work my weaknesses instead of worrying about what Iím not doing. For example, ski specific or strength and speed oriented workouts would take priority over long slow endurance workouts.

Itís usually more fun to do what weíre good at, but focusing on weak areas is critical to improvement. Strength, speed, agility, and balance are weaknesses for me, maybe due to youth and teen years where my main hobby was playing the piano instead of participating in sports that developed these qualities. Iím working on these areas this summer in a number of ways: in the gym, Iím incorporating exercises that require a wide range of movement while stabilizing core muscles (as opposed to fixed-pelvis exercises); Iím doing a lot of exercises that incorporate the Swiss ball; single leg exercises; more sprints; and the odd soccer game and other activities that challenge my agility and get my muscles moving quickly in ways Iím not used to.

The goal of my strength sessions isnít simply to get stronger or be able to lift a heavier weight than the previous time, but to increase strength in a way that translates to increased power delivery on skis. I also have a better functional warmup routine to get the right muscles firing, and Iím integrating exercises that challenge balance and coordination into a lot of areas of my training.

Is this focus on weaknesses working? I am seeing an improvement in many exercises, and I was amazed when a hamstring injury that plagued me for a year disappeared. The true test will be when I get on snow to race, but itís only August so Iíll have to wait and see.

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