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Athlete Diary: Bang for the Buck!
By:  Karl Saidla   (2006/10/04)


These Athlete Diary things are tough. Do people want to know about my general `life situation`, my nagging injuries, my interpersonal conflicts, my romantic life, how many hours of training I have accumulated so far this year (this month, this week…), or how I am presently in the `best shape of my life` and ready to slam it with the 20 somethings like Mr. Bowflex from those commercials? [Editor's note: If you watched the Tour de France you know the commercial.]

If you read Megan's Athlete Diary a couple of weeks ago it would be kind of repetitive to read about my `'life situation'. Like her, I am trying to figure out how to have some kind of 'real job' while still being able to do what I really want to do, which, of course, is ski.

Seeing as I am not really comfortable writing about interpersonal conflicts, my love life, or 'slammin it with the 20 somethings' I thought I might be able to write a little bit about a theme for my training lately, which, loosely described, is 'finding bang for the buck'.

At the age I have reached (29) significant improvements in skiing performance have become much harder to come by than they were ten years ago. In some respects this is a good sign in that it means that I have already done a fairly good job training. It has, at least, taken me to the point where improving gets harder. But I am greedy and I still want to be faster.

Given my life situation, simply training more isn't really a viable option. Logically, this dictates that improvements have to come from some other avenues. I decided to examine what areas of my skiing were weakest, and to what I could to improve them. I figured that I could probably get more value for time spent working on them (bang for the buck!). Lately, time has definitely been a factor.

In my particular case I have identified the following weaknesses (If you know me and think I have missed something please tell me! - racing season is coming!)

  • I am too ‘on the ball` I accomplish too many things on weekend afternoons My hair is too perfect.

Ok, Ok, on with the real stuff. My identified skiing related weaknesses and a rough description of my attempts to address them (if you are a serious Nordic Dork and want a detailed description of the periodization of this etc, please e-mail me):

1. Lower body strength, power and muscular endurance.

This summer I spent quite a bit of time doing legs only skate rollerskiing, dragging tires uphill while doing bounding drills, and a variety of leg exercises in the weight room. In the fall I will continue with these activities, but will concentrate more on quickness and explosiveness, as opposed to brute strength and endurance.

Legs too weak!

Legs getting stronger, thanks to the heavy weights at A Step Up High Performance Training Studio gym in Chelsea.

2. Top speed

My plan to address top speed largely incorporates a larger number of speed oriented workouts this fall. This means, broadly, more intervals in relatively easy terrain, of short duration, and hopefully with other people. It also means more sprints in the 10 to 25 second range, once again, hopefully with some fast people to make things interesting.

3. Recovery from anaerobic effort

I have paid for working a bit too much on this weakness in the past. The workouts that help with this are deadly. Things like steep 40 second to 2 minute hill climbing (rollerskiing or ski striding) intervals with varying degrees of recovery. My plan is to do them, but in a fairly limited way, and mainly as the big races get near.

4. Adjusting to changes in terrain, conditions, cornering etc at high speed.

This calls for drills, mainly on rollerskis, to improve coordination and balance. It also calls for interval and speed workouts that should get a bit creative. For instance, one might do ski striding intervals in technical terrain, or rollerski intervals with many corners and changes in speed.

Is it all working? Obviously, the real test will happen when the races start, but I am optimistic, mainly because of what are, admittedly, casual observations. Rollerskiing legs only feels easier than it did at the beginning of the summer. I can lift more weight. Dragging the tire uphill remains most unpleasant, but the ski striding without the tire has begun to feel noticeably easier. I can occasionally at least offer a challenge to others while doing sprints. Finally, most people would agree that my legs are starting to look pretty thick, particularly in the calf area!

Thanks go out to a few people who have been really helpful with both creating and implementing the abovementioned plans: John Suuronen (XC Ottawa Head Coach), Steve Paradine (Friend, past coach, current Jackrabbit Instructor), and Rich Childs, owner of A Step Up High Performance Training Studio which is the gym in Chelsea.

Interesting Reading. . .
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