With a wild swing of my arm I reach for the alarm clock that screeches out a deafening sound at the dawn of a hot and hazy summer morning. To hit the snooze button means many more enjoyable moments of slumber, to give in and accept the reality of the alarm clock means the beginning of a long day of solo training. As all cross-country skiers are aware, the ski training consists of many long hours of highly involved training. The challenge in training does not only come from the many hours and the imaginative methods but from maintaining the motivation throughout the off-season. A skiers secret strength lies in the teammates they work with through those hot summer days when snowflakes are a distant dream.
Waking up for early morning practices can be much more difficult to do when you don't have a team to meet. When you are the only one that is going to do a certain workout it often becomes difficult to rise to the occasion. This task becomes even more onerous when the weather is a bit shy of favourable. Fortunately many athletes around Canada live in communities that have developed skiing programs. These athletes have an advantage over those who do not have the opportunity to be involved in organized practices. I, myself, am a skier that was born and raised in the Toronto area. For those of you who are not familiar with the geographic layout of Toronto, lets just say it is 95% concrete and steel structures and the other 5% is community parks with a few trees . The non-existence of ski trails and the mild winter temperatures does not encourage the development of inner-city ski programs. Therefore athletes like myself have to work within themselves to pull together motivation and a true understanding of the enjoyment that nordic skiing brings to them. Because ski training in the city does not create a social experience like it does for the fortunate ones who have teams to train with, motivation comes entirely from ones internal drive.
I became involved in cross-country skiing five years ago. I had a strong running background and found that there was a lot of similarity in the training methods. I used this knowledge to my advantage. In order to get over the hurdle of completing the long hours of training, I found myself joining with other sports teams whenever it was feasible. These teams included cyclists, runners and swimmers. It was great to occasionally be able to join other athletes from different sports; however the one thing I always missed was a mutual enthusiasm for snow. As my hours of training became more specific closer to the ski season I found myself having to resort to solo training more and more.
It is my opinion that training alone can be both a frustrating experience as well as a rewarding one. Entertaining yourself throughout a two hour run or roller ski can be quite a frustrating experience, while the moment of completion gives one a sense of total accomplishment. To finish a long challenging workout without the cocoon of a team should indicate to the athlete that they have the mental power and drive to push through some of the most challenging racing conditions. Just remember - "What doesn't kill you will only make you stronger." While these great feelings of accomplishment and drive fill the solo athlete's mind there is always an element of doubt circulating as well. Questions like "Did I really push hard enough?", "I wonder how fast I would be compared to the rest of my competitors?" and "I wonder what my technique looks like compared to others?". When such doubting questions fill ones mind continuously it begins to have a negative impact on a skier's motivation and performance. While a coach will often help deal with this doubt, sometimes teammates are the best suited to the job. Teammates are great to talk to because they share many of the same feelings, experiences, and a passion for skiing. Since ski training is an 12-month commitment the doubts of a solo skier can be detrimental if they develop early on in the season. In order to reach your prime as a cross-country skier, you must dedicate many years to your development. You cannot reach your best simply by training hard for one year. Since this is the case it is important to try and work with others so these doubts don't become rampant. Ski training with teammates can make training/racing a fun experience.
As much as I enjoyed the accomplishments I made as a Southern Ontario skier I am excited to turn over a new leaf. I have made the move to Ottawa to pursue a post secondary education at Carleton University and continue to put a strong foot forward in my ski training and racing. I have now gone from being a solo skier to being a member of two teams, and the Carleton University Ski Team. The skiers of are very experienced and know how to train hard and have a good time. For the first time I am getting a perfect balance of solo training and team training. It is my opinion that this balance will be quite beneficial to my overall training and racing morale.
Now as the alarm clock blares in my residence room in Ottawa, thoughts of rolling over and dreaming do not flood my mind. The rain, hail, mud and the carpool await!