After nationals came to a close at the end of March most skiers have had their fill of racing and traveling. There are a hardy few that journey to spring series racing in the United States, but most look forward to a couple weeks of warm spring skiing and a month of relaxation.
This portion of the training year is focused on having fun, taking the time to heal any nagging injuries, rest and basically not worry too much about focus. Its also a good opportunity to reflect on the past years performance and set out training plans and goals for the upcoming season (see articles by Tom 2007, 2005.) This article will outline some of the activities that I use to renew my focus and enthusiasm for the upcoming season.
Skiing: As I mentioned above the time after the last races of the year is also my favourite time to ski. The pressure of the racing season is off, the air is warm, the days are long and often the trails still have good snow. Unfortunately this year the spring skiing was not what you would call epic, but it was possible to find enough snow for some relaxing Zone 1 skiing. . The last recorded ski on XCOttawa.ca was April 18th but this took some considerable dedication. In heavier snow years skiing this late would not be uncommon along the well packed sections of ridge road. This is also an excellent time to make the long drive North of Quebec City to Montmorency to take advantage of their very deep base. The focus during skiing at this time should be entirely fun. Take lots of water, take some pictures, take lots of rest and remember that the hard training will begin sooner than you may like. It is important that we recharge both our physical and our mental skier. Partaking in non-ski related activities will help to renew our passion for the sport and avoid burnout.
Biking: I am new to road biking so while I canít offer to many specifics about how to approach a racing season for those that race I can suggest that you start slow. Remember if you have been skiing all winter the road bike muscles (especially those glutes) may be a little bit atrophied. Make the first few rides shorter and slower than normal. Jumping directly into a hard training program for a new sport before recovering from the previous will lead to injury and fatigue.
Running: Same goes as for biking. Start slow and enjoy the scenery. Running is the main form of cross training for cross country skiing and has proven a much more effective training tool when compared to biking. Both running and skiing are load bearing exercises, biking, like swimming, is not. Itís a good idea to stretch lots after the first few runs of the season, although this is always a good approach, at this time of year it is most important. The unused muscles will tighten very quickly (especially those hamstrings) and we donít want to start the running season with an injury.
Paddling: I use paddling (marathon mostly, not whitewater) as cross training for upper body muscular endurance. It doesnít take the place entirely of circuit work in the gym, but it can be more enjoyable and offers excellent core strength development. Local paddling clubs are a good place to pick up this sport. Of course a few long paddles in your kayak at the cottage can be equally as effective. Whitewater is also a great upper body workout but in terms of muscular endurance, marathon is better,
Rollerskiing: Wait at least a couple months before you get back on the wheels, enjoy some other sports.
This is a great time of year to build up your confidence for the upcoming season and dream about how your new approach to training is going to produce rocket speed and really surprise the competition. Just remember to ease back into the cross training routine and vary the workouts to keep the interest high. Donít ignore the ski specific work (ski-bounding, rollerskiing, weights, intervals etc.), itís critical to building the speed and strength that makes the difference come race day. Just be sure that you include some other sports in the routine for general fitness and that you reserve the early spring for rest and fun.