The followingis the first in a series of weekly articles by the "infamous" David Zylberberg, one of the original members of XC Ottawa. He is the writer of numerous amusing and sometimes controversial articles which have been the subject of much discussion within the Canadian cross-country racing community over the last 8 months. While David does not possess an advanced degree in physiology or sports science, hopefully the articles will be the source of much entertainment while you are putting off work, school, or chores. David's articles will be candid and will not be censored by the editors of XC Ottawa. (At least not usually) Please address your comments and questions directly to David.
Welcome to the first installment of the Season of David, my new weekly column at xcottawa.ca. It is going to partly deal with my activities, my thoughts on ski training and whatever knowledge about the sport I wish to impart that week. I hope that you enjoy reading it and learn something from my understanding of the sport.
This week I am going to discuss the purpose of training. I know that it seems blatantly obvious but it is something many people, myself included, often lose sight of. Training consists of doing activities in order to make physical adaptations that will allow you to ski faster. Its purpose is therefore to make you ski faster.
The purpose of training is not to accumulate the most hours or impress your friends with how much harder then them you worked. Training is often measured in hours since these give a general indication of the difficulty of a training program and its relation to other ones. It may be measured in hours, but hours themselves are not the priority, it is the positive physical adaptations that are made as a result of those hours. Some coaches lose sight of this and make programs that are overly concerned with the number of hours, believing that the correct number of hours of each form of training will provide the desired benefits. This is not the case; the content of training and the benefits gained from it are much more important than the number of hours trained. This is something that I have lost sight of in the summer on a few occasions and I find that I occasionally do extra workouts that have no particular benefits just to train more hours.
The purpose of training is not to please a coach. I have seen some skiers make the mistake of training more because they sought to impress a coach. This is not a mistake I have made but one that I have seen in others and whose consequences I also noticed. When this is done, skiers often overtrain or else are not conscious enough of improvement during workouts and do not make the improvements that training should provide. Coaches are useful aids while training but the purpose of training is for the athlete to ski faster, not to make the coach think that they are working hard. The topic of coaches and their relation to skiing faster will be discussed in greater length in an upcoming article on coaching and its relation to performance.
The purpose of training is also not to be the best in every workout. Strength and high intensity workouts can be competitive and this competition can lead to improvement but it is important not to train to win the workouts. Particularly in easy distance training, it is more important to go at the pace that will produce the desired benefits than to try to drop everyone to show your ability. The ability to do better in workouts and to be the strongest in them is a good indication of racing ability but is not the purpose of a training program.
In its direct focus on skiing faster, training differs from exercise. Exercise is a useful endeavour for most people and consists in doing activities in order to be in better shape. It differs from training in that its emphasis is not directly on skiing faster and skiers seeking improvement must be careful of this distinction. Socializing is also a worthwhile pursuit but it differs from training in that its purpose is not to make you ski faster. Many skiers forget about this and end up being too focussed on socializing during workouts, impeding the quality of said workouts. If your goal in doing a workout is to improve as a skier, you must be conscious of that and seek to maximize the benefits during said workout.
Basically training is the act of doing an activity in order to generate physical adaptations that will enable you to ski faster. If you desire to improve, you must be conscious of this and attempt to maximize the benefits while training. Also, the purpose of training is not to do a certain number of hours but to improve and people must remember this. Remembering this purpose of training when planning and doing workouts will help maximize the benefits of training and should lead to a more successful racing season.