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Workout of the Week: Early Ski Season Intensity
By: Sheila Kealey (2006/11/28)
Workout Type: Sprints
Exertion Level: Hard
Skier Level: Any
Technique: N/A
Season: Pre-competitive
Terrain: Varied

Suggested Trails: Wherever you can find snow!



There seem to be a few schools of thought when it comes to that first week on snow. Some believe that cross country skiers should keep the effort very low and concentrate solely on technique, while others value the importance of speed training at this time and incorporate some intensity into their first workouts.

Various forms of intensity figure prominently in the training programs of most XC Ottawa athletes at this time of year, and we will do the speedwork whether we’re on rollerskis, ski striding, or on snow . . . but we certainly prefer the snow!

Short sprints are a great way to add a bit of intensity to your ski without overdoing it. The quick movements will sharpen your reflexes and neuromuscular patterning, and you will discover that that after you do the sprints, your balance and coordination will be fine tuned and you will be skiing with more fluid technique.

Here’s how you can incorporate sprints into an early season workout:

WARM UP with about 30 minutes of easy, relaxed skiing. Then get your heart rate up with about four or five efforts at Zone 2-3 for about 30-45 seconds.

SPRINTS: You want to do 10 second bursts of speed, with about 2 minutes of recovery. (Or use a 2-minute “go” time and set you watch to beep every 2 minutes). Aim for 10 sprints, and switch the terrain from flats to hills a couple of times so that you can work on different techniques. Focus on good technique and strong, powerful movements.

COOL DOWN: Cool down for at least 20 minutes, or this would also be a good opportunity to take advantage of the snow and go for a longer distance ski or technique focussed session.


Relax! Although tricky during short sprints, many experts believe that the ability to relax at high speeds is critical for improving performance.

Even if you haven’t spent any time skiing on roller skis or ski striding, you will still benefit from sprints. Just take the intensity down a level or treat it as an acceleration by starting at a moderate pace and gradually increase the speed over 10 seconds. You can try the all-out sprint efforts later in the season.

More Workout Suggestions . . .
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