Bernard Levin remarked, "I believe it is true, though it is hotly contested, that wherever you wish to go, you must start from where you are." Perhaps the most important step in planning your training is starting where you areóperformance analysis. If you have no idea where you are, it is difficult to know where to direct your efforts.
October, a peak training month and the last dryland month for most, is a good time of year to look at your training with an analytical eye: With efficiency in mind, no one wants to spend hours training the wrong way, and with comparatively little time left until snow and the first races, itís a very good time to make sure all the "little things" are in line.
In designing your dryland training, consider what gives you trouble skiing.
Analyze what part of the course presents the biggest problem. Where do you normally lose the most time: Flats? Gentle, "gliding" uphills? Steep uphills or herringbone sections? Downhills?
Identify what techniques give you the most trouble, especially as these are the ones we tend to neglect in training! With classic, is it the double pole or kick double pole? With skating, what technique is the most troublesome: V1? V2? V2 Alternate? For both, examine the terrain that poses the most difficulty: Is it gentle terrain or steep terrain? Analyze also how you transition between techniques and terrain.
When you have scrutinized your performance, make an even more honest self-analysis: Why are you losing time in these techniques or sections? Is it lack of general or specific muscle conditioning and strength? Technique? Equipment?
With a truck load of self-honesty, you can target an area of weakness and devise some way of improving in the specific area(s) before racing starts. If you have had trouble on the uphills, but felt that your condition and technique were not the problem (be honest!), look at equipment performance.
In classic skiing, if your skis dragged, or did not hold wax, they may be too soft. Or if they were fast on downhills, but refused to climb, they may be too stiff. Similarly, skating skis that sing in soft snow may not perform in hardpack, and good hardpack or wet snow skis may not work well in softer snow.
Peter Haleís Common Sense and Simplicity on page 50 gives some very useful parameters for choosing the right ski for you and the conditions. A few well-chosen skis are always more useful than a large, random quiver. Test your skis following Peterís guidelines to give you golden information for picking your next pair, even if you want something slightly stiffer or softer.
A good word of advice: Stick with one brand of skis, and really learn how to work within that brand. All the major brands are highly competitive. Youíll find NO advantage to owning two pairs of Brand A, one pair of Brand B, and another pair from Brand C. In fact, this haphazard mix is often counter-productive.
Spend good, quality time on performance analysis. Especially if you have written good training logs, it should be simple to identify areas for emphasis in the last dryland weeks and during those first weeks on snow. Once you hit snow, DONíT go out fast: Take time to ski yourself in, and re-claim good technique.
Remember: October sees the highest dryland training volume, making rest and nutrition especially important, as well as health. Look at your daily schedule, and make sure you are allowing yourself optimal recovery. Stay warm. Be sure to dry off and change after workouts. Success in skiing rests on a tripod of training, technique and recovery.
Start from where you are, as Levin suggested. Analyze what causes trouble, and design your dryland program to match.
Fall is a good time to buy your new skis. Stocks will hit their annual high-water mark, giving you many more pairs to pick from, ensuring a better fit whether you pick them yourself, or rely on one of the excellent mail-order catalogs that are out there. Be wary of those wonderful spring sales: They may well be unloading skis no one would buy!