The goal of a training plan is to outline future training in an effective, practical manner. To create a successful training plan, consider a number of components:
- Build consistency and progression into the training plan.
- Start by addressing general fitness before focusing on specific activities.
- Shift the increase in sport specificity gradually in the training plan.
- Use a slight overload and then recovery for the body to gradually adapt, so that even greater loads can become tolerated in the future.
- Avoid dramatic shifts in training loads. The body can adapt to small increases in volume, intensity and strength, but dramatic shifts are often counter-productive.
An effective plan needs to first identify the competition season or seasons (if any) as well as the goals and work backwards. How much time did you train in the last two years? At what intensities and what proportions did you train in the last two years? How specific did you train in the last two years? What were your strengths and weaknesses in the past? How much time do you have for training? What are your target race distances? When and where are the target events? These are all important in mapping out an effective training plan, which includes an aerobic base, strength training and intensity training.
Aerobic training is commonly conducted at 60 - 70% of an individualís maximum intensity. Aerobic (low-intensity) training should consume a majority of training hours for an endurance athlete. The proportion of aerobic training shifts slightly throughout the year, but typically averages 75 - 80% of the total yearly volume. Training at the proper intensities is important to elicit aerobic physiological adaptations. Cross training activities (running, biking, swimming) can be added in the spring and summer to add variety and limit chronic over-use injuries, but ski specificity (rollerskiing, pole-bounding) increases throughout summer and fall.
Strength training should be a component of every endurance training regimen. Strength training is an integral component of ski training and is developed in phases throughout the year. Strength training starts in the spring with a variety of exercises. The goal is to improve flexibility and efficient joint motion to minimize injury and muscle imbalance as well as improve overall strength that is often lost due to sport specific training. The selection of exercises should emphasize strengthening the movements of the sport and not individual muscles in order to strengthen the interaction of muscles and joints in a fashion that will simulate skiing. Strength training also needs to address ski specific balance and power application. Integrating poling workouts up hills as well as skating without poles on varying terrain are examples of ski specific strength activities that can be incorporate directly into workouts. The stabilizing muscles are critical for maintaining the proper body position for efficient ski technique. Exercises that improve balance and strength should be considered. A powerful skier can produce force rapidly. An increase in power can occur either by increasing the rate at which a given work output occurs or by increasing the amount of work accomplished in a given period of time. Therefore, force as well as velocity of shortening or lengthening the muscle cells are important aspects of power output.
Intensity training comes in different forms and the effort, duration and recovery time are dependent upon the physiological systems intended to train in the particular workout. Threshold training is intended to allow the skier to ski faster with less anaerobic contribution and therefore utilizes the aerobic system more effectively. An example of threshold training intervals is three intervals each fifteen minutes in duration with two minutes recovery at an intensity of 80 percent of maximum. Efforts at a sustainable maximum effort are also known as maximal VO2 training. An example of max VO2 training is four intervals for four minutes at 90 percent of maximum effort with four minutes recovery between intervals. Speeds or pick-ups are intended to improve muscle recruitment, reaction and velocity of shortening or lengthening the muscle cells. The intent is to train the mind and muscles to be able to ski at higher velocities.
The second step is to improve fitness, so the athlete can maintain these higher velocities for sustained efforts. Common efforts would include 10 intervals for 20 seconds in length with 90 seconds recovery. The goal is to train the neuromuscular pathways without eliciting a significant lactate response. Good technique is necessary to accomplish the goal of this workout effectively.
It is important to allow the body to regenerate after the competition season, but a training plan should include intensity training in some degree for most or all year to maintain and improve upon the gains from last season.
Bryan Fish is the coach of Central Cross Country (CXC) Ski Team. He is the former coach of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay ski team.