When asked to write a column about training for Cross Country Skier, I would only agree if I could write it from my current perspective. Maybe I should expand the title to say: “How To Keep Fit For Skiing When Over 40, With Two Kids and a Full Time Job” to explain why this
column will not provide the reader with an
analytical training program.
My days of improving technique and fitness through training camps, three hour over-distance pole hikes, specific upper body strength workouts followed with a hot well-balanced meal while resting and absorbing ski videos, is history. Like most anyone who is busy juggling family, work and play, I struggle and compromise a little in everything to maintain a balance that works for everyone.
When working adults ask me to tell them how to train for ski racing or for a triathlon, I find it a difficult question to answer. Obviously it all depends on their current shape, their history of athletics, their amount of free time, and their ultimate priorities. What works for me may certainly not work for others, but I do have my little “system” that gets me by.
You must commit to a daily workout 5-6 times per week. You determine the time, which depends on your goals and schedule, but to see improvement, you must remain consistent with training. You must get outside, you must push yourself at times, and you must do it at least
5 times a week. You have to make it a part of your day, always.
But, be realistic. For example, if the only free time you have is before 7:00 am, just plan on doing a one hour workout that day. Don’t force yourself to get up at 4:30am to squeeze in a 2 hour workout. You will either disappoint yourself and not do it at all or you will burn out eventually from trying to do too much.
To accomplish workouts within a busy schedule, you must be creative. That means you have to improvise to squeeze in workouts. Maybe you’ll have to forego some sleep to sneak in an early morning run or swim, when the rest of the day offers no workout time. Or, if you have to go to jury duty, like I had to do for the first time (and your work piles up and you haven’t seen the kids…) then you do 45 minutes of strength workout in your basement with the kids climbing over you…including sit-ups, dips, lunges, skipping rope, core body strength stuff…whatever you can think of. Throw in some hops and quick jogs around the driveway where you can still watch the kids and you have just completed a reasonably useful strength workout.
When we were waiting for snow, I met a friend and we ran golf courses for an hour. The grass and resistance made the hour a much harder workout than just jogging on the road. When snow is on the ground and it’s the end of the day and you’re tired, throw on some no-wax skis and tour and you’re tired, throw on some
no-wax skis and tour around a golf course, or ski on the side of a road. All these workouts contribute towards fitness.
With limited time, make your workouts count. Focus on strengthening your lower and upper body through a variety of exercises. Running, weights, outdoor plymetrics, pole hiking/bounding, roller skiing, biking, water sports, swimming… all these activities build body strength and keep you healthy and interested in maintaining your fitness.
Meet different sets of friends to keep you motivated. I have some friends who love to run and a different set of friends with whom I roller ski. Set up a weekly date, where you all accomplish a more taxing workout than you might do by yourself. Activities such as double pole arm sets on roller skis, or hill repeats on runs are easier to do with others. Of course you will always have that plodding, ‘I can just get out the door and barely move my feet workout,’ but you may not have as many if you meet with some upbeat friends!
Vary your Heart rate
Get a heart rate monitor and understand the different zones and how workouts below aerobic threshold and at threshold help you build endurance and speed. You will then create a more interesting workout by having a heart rate goal. Example: If you run with a friend on Mondays and chat (zone 2), then on Tuesdays you may want to focus on raising your heart rate with hill repeats, specific strength or plymetrics (Zones 3 and 4).
Most people end up training in a middle zone. This moderate heart rate is quite comfortable, but will not help you achieve faster speed. At the very least, training with a heart rate monitor will tell you that during your faster workouts, you may not be going fast enough and on your long slow distance workouts, you still may be going too fast.
Choose a workout goal and plan how you will attain it
If you want to improve your ski racing, you have to practice racing. There is no way around it. You cannot just enter the Birkie and hope you do well because you skied a lot of loops around a park for two months.
What I do is to force myself to schedule a variety of short races into a season such as summer triathlon(s), 5k running fall races, and maybe a little night ski race, or an informal 5k ski time trial with friends (if you are lucky to have early snow).
I am not disciplined enough to train as hard as I want to race, so
I need races to force my body to go faster. Racing is a wake up call. It teaches me to become more relaxed at higher speeds, it teaches my muscles to move faster and, I can’t take breaks until the event is done!
Racing also is uncomfortable and therefore experiencing
lactic acid build up teaches you mentally how to work through the ensuing discomfort.
You can’t get hung up on how well you do at “practice races.” Some events will be rewarding and some will not, but perseverance does pay off and you will become faster. And, it is fun when you are relaxing in the shower!
To fit all the above into my life, I live in a constant mild state of messiness. My house is not the neatest, my kids’ clothes aren’t folded and I spend no time on hair. There is little time for coffee chats, clothes shopping or house decorating and I try to do most of my workouts out my backdoor or at the nearest park to eliminate driving. At least, those are all the sacrifices I will reveal.
I continue to race over the years because
the rewards it gives me makes up for the stress of fitting it all
into my life.
I love training outdoors. It certainly releases a lot of tension; I enjoy ‘feeling’ the seasons, I like having muscles and I just feel a little better about myself. I definitely can eat more cookie dough, and I have built some great friendships with my training partners.
Adding racing to training gives me a goal to strive towards. Also the additional excitement and adrenaline of going fast and the feeling of the wind, snow or rain whipping by my face is my way
of getting ‘out of the ordinary.’ I might not have the time and
ability to climb a mountain in Tibet, or try a safari in some
exotic place, so this is my little escape or getaway and it seems
to work…for me.
Jan Guenther Jan Guenther is an active ski racer, triathlete, mom and business woman.Besides 15 years of running retail stores, Jan is a Hawaii Ironman finisher, five-time winner of the 58K Mora Vasaloppet, National Masters Triathlon winner, Border to Border (4 day bike, run, and canoe triathlon) winner.