When we all first embarked on the wonderful journey last year, you read lots of compelling reasons why Nordic skiing would help your triathlon. The forums were filled were several convincing quotes and comments from elite athletes in all of the sports on how cross-training in every direction helped their chosen sport of emphasis. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that you bought in - you watched the videos on how to get started, you watched the videos on the gear you needed and being the detail-oriented, type-A triathlete that you are, you executed all of these instructions perfectly. Good job. But now it's winter again. You and your rollers got into an argument that you were spending too much time with your treadmill and now all of your winter tri gear is mad at you. Great, now what? As usual, we here at Slowtwitch have your back. You're a racer, right? Well try this on for size, now you're going to do a Nordic race. Boom. You're welcome.
Fast and Fun
Here's the best part - we're going to make it ridiculously easy for you - not only will this be your most productive winter ever, it will also be the funniest, I promise. Well, except for the actual racing part, that part is going to totally suck. You'll see exactly what I'm talking when you're about 8k's in to what will undoubtedly be the LONGEST 10k of your entire life. But, as we all know, racing is hard. It is supposed to be hard though and by adopting this important variation to your normal winter training plan, you'll be putting "hay in the barn," like never before and you will vanquish all of your foes without mercy this summer. That alone will keep you going in those miserable last two k's of the Nordic race.
No need to over-complicate this, as this plan is really quite simple, so let's start in order: if you're anything like me, the best way to start any activity for which I am under-prepared and blissfully ignorant of exactly what's involved, is to go buy a bunch of new crap. We all know that everything is better with new gear and Nordic skiing is most certainly no exception. Fear not, over-stuffed garage, road tri nerd though, Nordic gear is mercifully relatively inexpensive (a very relative statement, I know, but hang in there with me). For less than ONE set of even medium level aero wheels, you can outfit yourself from head to toe in decent to even high-end race gear. Is this mandatory? No, but nothing feeds the stoke of any race-prep like kick-ass new gear. So yes, before you congest the forums with the ol' "I'm still skiing on skis I got back in the Eisenhower administration" rant, you can most certainly race on old gear, but if you have the means, the budget, the space and the spouse, pull the trigger and geek out on gear. For this month's installment, here are some good options on versatile, advanced intermediate gear for both skate and classic. In next month's installment, I'll hit you up with the details on how to go "whole hog" on the fancy pants race gear.
This is obviously where the rubber meets the road. Since your main emphasis is still triathlon, this is a training plan specifically designed for triathletes who want to work in a Nordic race (or who knows, two?). As such, it logically features a high percentage of your standard S/B/R, with the clever twist of a few strategic Nordic workouts sprinkled in throughout. It is designed for an athlete with about a 400-500 hour yearly training load. It is very scalable though, so if your yearly hours are above or below this, simply adjust these hours by the same percentage, with the exception of the Nordic intensity day, EVERYONE should follow that workout precisely.
This plan is designed to start immediately, as in now. Roll through this week every week in January and we'll have the February calendar up in a few weeks. It is designed for a race in the window of late February/early March and we'll go into more detail next month on how to customize the plan if you're eyeing up a race outside of that window.
Some of you may be asking, "I love this idea, but I've never even skied before. Can I still do it?" In a word, yes. I've seen very fit triathletes with very little skiing experience hop and skis and do amazingly well with fairly little ski-specific preparation, but be advised, this is the exception more than the norm. I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, but if you've never skied before, my recommendation is to get out on skis as much as you can this winter - lay a good foundation, watch videos, take lessons, find a masters training group, read FasterSkier and soak up as much information as you can. Armed with this knowledge and experience, you're much more likely to have a positive experience in your first race, well, insomuch as a Nordic race is every a positive experience. Now, having said that, if you're one of those, "Nah, I got this" type people (like me), have at it Hoss. Just keep it mind there's a bit of a learning curve. Learning to swim is a perfect analogy for learning to ski. I don't care how fit you are, if you did not swim competitively as a child, you're going to lose to some people in your first few years who are less fit but more competent technically. Same deal here. No problem though, just get good. How? Follow this plan.
With all of that nonsense aside, let's dive in (look at me go with the swimming analogies, so how well I relate to "you people?")
Monday - Recovery Monday
Swim - Easy Swim with pull focus to keep HR down. Middle distance reps - say 200-300 - giving you a moderate length swim relative to your ability. Typical main set here would be like 5x200 for a beginner up to something like 8x300 for a more advanced athlete.
Tuesday - Long Run Day
Run - 60-90min is a good long run this time of year. You can run longer if you want. But I don't think it's necessary. Long run this time of year is just relaxed and about getting the mileage in. Low HR, RPE, etc.
Swim - short reps. Warm-up and cool-down as you need and then a main set of 2-3 rounds of 12-20x25 done as 3 very fast with a focus on turnover and speed from the arms not the kick and then 1 easy on work:rest ratio of 1:1 (for fast). So if you're swimming your fast 25s in 20s, do all the intervals on 40s/25. Adjust this based on your skill level. Take 200 easy between rounds of 25s.
Wednesday - Tempo Bike Day
OPTIONAL Mid-Week Ski - If you live close to the trails, do this. If it's a big hassle to get to the trails, don't worry about it. 60-120 mins @L1, with technique emphasis. As such the workout should be performed as 25% double pole, 25% no pole, 50% skate if the wrkt is skate.
If the wrkt is classic, 25% DP, 25% single stick, 50% striding, as terrain allows.
Bike - On the shorter end. Doesn't need to be any longer than 30min. Shoot for 10-30min of intervals. Low cadence reps. Keep them short. Something like 5x2min low-cadence (50-60rpm) with work:rest ratio of 1:1 or 1:1.5 for a beginner up to 10x3min for more advanced athletes. Warm up and cool down as needed.
Run - easy and short run off the bike. Saves you the hassle of warming up. 10-20min run off the bike is all it takes to keep some familiarity with this. More advanced athletes with a lot of years of experience can swap this for a short easy standalone run. Drop the run if you do the ski.
Thursday - Three Sport Day
Swim - good day for bread-and-butter repeats. 50s-150s on moderate rest. Typical main set here is 12-20x100 with 10-15s rest after each. If you're more of a novice, go with something more like 20-30x50 on 10s rest to keep quality high. More advanced athletes can do something like 12x150 on 15s rest.
Bike - 45-75min with 4-6x 10-20s sprints just to work that high end and get things firing.
Run - 20-40min super duper easy.
Friday - Work Your Weakest Sport Day
Whatever your weakest sport is, stick an easy and short workout in here. If you're focusing on your run, go run 30-45min. If you're focusing on your bike, 45-75min on the bike. If you're focused on your swim, go do some more pulling.
Saturday - Long Ski Day Plus Fartlek Run
Run - progressive speed intervals of 45-60min. do 2-3 rounds of (3min, 2min, 1min) with a work:rest ratio of 2:1. So 90sec after 3min, 60sec after 2min, etc. Take an additional 2-4 minutes after each round.
Week 1 - 60-90' L1 over-distance ski
Week 2 - 90-120' L1 over-distance ski
Week 3 - 120-150' L1 over-distance ski
Week 4 - 150-180' L1 over-distance ski
Sunday - Threshold Ski Day Plus Long Ride
Bike - the long ride does NOT need to be that long this time of year, especially with complementary intensity while skiing. This should trend towards the lower end of intensity - 65% of FTP or lower on average - and time-wise, just needs to match up well with your long ski from the day prior. You can either use this is a warm-up earlier in the day for your ski later or use this as an extended cool-down later in the day.
Week 1 - 20' Warm up, 2 x 20'@AT, 5' rest, 20' cool down, focus on technique in cool down
Week 2 - 20' Warm up, 3 x 20'@AT, 5' rest, 20' cool down, focus on technique in cool down
Week 3 - 20' Warm up, 4 x (4' on, 3' off) at highest possible sustainable pace 20' cool down, focus on technique in cool down
Week 4 - 20' Warm up, 6 x (4' on, 3' off) at highest possible sustainable pace, 20' cool down, focus on technique in cool down
As noted earlier, like swimming, Nordic skiing is very, very technical and that's part of what makes it fun. Also like swimming, without a doubt the best way to improve is to find a good coach - drills, videos and written instructions are useful, but nothing beats qualified, in-person coaching. Many Nordic centers will offer instruction and make the effort to find a good instructor, in particular if you are just getting started, as again, just like swimming, bad habits are hard to break.
Now, having said all of this, I am going to give you one main technical focus for the month: weight transfer. Whether you are skating or classic skiing, the more effectively you transfer weight from one ski to another the faster you will go. A classic beginner mistake is to spend most of your time in "no mans land," with your weight distributed between both skis. In both skating and classic, you should always strive to transfer all of your body weight from ski to ski. This will increase drive, glide and speed.
This should be a good start. Next month we'll help you get even more ready to race with some more race-specific workouts and technical tips. If you've never Nordic skied before, this is going to be a challenge, but remember, challenges are good. Hell, even if you HAVE Nordic skied before, this is going to be a challenge. But it's also a great way to make winter fun, productive and exciting. No matter what though, if you decide to try to race this year, want to wait until next year, or even if you completely hate this entire idea, never forget that this whole crazy hobby of ours is exactly that - a hobby - it is supposed to be fun. Go into this with a good attitude and you'll not only have a great winter, but you'll come into spring mental fresh and flying. Enough said, now get out there.