Why Triathletes Should Nordic Ski

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2010 Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Demong had an extraordinary career as a nordic skier, with not only an Olympic gold medal on his palmares, but also a World Championship and countless World Cup wins. When interviewed about his very long, successful career, Demong immediately points to cross-training as a key factor in his success, "Cycling, running and even swimming overlap perfectly with Nordic skiing," said Demong. "I was incredibly focused as an athlete in not getting caught up in fads or in activities that only loosely translated to my skiing, but I found that cycling was a perfect off-season activity and I'm positive that this works both ways - cycling is great for your skiing and skiing is great for your cycling. One summer I decided I would give road racing a try and I upgraded from Cat 5 to Cat 1 in one season. There's no doubt in my mind that I was able to make this jump so quickly due to the strength and fitness I developed from skiing."

Demong is just one of many examples of the crossover between elite skiers and riders. Tad Elliott won two national championships as a U23 mountain biker, scored a 6th at elite nationals, and had 3 starts at World Championships in cycling, while also having two World Championships and numerous World Cup starts in skiing. He also won both mountain bike national championships AND cross-country skiing national championships in the same year - showing that not only is the carryover from these two sports significant, but they compliment each other so well that you can hold a very high level of fitness in both in the same year.
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Like Demong, Elliott credits skiing for making him a good cyclist and vice versa, "I didn't start off with any grand plan to be a pro at either sport," claimed Elliott, "I grew up in Colorado with a twin brother and my parents simply wanted to get us both out of the house so we didn't drive them crazy. As a result, we skied in the winter and rode bikes in the summer. We just did both activities for fun and the results and opportunities came naturally."

Elliott continued, "I don't think I can stress the ‘fun' thing enough either for athletes at any level. I never would have made it this far if I wasn't having fun and I'm still going strong because of this. I know more pro riders who have blown themselves out both mentally and physically over the winter trying to crank out miles in the freezing cold or on the trainer. I just look at them and wonder what's going on in their heads - skiing is fun, warm and SAFE, which is just another reason why it's so perfect. Every one of us has had at least a few run-ins with angry motorists out riding, but I've yet to have a car cut me off when I was out in the woods skiing."
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Demong brought all of these points full circle by agreeing with Elliot's training philosophy, "It's not just the physiology of skiing that makes it such good training for triathlon," Demong concluded, "it's also the psychology. Training for cycling and running in the winter in most places really sucks - both inside and outside are bad options: inside is boring and outside is cold, dark and dangerous. This is the irony of many coaching plans - you are paying a coach something like $300/month to basically keep you entertained - coaches write workouts to help you break up the time on the rollers/tready, but are those workouts any better for you? Not really, it's just a good way to help make it bearable. More than anything else, these workouts just give your brain something to do. Instead of playing this game, why not do something that you actually enjoy? One of the main reasons we all do these sports in the first place is to enjoy the outdoors and I know more talented, motivated people who have fallen into the trap of thinking that they have to drive themselves crazy in the winter in order to be fast in the summer. I'm here to tell you that this is totally false - spend your winter outside skiing, having fun, and you'll show up for the first race, fresh, fit and ready to kill it. I know, I've made a great living doing this for two decades and I've had a great time every step of the way." Demong also backed this up on the road with a remarkable 2:33:05 performance at the NYC Marathon in 2014, the fastest time ever by a US winter Olympian based off what I was able to find.
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