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Going It Alone

Training More Specifically and More Intensely

August 5, 2005 - By Mike Muha


Once 4th of July vacation was over, it become time to train more specifically. That meant getting off the bike and doing more rollerskiing and ski walking.

Several key areas grabbed my attention, much because of things I'd learned at  Sten Fjeldheim's excellent clinic in Grand Rapids:

Lots of technique work

Doing balance and strength drills at Sten Fjeldheim's racing clinic in Grand Rapids.

  • During every skate rollerski session, it was "Bend at the ankle, drive the knee down, power glide for as long as practical."  I did quite a bit of uphill skating without poles - as slow as I could so I could really feel what my legs and rollerskis were doing.
  • On V1, I began the long process of unlearning poor pole position. Yes, I was one of the many at Sten's clinic who found out that we'd been holding our poles wrong for years. By the end of July, I was mostly in the correct position, although I was still having a trouble starting out in the right place. I'd transition into V1 with the poles not always right, then correct in the next couple pole plants. Something to continue working on in August.
  • Ski walking, driving the knees. I'd learned the Russian style of diagonal stride - body at a 45 degree angle to gravity, lower leg perpendicular to the terrain. I'd know that classic skiing had become more upright recently but didn't understand why. At Sten's clinic, I figure it out - when you're more upright, you can pre-load the leg for more power. During our ski walk technique work, we'd land on the "gliding" leg, then press the knee forward and down (i.e., we bent at the ankle) just like in skating before kick.
    I ski walked a couple times while running, then did a ski walk interval session, really focusing on this preload before the kick. I can do it going relatively slow, but as soon as I pick up the tempo, I have problems. Another thing to continue to work with in August.

More classic skiing

Torbjorn Karlsen and Sten Fjeldheim both agree: even skaters would be better off doing lots of classic skiing. Supposedly, you use more of your body so you actually get a better workout. Oh, and "classic" means mostly doublepole and kick-doublepole, not diagonal striding. 

I decide my monthly time trials this year would be classic sessions rather than skate to force myself to classic more. In my mind I think, "Well, I could skate today or do a doublepole session. Think I'll doublepole - it'll help next month's time trial."
Ah, the games we play with our heads...

Strength Training:

I'd had great results on the road bike climbing hills early in the year then seemed to lose it. The change: I'd slacked off squats and the leg press. I increased my trips to the weight room in July to fix the problem. I always do squats (with a machine or free weights) and some sort of pull-down weights every session, focusing on pulling as much weight as I can so I can only do 3-6 reps in a set.
I'll add in the leg press and other upper body weights as time allows. I'm using a combination of full-range motion and Doug Garfield's RepMotions resistance.
Core strength continues to be done once or twice a week. I think I need to start adding some shorter sessions in between, maybe in front of the TV like I did last fall.

And not to forget the home life: Jill and I have a wedding to attend in August, so we signed up for ballroom dance lessons with three other couples! I figure dance days will be "active rest" days"!

Overall, July went quite well.

July 2005 Plan Execution
Training Goal Number of sessions planned The Reality
5 mile rollerski time trial at 85% MHR 1 Did a 5 mile classic rollerski in 26:04
Anaerobic Threshold (AT) intervals (85-90% MHR) 8, some up to 8 minutes long.
Rollerskiing or ski walking only.
7 interval sessions, with intervals ranging from 4 to almost 10 minutes.
V02 Max intervals
(90-95% MHR)
None None
Distance sessions Longer (2+ hours) distance sessions if possible  in Zone 1-2 (60-80% of max heart rate), with one "easy for the first half, hard for the second half" session Several 2 to 3+ hour sessions, including one that averaged 70% of my max heart rate for the first 85 minutes, then 86% for the next 60 minutes.
General strength 1-2 per
7 sessions core & abs strength training, 8 sessions of lower body / upper body weight training. And it's made a big difference.

August Plan - Happy Birthday to Me!

My birth month is also the beginning of VO2 Max intervals for the season.

In general, it appears that the harder you go, the greater the improvement to your VO2 max. And VO2 Max is a big indicator of how well you can potentially perform.

Here's a rough guide from running sources on how hard you have to run to reach what percentage of VO2 Max. These are estimates and assume that you've trained at lower intensity in order to handle the higher intensities!

Running Pace % of VO2 Max % of Max Heart Rate
3K 100% 100%
5K 95% 98%
10K 90% 93%
Marathon 80% 88%

I think it may be better to think about pace rather than heart rate, particularly if you've never had your max heart rate determined by a formal test.

My Anaerobic Threshold intervals are skied at roughly a marathon pace (think Vasa 50 K or Michigan Cup Marathon 30K); my VO2 Max intervals - rollerskiing, running, ski walking, and skiing - are done at a 10Krace pace.

My VO2 Max intervals tend to be about 4 or 5 minutes long and I do 4 or 5 at a time with a 3 minute rest between. The first two minutes of each interval are spent coming up to speed: I try to gradually increase my effort so that I 'm at 90% of my max heart rate at the two minute mark. At that point, I try to hold my pace (or a little faster) for the final 2-3 minutes.

VO2 Max intervals are hard, but not all out. Still, you can't do too many of these in a row without burning out. Rest is really important and a key component for improving and for not getting sick!

August 2005 Plan
Training Goal Number of sessions planned
5 mile rollerski time trial at 90% MHR 1
Anaerobic Threshold (AT) intervals
(85-90% MHR)
V02 Max intervals
(90-95% MHR)
Speed intervals
10-20 second all out sprints - but no longer!
A few, as part of distance sessions
Distance sessions Whatever I have time for
General strength 1-2 per