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Get Ready using the Birkie Training Plan

Fri, Oct  16, 2009 - By Birkie

Central Cross Country Skiing, in partnership with the American Birkebeiner, would like to help you organize your training plan in preparation for this year’s Birkie. The training plan will provide guidelines of what should be done leading up to the race so you have a great event from start to finish. Whether you start in Wave 1 or Wave 8 our goal is to provide you with fundamentals for developing the endurance and strength necessary to participate in the Birkie or other ski events this winter.

Our sample training plan provides different intensity levels. It is important to work on those intensities and challenge your body so when you ski up the beautiful hills of the Birkie, your body knows how to tolerate that effort and recover efficiently when you ski down the hill. If you think about the Birkie, it’s a combinations of hard intervals (uphill), recovery (downhill) and flat sections (steady pace). We will incorporate all three elements in the sample training plan.

Intensity Levels

Intensity levels based on type, speaking scale and percentage of maximum heart rate.

  • Level 5: Sprint pace, really hurting and struggle to maintain intensity
    (95-100% of Max HR)
  • Level 4: Speed endurance pace, need to focus to maintain intensity
    (90-95% of Max HR)
  • Level 3: Endurance pace, can't talk but can think clearly
    (80-90% of Max HR)
  • Level 2: Moderate endurance pace, can talk a few sentences at a time
    (70-80% of Max HR)
  • Level 1: Easy endurance pace, can talk in full sentences
    (60-70% of Max HR)

We will always use Monday as a day off.

Tuesday: It’s good to do a hard workout right after the rest day.
We will use this day for Level 4 interval workout. This workout can be done running, walking with poles, roller skiing, biking, or even walking on the treadmill. Ideally you want to do this workout on a hill so can easily increase your heart rate. Warm up for 10-15 minutes in Level 1. Perform 2-3 minute intervals in Level 4. For recovery, use time to get down the hill and start a new interval. You can time your interval and try to keep that time consistent. Cool down for 10-15 min in Level 1.

Wednesday: Strength day.
Warm up for 15-20 min in Level 1. We would recommend using your own body weight to complete strength workout exercises. The exercises can be done virtually anywhere, at home, on the trail, gym or even in a hotel if you are traveling for work. Perform 2 sets of each exercise. Push Ups 15-25, sit up 20-30, dips 15-25 and frog jumps straight forward 15-20. Rest for 1-2 minutes between each exercise. Cool down for 10-15 minutes in Level 1.

Thursday: Steady workout.
Warm up for 10-15 minutes in Level 1. You can do it again by running, ski waking with poles, roller skiing or on the bike. We recommend keeping it specific to Nordic skiing so walking with poles or roller skiing are the best two options. On rolling terrain (you can do it on the ski trail) try to maintain Level 2-3 pace for 30-40 minutes. Cool down for 10-15 minutes in Level 1.

Friday: Rest day.
We like to use two rest days a week so you can get ready for the weekend workouts.

Saturday: Specific Strength.
Warm up for 15-20 minutes in Level 1. Perform specific strength on rollerskis, with bungee cords (available at with the sample video) or you can also use Concept 2 Ski Erg (some gyms might have this equipment). Do 3 sets of 10 minutes each with 5 minute recovery in between. First set – single poling (like diagonal stride), second set – double poling and third set single poling again. Cool down for 10-15 minutes in Level 1.

Sunday: Over Distance.
This is the day when you will be developing your endurance. Do this workout ski walking with poles or roller skis on rolling terrain for 1.5 to 2 hours in Level 1-2. If your heart rate goes higher at the top of the hill that is alright, just make sure you pace yourself and don’t push it too hard. Save it for the next Tuesday.

Note: If you would like to follow this plan with some video instruction on the technique or have a more structured training plan week by week please visit

CXC also offers technique progression DVD for cross country skiing so you can easy learn dry land exercised, rollerski and on snow. This DVD is available at

About Central Cross Country Ski Association (CXC Skiing): <!-- /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:"Times New Roman"; panose-1:0 2 2 6 3 5 4 5 2 3; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:auto; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:50331648 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:ArialMT; panose-1:0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-alt:Arial; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:auto; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";} table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-parent:""; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> Central Cross Country Association ("CXC") is recognized by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association ("USSA") as the Regional Organization governing cross country skiing in the 10 state Central Region of the United States. CXC provides an organization which enables athletes, coaches and officials to achieve excellence in cross country skiing through: EDUCATION, COOPERATION, COMMUNICATION, and COMPETITION. CXC oversees youth programs; supports the Junior Olympic Qualifying system, Central Collegiate Ski Association, and Senior/Master skiing; provides athletes', coaches' and officials' education; coordinates competitions; manages a full spectrum adaptive program for all individuals with physical disabilities; trains Olympic caliber athletes; and is the Midwest pipeline to the U.S. Ski Team and the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team. CXC is a 501c3 non profit corporation and gratefully accepts tax deductible donations for program enhancemen