Balance Your Aerobic and Anaerobic Systems
Here on the World Cup, we call it the mid-week interval. It derives its name from a typical racing schedule of two competitions on the weekend, which leaves just enough time for one good interval session mid-week. This type of schedule is replicated at the Noram, NCAA and high-school level all across North America, and the goal of this mid-week session is the same – comprise the best workout to prepare the skier for the upcoming weekend races while at the same time continuing to improve and maintain overall fitness.
Sounds easy right? Well, in reality, it's not quite so simple because this mid-week interval session can vary a lot depending what kind of ski races we've been competing in. For example, if I have been racing sprint after sprint each weekend, probably the last thing I need is to do some more four-minute Vo2max intervals. This would continue to work the same system too repetitively, and eventually lead to a plateau in fitness, where I would eventually stop seeing positive fitness gains.
Athletes who compete in primarily longer distance races could find themselves in the same scenario if their mid-week interval session focuses too much on threshold, L4B and longer distanced-paced intervals. If we don't continue to work our aerobic as well as anaerobic systems throughout the winter, it will be difficult to maintain top fitness.
I know this sounds pretty simple, but it's not. Most ski racers likely participate in a combination of distance and sprint races from weekend to weekend, so how to determine what the best mid-week interval session will be? Here on the World Cup, we solve this problem by coming up with some pretty unique combination sessions. The rule I like to live by in creating these combination interval sessions is to first prioritize any fitness gains I want to accomplish from the session, and then follow with any race-preparation gains.
For example, if I had a sprint competition on the upcoming weekend, but still wanted to prioritize building my base fitness mid-week, I would combine some threshold training with some sprint intensity – perhaps 3x8-minutes L3, followed by 10x30-second fast-paced intervals at the end. This would give me the best combination to maintain fitness, but also a chance to fine-tune speed in order to prepare for the upcoming race.
If my goal was to work more on Vo2max building, I could start with 5x4-minutes L4, but then incorporate some short 10- to 15-second sprints at the end of each interval, to practise changing speeds rapidly. Another example of a distance-racing-focused mid-week interval would be to do 3x10 minutes at L3 threshold and finish the workout with 4x1-minutes L4. That would help build my aerobic base, but also allow my system to touch on some L4 before the race weekend.
On the World Cup, we try to pair up with our teammates as much as possible during these combination workouts in order to continually push each other during the mid-week season. Another fun aspect of traveling on the World Cup is that we are often not the only team training mid-week at the race venue. Most of the other countries' athletes tend to do their mid-week intensity sessions on the same day as us, so it's common to casually meet up with different competitors on the trails and join each other for intervals.
I have found that finding a balance between preparing for the upcoming race and continuing to keep my long-term fitness goals of the season in mind is the best way to approach these mid-week interval sessions. I think this is an important perspective to have, and creates a training atmosphere that allows me to peak successfully and maintain high fitness throughout the entire race season.
Creating appropriate combination workouts is the key to peaking successfully while maintaining high fitness.