cross country ski training page 1
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My Cross Country Ski Training
Spring Training
May Week 1

spring training cycling

Getting ready to go cross country skiing at Lake Tahoe or anywhere else where the snow is good in winter? Since good skiers are made in the off season, we start preparation for racing in May.

My cross country ski preparedness is for racing, and I am sharing my workouts with you. Since skiing fast in the mountains and woods is so much fun, and since people often ask what kind of training a ski racer like me does to get ready, here it is. I will post one page per week, and at the end of the training year, voila! Happy cross country ski racing!

cross country ski race winners

About the images: At the top of the page, that's me racing in a raging snowstorm during the Yellowstone Rendezvous cross country ski marathon. In the circle photo, I'm rounding a corner during the Trek CX cyclocross. Cycling is a big part of my off-season training for cross country ski racing. As for the jumping-for-joy image, I am ecstatic after achieving 3rd Female Overall in the cross country ski race! This is the kind of joy I am training for.

My training is based on a 500 hours-per-year plan. That's a good number of hours for me, since I am interested in middle-distance races such as 10 to 30 kilometers, not marathons and not sprinting. In the summer and fall, I enjoy a variety of modes, from running and cycling to kayaking and roller skiing. Some years, I do more kayaking and roller skiing than other years, but this year's focus is starting out with more leg work: running and cycling.

This blog is based on my cross country ski training, and the info. is provided just for those who are curious about the kind of training cross country ski racers enjoy doing to get ready for winter fun at Lake Tahoe and beyond. You can view more of my training log by clicking on one of the navigation links below.

Here is my log for Week 1...

Week 1 AM/PM Mode 1st of a 4-Week Period: a variety of modes, bike, run, may kayak or roller ski if desire. 1-2 workouts/week @ L3. Start strength workouts. Target hrs. 7 (of 32 for the 4-week period) Hours
Mon AM Run L1 run w. 6 15-20sec accelerations 5Kpace to all-out in the last 5 sec Accelerations Focus: Speed of Movement 1:00

Tue AM RdB L1 Cycling 1:10
  PM WT RM Strength for cross country ski racers during training Week #1. Done immediately after cycling this morning, plus an additional 5 min. trail running warmup. This simple set of exercises can be done at home and requires no special equipment. The aim is to develop basic conditioning through a variety of core, upper and lower body exercises. No weights yet. It is important to get personal instruction regarding how to do these exercises, such as how to keep a flat back with no posterior or anterior hip tilt. Done incorrectly, an athlete can do more harm than good. All exercises 1 min. ON and 30 sec. OFF (resting)
1. Front plank (Alternately lift opposite arm and leg, like a yoga bird dog pose.)
2. Side planks (Raise upper arm vertical, then bring it down and reach under your torso with rotation, then return to vertical and repeat.)
3. Russian twists in v-sit position with knees bent, heels on floor, keeping neutral spine, and isolating the rotation to the thoracic spine (in order to prevent lumbar flexion and load on lumbar spine)
4. Side squats using a slilder on the non-supporting leg.
5. Reverse squats with bent leg sliding behind my back, done with slider or on vinyl floor with slipper on sliding foot
6. Stepups onto an elevated platform lifting knee high in front.
7. Romanian deadlifts (RDLs)
8. Hip rotations. Standing on one leg, lift other leg into marching position with horizontal thigh. Rotate that lifted leg to the right then back to the front
9. Calf letdowns with heels going below edge of platform I am standing on
10. Pullups
11. Tricep pushups
12. Tricep dips on bench behind with legs horizontal and feet elevated on a platform
Wed AM Run L1 run 45min (15min walking before&after but 45min running) 0:45

Thu AM RdB L1 & Core L1 riding 45min w. 6x20sec accels/2min easy L1 0:45
  PM WT RM Same strength workout as last Wendesday (see above) except warmup with 10 min. trail running this time. 0:15
Fri AM RdB First Intervals This Year: 15min warmup then 45min running. In the 45min run add 6 x (ON Increase effort and speed until reach L3 / 2min OFF Active rest to get back to L1) These are pick ups ON is until reaching L3, which is about 1-2min, Cooldown L1 until you reach 45min 0:57

Sat AM Other Trail maintenance on steep trail 0:30
Sun AM Run Run/FastWalk toggle 15min/30min running 2:35

Total Hours:


KEY: The references to L1, L2, L3 and L4 in the spreadsheet refer to heart rate zones, with L1 being lowest heart rate. A general way to think about these heart rate training zones is: L1 is Level 1 - very easy to talk, L2 is Level 2 - easy to talk, L3 is Level 3 - difficult to talk marathon race pace, L4 - cannot talk 5K race pace, L5 - WFO sprint pace maximum speed. Key to modes of training: Ski Walk/Bound SW/SS, Ski Skate SSK, Ski Classic SCL, Rollerski Skate RSSK, Rollerski Classic RSCL, Road Bike RdB, Mountain Bike MtB, Kayak or Row KYK, Double Poling DP, Weight Room/Strength WTRM. (For in-depth information about training plans, periodization of training and all the details that go into making up a training year, please look for CXC Academy or another training organization for that kind of detail.)

Using a heart rate monitor for training...

This blog refers a lot to training in particular heart rate zones, and I am a big proponent of using a heart rate monitor in order to know what zone I am in at any time. Mine gives me the confidence of knowing that I am working out in the correct range of heart rates, as recommended by my training plan. Otherwise, I find that too much subjectivity can creep into my perception of heart rate. For example, if I am a bit tired from a previous week full of workouts, I may notice that my heart rate doesn't really seem to want to rise during my warmup routine. This doesn't always mean I am too tired to complete the workout, but it usually tells me that I need to ease into the intensity that is in the workout. Then, I might expect to more slowly ramp up from Level 3 to Level 4, if I am doing L4 intervals. Or, if I can't achieve L4 at all, then my coach's advice has always been to stop the workout and expect to do better next time. But really, that experience is rare, probably because I am a stickler for keeping my heart rate in the zone that is specified by my plan for any particular day. Therefore, I mostly like looking at the heart rate monitor display to make sure I am not overdoing it on long easy distance L1 workouts, so that I will have the energy to do the more intense workouts that are in L3 to L5.

If you are shopping for a heart rate monitor...

shop heart rate monitors

DISCLAIMER: All sports including Cross Country Skiing have inherent risks. This training page is provided as information only. It is not a prescription for training. It is provided without the benefit of assessing the reader's health, fitness or skill. It is not a substitute for qualified personal coaching. Obtain a doctor's medical assessment before engaging in strenuous exercise. By reading this page, you agree to indemnify the author and any associated entity from any harm you may incur if you decide to follow the training program, and you agree you are at your own risk and that you hold harmless the author and any other associated entity.

  • First Woman Overall in the following races: Kneissel Rendezvous Marathon, President's Cup Marathon, Ridge to River Iron Woman, Pepsi Challenge 10K, two consecutive years: 10th Mountain Division Biathlon, and Muskoka Loppet
  • First Woman Overall and First Mixed Team wins for three consecutive years: Ski to Sea and Ridge to River multi-sport races
  • Second Woman Overall in the following races: Ski Jeep Challenge Series, Gatineau Loppet 27K Worldloppet Race, Superior Ski Classic Marathon, Grand Marnier Cup Marathon, Yellowstone Rendezvous Half-Marathon
  • Third Woman Overall: Payette Lakes Ski Marathon

  • U.S. Ski Association Cross Country Ski Championships results:
    • 26th Place Women All Age Classes in 20K Freestyle
    • 32nd Place Women All Age Classes (3rd in Class F30-39) 25K Freestyle at Royal Gorge
    • 51st Woman All Age Classes 15K Classic at Lake Placid
    • 2nd Woman Overall in the Masters Category Age 30 and up (First in Class F30-34) 20K Classic at Royal Gorge
  • U.S Ski Association Masters Nationals results:
    • First Woman Overall 25K Freestyle race
    • 6th Woman Overall 10K Freestyle race
    • 6th Woman Overall 20K Freestyle race
  • American Birkebeiner 53K Worldloppet Race Elite Wave starter for two consecutive years finishing 22nd and 29th Woman Overall (5th in class F35-39 both years).

After moving to Lake Tahoe, Mary Kay won several Top 3 Woman finishes in Far West Cross Country Ski events. She joined U.S. Biathlon Association and won two consecutive years Overall Woman at the 10th Mountain Division Biathlon, and was runner-up in her third year. She won Top Gun at the Washington State Biathlon Championships, out scoring all men and women. Currently, Mary Kay is a member of Ishpeming Ski Club and frequent competitor in cross country skiing, bicycling and kayaking events.


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