General training programmes

 

Training programmes – A view from a professional

 

In April 2004, during the ski-fitness assessment day the previous summer, we had the help and advice of a professional Fitness Advisor and personal coach, Ryan Coyle, and who holds a degree in Sports Science. I had spoken to him before the assessment day and explained the training requirements for skiing, and he agreed to give it some thought and come up with an example training programme, which is set out below. You will see two things which are perhaps slightly different from other advice: firstly, he suggests the idea of phases, where each phase corresponds to four weeks of training (so the plan below would cover about three and a half months), and secondly he uses the notion of "active rest", which would involve doing some low level exercise (such as walking or playing table tennis) as a break from normal training.

 

This programme was intended for someone competing in a 10-15 km ski race. The workouts suggested would probably be ideal if done on roller skis but, because most of us can't do so much roller skiing in any given week, running, cycling or cross-training machine training could probably be substituted. The programme does not include any weight training, though, so if running or cycling were used, some mid and upper body exercises would almost certainly be needed. Some of the workouts might need to be made longer if training for a longer race but, anyway, see what you think.

 

Phase 1: Endurance training

 

The physiological goal of this endurance training phase is to develop more extensive capillary beds and mitochondria so that working muscles are able to use more oxygen (this is known as aerobic metabolism).

 

(A): Do two long workouts per week during this phase:

 

            1st long workout – 45 minutes of continuous exercise at your baseline aerobic workout level (approximately 70% of maximum heart rate or

             6-7/10 in relation to perceived rate of exertion). Once you can do 45 minutes at this level, gradually start to increase the intensity.

 

            2nd workout – Build up to 90 minutes of continuous exercise, again based on your baseline aerobic workout level. Don't increase training time

            by more that 20 % in a single week.

 

(B): Do interval training once per week, using one minute reps with two minutes rest/interval. Spend the first few workouts finding the right intensity level, then focus on increasing the number of reps by about 50 % over the course of this phase. Aim for a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 10 reps as a starting point.

 

             Stick with the same interval and repetition length. The emphasis here is on getting used to doing a harder workout.

 

            The last 4 to 7 days of Phase 1 should be limited to active rest or full rest, before moving on to Phase 2.

 

Phase 1 could, therefore, look something like this, the seven day programme being done four times:

 

            Day 1: Long – warm-up 5 minutes, 45 minutes continuous exercise, cool down 5 minutes. Increase intensity during this phase.

            Day 2: Active rest.

            Day 3: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 8 x 1 minute reps/2 minutes rest. Cool down 5 minutes. Increase number of reps to 12 by

            the end of this phase.

            Day 4: Day off.

            Day 5: Long – warm-up 5 minutes, 90 minutes continuous exercise, cool down 5 minutes.

            Day 6: Active rest.

            Day 7: Active rest.

 

Phase 2: Stamina training

 

The stamina-building phase helps develop both anaerobic and cardiac systems as the body trains to perform at high intensities for extended periods of time. This type of training is similar to the experience of actual competition, geared to teach the body to improve tolerance to lactic acid and fatigue.

 

(A): Do one long workout per week, this being 90 minutes of continuous exercise with pace and intensity following on from Phase 1.

 

(B): Do one aerobic threshold workout every other week, this consisting of 20 minutes at a constant, high intensity, enough so that you are short of breath. Push yourself in a controlled manner and finish feeling like you could keep going another 3 or 4 minutes at the same intensity if you had to. This equates to about 80% of maximum heart rate. Aim to increase intensity as the phase progresses.

 

(C): Do one or two interval workouts per week.

 

            C1: Do first interval workout, except in weeks when you do aerobic threshold work above, do 5 minute drills: 5 reps x 5 minutes at 80-90 %

            with 3 minute intervals. Slowly increase the rep intensity over the course of this phase but always finish as if you could do one more interval.

 

            C2: The second interval workout consists of the same number of one minute reps at the same intensity as at the end of Phase 1 but decrease

            the length of each rest interval from 2 minutes to 1:45 then 1:30 then 1:15, stopping when you get down to one minute.

 

Phase 2 might, therefore, be as follows:

 

            Day 1: Aerobic threshold – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 20 minutes medium intensity (around 80 %), increasing intensity as the phase progresses,

            5-10 minutes cool down.

            Alternate week:

            Day 1: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 5 x 5 minute reps, 3 minute interval, 5-10 minutes cool down.

            Day 2: Active rest or day off.

            Day 3: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 12 x 1 minute reps as at the end of Phase 1, decreasing rest to 1 minute, 5-10 minutes

            cool-down.

            Day 4: Active rest or day off.

            Day 5: Long – 90 minutes moderate pace as for Phase 1.

            Day 6: Active rest.

            Day 7: Active rest.

 

Phase 3: Speed (anaerobic) phase

 

This phase takes you from racing fit to racing sharp, using larger muscle fibres, improving efficiency and focusing on intensities higher than those of an actual race. The end result should be greater ease when performing at faster speeds. Better conditioning means less struggle in the early part of a race, so there is more in reserve to kick into another gear as the finish line approaches.

 

(A): Do one long workout per week, following on from Phase 2.

 

(B1): Do the first interval session of the week with one minute reps and one minute intervals, as at the end of Phase 2. The reps should be broken into four sets of three. For each set do the first two reps at about the same pace as at the end of Phase 2, but increase the effort level for the third rep, staying just short of maximum. Do three easy minutes at 40-50 % between sets (see the example below).

 

(B2): For the second interval workout of the week, you have a choice of two:

 

            10 sets of 2 minute reps with 3 minute intervals, or

 

            5 sets of 5 minute reps with 3 minute intervals.

 

Note that you won't need to take any additional rest days at the end of Phase 3, because Phase 4 emphasises lighter training. Phase 3 might, therefore, look like this:

 

            Day 1: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 4 sets of 3 x 1 minute (2 x (1 minute hard + 1 minute rest) then 1 minute maximum

            – 3 minutes rest at 40-50 %), 5-10 minutes cool down.

            Day 2: Active rest.

            Day 3: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 10 x 2 minute reps/3 minute intervals or 5 x 5 minute reps/3 minute intervals, 5-10 minutes

            cool down.

            Day 4: Day off.

            Day 5: Long – 90 minutes moderate pace as for Phase 1.

            Day 6: Active rest or day off.

            Day 7: Active rest.

 

Phase 4: Rest/competition phase

 

This phase is designed to prevent burn-out or over-training, because the body requires adequate rest before a race day. For the next 2 – 4 weeks, decrease the length of all workouts by 30-40 % (even active rest – see the article below), while keeping the intensity level the same as in Phase 3. This is called tapering and should help you maintain fitness for 4 to 6 weeks while recovering properly to race hard and well. Take at least 4 days of active rest or rest days just prior to a race. This helps keep the body fresh and injury-free.

 

A tapering week for Phase 4 might look like the following:

 

            Day 1: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 2 sets of 3 x 1 minute reps/1 minute interval with the last rep done slightly harder as in

            Phase 3, 5-10 minute cool down.

            Day 2: Active rest (two thirds as long as usual).

            Day 3: Interval training – warm-up 10-15 minutes, 3 x 2 minute reps/3 minute intervals or 3 x 5 minute reps/3 minute intervals, 5-10 minute

            cool down.

            Day 4: Day off.

            Day 5: Active rest (two thirds as long as usual).

            Day 6: Long – 60 minutes at moderate pace or target race distance if not longer.

            Day 7: Day off.

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