Building Training Blocks in Season
Travel, check-in, set up, train on course, tune, wax, race, tune, wax, race, travel…. Does it sound familiar? The ski racing season quickly becomes a weekly hamster wheel of repeated tasks. At the outset, this repeated travel and race stress hones the athlete to a fine performance edge. But, as that edge sharpens, as the turns become more fluid, the lines clearer, the access to the top end speed more readily available, the fundamentals may be eroding. Ski racing offers just one true season, and it is long--often running from late November through March. And that gradual erosion of fundamental fitness over the course of four months can leave an athlete teetering on the edge of disaster. The solution? Mid-season training blocks.
Race season training blocks generally serve a few key purposes: rebuilding training base, focus on a specific performance metric, mental reprieve from stresses of racing, recovery, or a combination. Mid-season training blocks are most often 10-14 days in length, offering athletes a full weekend off from travel and racing. For younger athletes, this kind of training block will often take place at home, but older athletes will build a training block of this type while on the road between weekend race trips. Throughout a season, athletes will generally use between one and three of these training blocks depending upon age and development level.
For alpine and nordic racers alike, rebuilding aerobic base is often the main focus of a mid-season training block. Continually traveling, racing and recovering offers little time for regular sessions of easy distance skiing, jogging, spinning or swimming. Too much racing without a rebuild and the athlete will likely see a sharp decrease in performance, as the body struggles to accommodate the heavy weekly load of anaerobic work. A training block allowing the athlete to put in 6-15 hours of easy aerobic work and some focused strength can help the racer regain the level of fitness she exhibited immediately pre-season.
For freeride athletes and biathletes, the pressure of remaining calm and executing dangerous lines or precision shooting can take a high mental toll. A training block focused exclusively on relaxation followed by three key sessions of fundamental movements can quickly bring an athlete back from the brink of mental collapse.
Of course the racing and the associated travel is exciting and addictive! But without clear times set aside for training during the long season, young athletes will be inconsistent in performance and fail to progress year to year. So, athletes, next time you find yourself at home and in the gym in the middle of the season, remember: without training, your racing will suffer.