Birkie Training Plan
This is the cross-country ski training plan I've used for the last three years as a Wave 1 skier. Every skier is unique, and I’m certainly not suggesting the same Birkie training program is right for you. However, I'll include my plan here for reference, and hopefully you'll find it helpful as you design your own ski marathon training plan. When I first got into ski marathons, I researched how other athletes were training, tapering, and racing. I found a lot of information on running marathon training plans, and plenty of information on elite cross country ski training, but I couldn't find many plans for citizen racers like myself. The information I found for racers like me was very prescriptive, and it was difficult to fit the exact workouts into my week. Instead of specific goals for each day of the week, I have a set of targets for the year and various workouts that change with the seasons.
During the non-snow months, I rack up as many hours running, biking, and rollerskiing as possible. Come ski season, I hit the ski trails whenever the weather and conditions allow. Regardless of the season, I alternate long distance, tempo, and interval sessions to improve both endurance and speed.
Cross Country Ski Training Plan
Throughout the year, I make short-term training plans depending on work, weather, trail conditions, and travel plans. No matter the season, I try to keep the 25 hr/month training goal as my top priority.
Typical Summer Week
Here are two weeks from August 2019. My summer training is fairly unstructured, and is highly dependent on weather and travel. I averaged about an hour a day over this two-week timeframe (below), which includes running, biking, hiking, and roller skiing. Like the rest of the year, my goal is to get 25 hrs per month of exercise.
Typical Fall Week
Fall is the most important time of year for cross-country ski training, in my opinion. I spend a lot of time on the Central Lakes Trail, which is perfect for long, easy distance rollerskiing. The training below is from October 2019. I completed long rollerskis in on the 20th, 26th, and 29th. The 23rd of October and 1st of November were tempo training sessions. This was at the peak of my rollerskiing season, and I averaged about an hour a day, and covered almost 100km per week.
Typical Winter Week
Here in Minnesota, you never quite know when the first snow will arrive. As soon as there's a couple inches on the ground, I start getting as many kilometers as possible in on real ski trails. The example below is taken from January 2019. The long ski is a trip I took to the American Birkebeiner ski trail where I skied from OO to the start and back. In addition to the long ski, I got five other training sessions in and covered just over 100km in the week
* If you're interested in reading about how the pros train, check out this article about the best female cross-country skier of all time, Marit Bjorgen. I can't imagine the amount of dedication it takes to train the 800-950 hrs per year, which is the amount she trained throughout her career.
Ski Marathon Taper Plan
My taper plan for the big February races includes a lot of rest and a couple of key workouts before each race. About one week prior to the Vasaloppet, I try to get a fairly long workout (~2 hrs) in at a comfortable pace. Then, about three days prior to the race, I do a harder workout for just half an hour or so to make sure I'm ready to go. Other than that, I think it's better to error on the side of too much rest rather than not enough.
It is important to note that I’m not an expert in exercise science, by any means. But, I met with a trainer at Sanford Power in Fargo for professional advice and baseline VO2/LT testing (that testing was actually a birthday gift from my awesome wife), and I have also read quite a few books and articles related to training and endurance. The training plan I came up with for myself includes the following components I have found to be consistent across these sources:
Long distance workouts to increase endurance
Tempo sessions at a comfortably fast pace to increase lactate threshold
Interval training at or near your maximum pace
Weights and core exercises to increase power and for injury prevention
Practicing good technique consistently, even when fatigued
Incorporating recovery time after difficult workouts
I think it is also important to set goals, make a customized plan, and track and benchmark your progress while still allowing for some flexibility. By analyzing the data collected by my Polar M430 watch during training sessions, I am able to keep some real-time surveillance of my progress and make adjustments to my workouts to better achieve my targets for intensity, duration, and recovery. This also gives me a chance to use my stats expertise for something useful--the ultimate goal of any math teacher!