I have had a number of requests to put up a post reviewing my Annual Training Plan (ATP) for the 2017 ski season. Although I put up the plan for 2016, the intention for showing the 2016 ATP was to demonstrate how a plan could be put together using the principles of training that I detailed in a number of posts (here, here, here, here, and here). I noted at the time that the plan was only relevant to me and my specific training capacities, dryland and ski skill, race schedule, and the amount of weekly time devoted to training. Therefore the 2016 ATP was not a recipe (or even a template) for a successful training plan for someone else- likewise for this 2017 ATP. It is important be very specific to your individual circumstances- time available, intensity capacity, volume capacity, strength development capacity, local terrain and dryland situation, etc. Development of a personal ATP is most often best accomplished with an experienced coach who can intelligently adjust the various elements in the program to one’s specific needs and then make further adjustments as needed as one proceeds through the program.
“Canned” training programs are abundantly available but they are just that- “canned”. They are not well suited to advanced athletes, are typically out of sync for intermediates, and newbies should definitely steer clear of these plans. People love to buy them, download them, and then complain about how they do not work very well! As a result, there is very limited successful applicability for such products.
If you are serious about your training it is highly recommended that you find a suitable coach and develop an efficient working relationship. Your time and money will be well placed.
Presented below is my 2017 Ski Season ATP offered as an example of what a program can look like to support two peak race periods- World Masters Cup Minneapolis 19-26 January 2018 and for the West Yellowstone Rendezvous Race on 3 March 2018. The details of the training plan are specific to me and will not be elaborated upon except for some typical workout sessions that I use for the VO2max and Lactate Threshold (LT) intensity sessions.
For the 2017-2018 ski season the training program began in ernest about a month earlier than for 2016-2017 because the first “A” race (World Masters Minneapolis) is in late January, about a month prior to the 2016-2017 “A” race at World Masters in Klosters. So you will see a shift in the beginning of the intensity work to the beginning of August. I have also decided to stick with the “block periodization” protocol for the pre-race periods. This worked quite well last year.
Prior to the period shown in the 2017 ATP I pursued a mountain trail running season from early April through late June. This trail run training included an initial four week block of endurance with high vertical gain (about 3000-6000 m (10,000-20,000 feet) per week) followed by three week VO2 max and LT intensity blocks and a rest week prior to a 25 km mountain trail race in mid June. Following the race I transitioned back to endurance training for the remainder of June and then throughout July thereby yielding a seven week endurance block prior to the start of ski-specific intensity (bounding with poles) in August. I prefer to not race in the summer mainly due to the heat stress but also due to other competing opportunities to get deep into the mountains when they are most accessible. And, as many know, racing just gets in the way of training!
There is one significant change for 2017 that is worth noting- I have gone with 6 week intensity blocks throughout the fall that start with two weeks of VO2max focus followed immediately by four week blocks of Lactate Threshold (LT) focus. I found last season that I could absorb more intensity than I was getting and this new structure should allow me to further define where my ultimate capacity is. Hopefully this structure will not go over the edge but I am pretty confident that it will not. I also have historically had a very good ability to accurately judge when training is getting close to the edge of overtraining; so, if experience holds, I will know when to back off if needed.
As in 2016, training protocol during the race season will revert to a traditional periodization with appropriately placed intensity weeks, volume weeks, and recovery weeks. Peaking periods will involve every other day intervals for about two weeks followed by rest prior to the “A” races.
Note that the Seeley Hills Classic 42 km classic race is inserted one week prior to World Masters. This race is on the schedule because we have wanted to do it for quite some time and it is located close to Minneapolis so it can be accommodated by just extending our trip to World Masters Minneapolis. However, we will be playing this by ear and may drop down to the 21 km race or not race at all depending on how we feel when the time comes. The race could be a good tune-up for World Masters since all of the WMC races are shorter than 30 km for us old people (M07 & F06). We should have no problem with 10 km, 15 km ,and 30 km races on the easy terrain in Minneapolis even after doing the 42 km classic race on the much more challenging courses at Seeley Hills that use the Birkie Trail System. Now let’s hope there is actually snow this year!
One will also note that there are recovery periods that overlap with scheduled races (e.g. the Teton Ridge Classic, Seeley Hills Classic, and the Boulder Mountain Tour)- this just means that these races are being used primarily for training and fall into the “B” & “C” race categories- they will essentially be LT sessions in an otherwise recovery week. It’s not ideal but we would rather race when we have the chance so long as we can have high confidence that recovery will be sufficient. There is no substitute for racing if successful racing is your goal. However, we will also be playing each of these races by ear, particularly the Boulder Mountain Tour as it is after WMC Minneapolis and it is also not a favorite race. Even though it is the “big” race here in Sun Valley, it is a downhill course with way too much boring flats and way too much V2 alt for our tastes. So if we miss it, neither of us will be particularly disappointed. Too bad we cannot have a more challenging race in Sun Valley on some of the great terrain that we have here.
Since many have asked, I give a few examples of VO2max and LT session structures below. For dryland these are done as bounding with poles. Both types of intensity work are best done on hills as repeats. You should expect about 600-750 m (2000-2500 feet) of accumulated vertical ascension during a session that has about 30 minutes of “on” work. An occasional flat-to-rolling terrain session will help with high turnover and associated neuromuscular development that comes with the much faster pace on such terrain. All workouts should be preceded by about 30 min of warm-up at aerobic pace with a few speeds (aka “pick-ups” in run language) and about 20-30 min of cool down at aerobic pace. Depending on the specific work these sessions will last from about 1h 15 min to 2 h.
These are simple examples that work well in a mountain environment where long steep hills are readily available. But be creative in accommodating whatever terrain you have to work with and make the repeats/rests efficient so that you do not get too much rest between repeats. The accumulated lactate and muscle fatigue is critical to obtaining an appropriate (and, hopefully, optimal) training stimulus. Also, be sure to max out on overnight sleep after these workouts- you will need the rest even if at first you don’t think so. On a regular diet of these intervals sleep is your friend- particularly for us oldsters!
VO2max session examples
10-20 X (1 min on/1min off)
10 X (2 min on 2 min off)
10 X (3 min on 3 min off)
2-3 repeats of, for example:
1 min (30 s off) 2 min (1 min off) 3 min (2 min off) 5 min (3 min off) 5 min (3 min off) 3 min (2 min off) 2 min (1 min off) 1 min
Many books on the subject of interval training suggest a progression from about 12 min total work (i.e. on time) to about 30 min total work (at peak loading) at VO2max (100-107% of LT (zone 5a-b)). There will be significant heart rate lag on the shorter interval periods (i.e. you will not get to the target heart rate even though the effort level is correct) so having a good feel for rated perceived exertion (RPE) and how that maps onto heart rate is important.
- with a LT of 155 this means heart rates between 155-166 bpm
Lactate Threshold session examples
3-6 X 8 min on 4 min off
5-7 X 6 min on 3 min off
3-5 X 10 min on 5 min off
2-3 X 20 min on 10 min off
1 X 40 min on
Again, many books on the subject of interval training for running and cross country skiing suggest a progression from about 20 min total LT work up to about 60 min total work (at peak loading) at 90-95% of LT (zone 4 with some brief excursions to 100% of LT (high zone 4-low zone 5a) allowed.
- with a LT of 155 this means heart rates between 140 and 148 bpm with a few brief 150-155 bpm excursions allowed depending on the demands of the terrain