Mid Season Form
I am a masters skier from Australia who is rethinking his training for next season . This past season I seem to start off well and beat my fellow masters competitors early but was unable to maintain form for the later races in the season and skiers who spent more on snow time than me seemed to beat me easily towards the end. With so much emphasis on doing quality work leading into a season what is your suggestion to maintain or even improve a level of performance during the season?
You are in a common situation among masters skiers and you describe two tasks to deal with. First, cross-country skiing as a seasonal sport is dependent on specific conditioning and skill-sets, and individuals spending more time training on snow will likely improve their skiing abilities. Second, with or without regular access to snow, you need to make your pre-season fitness level useable for skiing and further train a peaking period through your competitive season. Here are a few points addressing your situation:
Skiing Proficiency - Pre Season
Transferring pre-season fitness to effective training and racing on snow requires skiing proficiency. Get in as much ski- and technique training as you can before snow skiing starts. That will free up better energy for racing and effective on-snow training rather than "relearning" the skiing throughout the ski season.
Skiing Simulation - Always
While training off-snow, in or outside of ski season, include a good amount of direct technique and rhythmic ski simulation in your training. That will tune your brain and muscle memory into the skiing, the motions will be more automated and you can free up better focus on the physical aspects of moving you forward. This training includes stand-still exercises, ski simulation on foot, rollerskiing and ski specific strength training.
Transfer your referenced quality training level into ski season. Without regular access to snow, you can effectively do your quality training passes on foot, on a bike, rollerskis or any mode of choice. Many successful skiers do a fair amount of in-season, off-snow, quality training.
One of the classic recipes for holding onto form through ski season is maintaining strength. A pass or two of circuit type gym strength is gold worth. A personal favorite is mixing up max and endurance mode strength exercises; if you do 10 stations, do 2 - 3 stations in the max mode or with enough resistance to complete 3 - 6 repetitions, and the rest in endurance mode where you do 12 - 15 or more repetitions. You can alter the stations done as max or endurance from time to time, and do 1 to 3 sets of your station sequence. Always include the front and back of the core and the major muscle groups you use in skiing.
These four steps should provide a conceptual guide for weekend warriors in maintaining good physical condition throughout the ski season. Although most master skiers are avid year-round endurance athletes, the bottom line is to set off some time to train for skiing year round, training for skiing's specific skills and demands, on and off the snow.
Jon Engen 3 Time Olympian