Ben Husaby is a two-time Olympian in Nordic skiing and an 11-time National Champion in Nordic skiing at the Junior, Senior, and Master levels. He was also an NCAA competitor in both cross-country running and Nordic skiing (All-American) at the University of Colorado. For fun, Ben has competed in adventure races (X Games, Subaru Gorge Games) and other multisport events, winning the “World Championships of the World”—the Pole Pedal Paddle in Bend, Oregon—six times. Currently Ben is training for a top-ten finish at the American Birkebeiner ski race in February 2022.
Ben’s Journey as an Athlete and Coach
Aerobic fitness and endurance have defined my life. As a child I spent long summer days in Europe walking through the foothills and countryside with my Oma, and in my teens I cross-country skied across the fields, lakes, and wooded lots of the Midwest. With no real aptitude for team sports, I was drawn to the adventure and individuality that came with easy cruising to places I hadn’t seen before. I developed basic aerobic fitness not through a plan or concrete objective but through freedom of movement. I was a kid who played outside. When I was around 12 or 13 years old, my dad volunteered for a local Nordic race and asked if I would like to try it. It was my first go at racing—complete with pine tar, bamboo poles, and knickers. I remember my dad telling my mom as we walked in the door, “That little shit can ski!” The aerobic germination process had sprouted its first seeds of competitive roots.
For the next 25 years, being fit and fast propelled my life. Nordic skiing has a long history of rewarding athletes with the highest levels of aerobic development and economy. It became evident that successful athletes were using a formalized approach to their training. I began learning about why and how to train from those around me. There was a lot of trial and error, and some crazy ideas were tested. Some things stuck, such as my first muscular endurance workouts in the early 1990s—done with Scott Johnston and adapted from a Soviet speed skating plan. Many ideas fell by the wayside, but the pathway to success became clear: train a lot, train smart, train hard sometimes but not too often, and allow your body the time it needs to catch up.
Following a long and fluid racing career, I made the seemingly obvious step to coaching kids. Along the way there were competitive successes, but for me the real motivation was to pass along the joy and confidence that come with being aerobically fit. There is no greater success as a coach than seeing kids (or adults) pick an objective or challenge and use their training and confidence to achieve their goal.
Now that I am in my mid-50s, my wellness and physical fitness have morphed again. I am drawn to the freedom of movement without an intense objective, training primarily for my overall health. It is, however, wonderful to feel strong, confident, and competent on those days when I want to push myself—on long days in the mountains or even in a Nordic ski race. I (like you) have found myself consulting Uphill Athlete and its wealth of information and training suggestions for motivation and training ideas. It is very stimulating to refresh my knowledge base on so many of the methodologies I’d learned through a long career in racing and coaching. After getting back into my personal training, I realized that I wanted to coach again. It is serendipitous that Scott reached out: we trained together in the 1990s, coached together for 15 years, and now here we are again. I look forward to doing the workouts together with you!