Alternative training for skimo-racing

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  • #4326


    I am training seriously to compete in skimo-races, but have a huge disadvantage because I live in an area without mountains and great uphills, and also there is a lack of snow most of the winter. I am trying to figure out how I should train when I’m only getting 1-2 skimo workouts each week (the only place I can train skimo is at a local ski resort with a hill at approximately 300 height meters, which means that I don’t get any long ascents and descents, but usually I walk up 4-5 times per workout).

    I know that stars like Kilian Jornet mostly do trail running in the summer, which I guess is good alternative training for skimo, but I’m not sure it works well for me, considering that I don’t have much uphill terrain nearby, and most of my outside running is done on flat ground.

    I’m wondering whether cycling would be just as good an alternative (or even better) than running, considering that you have to use a lot of leg power, which would be similar to skinning uphill on skis.

    Currently I’m trying to do a lot of running on treadmill with steep incline, mixed with a little bit of cross-country skiing/roller skiing, and a little bit of cycling, in addition to 1-2 skimo session each week. To sum up my questions:

    – What is the best alternative to skimo training when training to compete on a high level in skimo races?
    – Should I do most of my alternative training as running or cycling (or something else)?
    – Is cycling a better option than running on flat ground?
    – Do you have any other tips regarding alternative training for skimo?

    Will be grateful for any response!

Posted In: Skimo-racing

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    Anonymous on #4339

    Hi bjornson,

    Because skimo is a weight-bearing sport, you’ll want to make almost all of your training weight-bearing as well.

    What you say about leg power is true between cycling and skimo, but it doesn’t take into account all of the postural muscles at work when you’re on your feet. Also, skimo is very much quadripedal, not bipedal. Training your poling in concert with your legs is really important, especially with most races being held on-piste. If the poling surface is supportive, you can get very helpful amounts of drive from your arms. You won’t get a relevant training stimulus in cycling.

    In general, you need to make most of your training as specific to the sport as possible. It’ll be tedious, but those laps on the local ski hill are the most specific thing that you have.

    I love cycling, but it wasn’t giving me what I needed for skimo, so I’ve had to drastically reduce how much time I spend on the bike. I use it mostly for recovery and getting out with the kids. Sorry I don’t have better news!

    Scott (S)

    bjornson on #4346

    Thank you for swift response! Well, it shouldn’t come as a shock to me that I have to train skimo to become better at it.. 😉 Anyway, thanks for the advice, and I will definitely prioritize skinning as much as possible!

    Colin Simon on #4355


    I asked a very similar question a while back. I was curious how much cycling I could do to train for alpine climbing. The answer is pretty much the same.

    Guidelines for low-impact activities

    And yes, without local hills you are in a tough spot for running. The site authors also recently made an article/training plan for urban-dwellers looking for training.

    Anonymous on #6627

    Another thought on this, @Bjornson:

    That 300m ski hill is on the short side, but it’ll be much better training for skimo than purely plodding uphill in long sessions.

    Most uphill portions of a skimo race are a few hundred meters, so laps on a 300m hill will be more sport-specific than one continuous climb. As race season approaches, you can increase the pace per lap, practice transitions at the bottom and top, and work on your downhill technique while fatigued.

    (To see a master at work in an 8″ transition, check out Yannick Ecoeur in this video. He’s the last man into the transition zone, but he has the fastest, smoothest transition.)

    benno_r on #16247

    Any recommendations on training plans for those that live even further from the mountains?

    I come from an more an ultra running background, I was trying to decide on the best plan to use as Im doing a few more skimo races going through till end of march and then building up to a mountaineering trip in july ish time and then a 100mile trail run in september.

    Anonymous on #16275


    I recommend using our the muscular endurance program we explain near the end of this article.

    It will help build some of the same strength you would get from training on big hills and mountains. This should supplement your long training sessions. These long sessions can be done in stair machines and treadmills in a gym if you have no alternative. This can train the uphill muscles pretty well.


    kmillsski on #48933

    In a similar vein, what about the idea of using skate skiing to replace vertical for a Cat 1 First Season athlete?

    For example, if a 2400ft uphill / downhill has a hrTSS score of 100 using Z2 (with some Z3) could I, if limited on the ability to find vertical, replace that with a similar hrTSS score skate ski? I’m having trouble getting 3 or more days of skinning in, but I can get in 2 days of skinning and 1+ days of skate skiing.

    Thanks for your thoughts and time!! Kyle

    Anonymous on #49395

    If the TSS is calculated the same way* and at the same intensity, then it should be a decent substitute. It’s not as ideal as getting in vertical for a vertical-oriented sport, but XC is always a good alternative.

    * We often adjust the hrTSS to account for vertical gain. Obviously that doesn’t apply to XC, so make sure you’re using the same metric, whether TSS or duration, so long as the intensity is the same.

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