Cross country ski training at high altitude

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  • #45998

    I bought TFTNA this summer and really enjoyed it, it was a great resource for my training and gave some good background information/ reinforcement on the guidance of traditional cross country ski training- lots of L1 distance, L3 and L4 intervals. My question/ dilemma with this is that does it apply (or work) for athlete who are always training at high altitude. I live at 9000 feet year round, gaining fitness and endurance is not an issue for me, however gaining speed and power is (especially when I go to lower altitudes to race) does it make sense to train different training zones for consistent high altitude training for cross country skiing to include more zone 2 work, harder speed sessions, and possibly lower amounts of total volume? What are your thoughts on training for cross country skiing year round at high altitudes? Thanks!

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    Anonymous on #46008

    Hi Lowell,

    Good question! One of the key aspects (which you pointed out) about training for Nordic at higher altitudes is building and maintaining speed. You’re limited in how much sustained (extensive) high-intensity work you can do, so therefore in order to maximize specific speed training I’d recommend short repeats at very high rates, just as you were thinking. Start with even just 10-15sec sprints with long, easy rest (2-3min easy skiing or even standing) where you really focus on good technique at the highest rate possible. Then move up to 30-60sec max as your “interval” duration. For these I would still maintain a decent rest interval of 1-2 minutes to begin. As your speed gets better you can move to something like a 30-30 interval session but pay close attention to maintaining that speed output; if it starts to really drop off, then bag the intervals and just ski aerobically.

    You will have innate advantage racing at lower altitudes, which will somewhat compensate for not doing as much volume of extensive high aerobic (Zone 3, Zone 4) workouts. Doing these lower-elevation races themselves will also serve as valuable training of those higher zones. And by working on pure speed and efficient technique at that speed while at high elevation, you’ll further maximize the aerobic efficiency you have and make the best use of your well-acclimated system.

    Good luck!


    LowellM on #46020

    Hey Sam-
    Thanks for the awesome response. Just to clarify (in the context of a training week) would you take out one interval workout and swap it with 1-2 hard speed sessions? or add these speed sessions on top of lower volume traditional interval sessions? (like a 4×4 L4 or 4×10 L3 etc).

    Anonymous on #46037

    I would sub in the speed sessions for those longer interval workouts. I think the gains you can make from shorter, high speed sessions will outweigh the traditional 4x4s and similar, because you may likely be limited in how fast you’re able to be moving in those longer intervals by the altitude.

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