Nordic skiers love to use all sorts of terms to describe being tired: “in the box”, “in the hole”, “caked”, “slammed”, “so tired that I can’t train another day”. Nordic skiers also tend to be a bit dramatic. I myself am one of those people. I love getting to the end of a big training block and commiserating with my teammates about how tired I am or how hard that mid week workout was. It almost becomes a team building exercise; building stronger bonds between you and your teammates through shared hard effort. But, when does it become too much? When does hard work turn against you and become serious fatigue, or worse, an over trained athlete? For each person, the answer to that question is a bit different. However, as we push closer and closer to the edge in order to attain higher levels of fitness, one thing is for certain: once you surpass the threshold of overtraining, often there is no easy way out of that hole.
As the Pro Team and I close out the end of August, it marks an important milestone in our off season training. For the past few months, we have trained high hours and focused on building our aerobic “base.” By pushing the hours higher mid-summer we hope to improve our aerobic capacity so that we can sharpen the body in the coming months. Now, with racing about two months away, we will start to cut back the hours slowly, while adding in more high intensity. By now, our base fitness is high and we have a solid foundation to build on in the coming months. With high anaerobic intensity we can tune the body to move even faster on the endurance and muscles we have been building up for the past few months.
Oftentimes however, this coming month is a turning point for many skiers. Either, you train well, hit the workouts right, do the right amount of volume training, and come out of it ready for a super intense month of training in October; or, you train too much on all fronts (intensity, volume, base) and go into the season flat and a bit over trained. I’ve been there. It’s no fun to go into the month of October or race season feeling tired to the point that it takes away from your high intensity sessions.
Often, I get to this time of year and feel great. The fitness is finally coming around, the volume weeks start to feel like normal weeks, and I feel like I could just keep training through our easy weeks rather than taking rest. It is easy to get carried away and start training more just because you feel good. However, now is the time to appreciate that you feel good and use the recovery weeks to chill and hopefully come back the next week feeling even better. It’s not worth digging deeper simply because you can. Nordic skiers often fall prey to the “quantity over quality” training mentality. Simply train more in order to be better. It’s an easy thing to overlook when you’re feeling so good.
Bottom line, each person should try their hardest to listen to their body. More importantly however, you should listen to your coach, teammates, and those around you that have done it before. Embrace the recovery weeks as an opportunity to rest and do another hobby you have. So, when the time comes to train hard again, you can dive into things head first with the pedal to the floor. Because, although counterintuitive, you become faster and fitter not after the hard work is done, but rather following the recovery from all of the hard work that has been done.