I would never believe that my first thought would be about training when waking up today, then closely followed by thoughts exclusively only about bread and butter. Perhaps because I was waking up after a successful Iron Maiden show. Then somehow the brain quickly connected the two and here we go 😉
An old cycling wisdom says: “Tour de France is won in the winter!” It’s an interesting statement since the Tour is ridden in the heat of July.
It means that if you are not building your endurance engine sufficiently long time before your goal event then you will have trouble reaching your potential that year, and consistently improving over long periods of time.
So what does this mean in rando racing and ski mountaineering terms?
Feel free to let me know in comments below if you want me to expand on any concepts introduced here. I am keeping this article simple for everyone to understand as too much detail can be overwhelming and difficult to act upon.
Endurance capacity should be your “bread and butter” in the summer
All endurance performances (sports lasting longer than 2-3 minutes) are the most effectively improved (long term) via consistently improving ones endurance capacity (low heart-rate intensity).
The biggest reason for this is that improvements to your more intensive (higher heart-rate) capacities rely heavily on your low intensity endurance base. Simply, if you stop improving your body’s efficiency at low intensities you will have very hard time improving its efficiency (thus speed) at high intensities, also known as around and above lactate threshold.
What to do:
If you are planning to do (or improve upon from last year) couple of rando races in February and March then July, August, September should serve you as your base endurance building months.
Personally, during this time I don’t follow any structured training plan. All I think about is “bread and butter” – I don’t worry about speed or sports specific workouts during this period because the single most important thing is building a big endurance base.
This “bread and butter” theory also allows for easier prioritization. Let’s say you want to improve in the winter and have time for 14 endurance sessions and 6 bouldering or fishing trips during August. If you miss 2 MTB rides because of bad weather by mid-August then without deep analysis you will know that you should replace 2 bouldering sessions in favour of 2 endurance building activities in the next 2-3 weeks.
Note: I am not saying climbing is not more fun and that you should sacrifice your pleasures. I am simply stating what is “bread and butter” during this time of the year if you really like to improve 6 months down the road.
The intensity could be easily measured with a heart rate monitor or jugged by your breathing comfort level – you should be able to talk fairly easily at any moment.
Activities: variety, agility and injury prevention
I strongly believe endurance base should be built through a variety of activities during this period of the year, and that summer is the best time to improve your agility.
Variety is important as it allows your body to relax certain muscle groups while engaging new ones, and it is way more fun to alternate sports from day to day than just running all the time.
Also, 6-8 months from your goal you can afford not to focus on repeating sport specific movements at all times. You won’t be any worse because of that as long as you remember to eat your “bread and butter” regularly.
The most successfully used and easily accessible endurance building summer activities for ski mountaineering are:
- MTB biking
- Road riding
- Running or hiking with poles
These are great because they let you control your exercise intensity easily.
MTB biking could be an exception here but it depends on the terrain you ride and your skill level. For me, MTB is a bit too demanding until later in the summer when I get the hang of it, which I never fully do though 😉
Great skimo athletes such as Kilian Jornet, Melanie Bernier, Sari Anderson, Luke Nelson (too many to name) are also very successful endurance athletes in MTB, road cycling, trail running, or adventure racing. Variety serves them well.
Agility comes from variety but is more effectively developed through different summer activities than the above endurance sports:
- Climbing / mountaineering / bouldering
- Balance challenging strength training
Basically, anything requiring good hand-eye (foot-eye) coordination and balance develops your agility. This will help you with technical skiing, mountaineering, transitions, and injury prevention.
Personally, I spend lots of time playing tennis and soccer between June and August. Then I usually keep only playing soccer until I start regularly skiing (late November).
I don’t do them because I want better agility, I do them because I love the skill, strategy and have lots of friends that are very good at those. But I do notice that if I miss a summer doing them I kind of feel “off balance” once the sliding season starts.
What do you do in the summer?
Absolutely feel obligated to ask or comment below since you got all the way here.
Are there any activities you would recommend to try to accomplish the above goals of summer months?
And a tweet won’t be out of place either if you learned something new. Thank you.