Thursday, September 13, 2007

An Overview of My Training

Today I'm going attempt to provide you with an idea of what my training actually looks like on a given day, over the course of a week, and even over the course of a month. This will probably be most informative to those of you not familiar with the methods of training for any sort of distance sports. Regardless though, training for biathlon presents challenges unique to the sport so there should be something interesting for everyone.
One of the first things to know about training is that workouts are grouped by week, month, and even two to three month sections of the year. We usually refer to this as periodization. The year is set up in one-month blocks. The National Team trains three weeks hard in a row and one week easy because that mimics the World Cup circuit where athletes race 2-4 times per week for three weeks and then they get an off-week to recover and travel to the next race venues. Because the Development Team's purpose is to train athlete's who have the potential of being on the National Team at some point in the future, the coaches feel it is important that our training mimics that of the National Team as closely as possible.

Each of the three hard weeks in a typical one-month block consists of an average of 18-19 hours of dedicated training, which includes 2-3 strength workouts, 2-3 high-intensity (interval) workouts, 1-2 specific strength workouts (done on rollerskis or in another medium that mimics the motions of skiing), and several distance workouts for a total of 9-14 workouts. In a weekly block we train six days and take one day off to recover, similar in principle to how we train in our monthly blocks where we train hard for three weeks and then use the fourth as an easy/recovery week. This pattern can also be seen in our yearly schedule, but we won't focus on that aspect of the training in this post. In order to give you an idea of what training actually looks like on a typical week, below is a copy of my training plan from last week:

AM - Shooting drills (we don't count this as "training" time because this drill wasn't
mixed with any aerobic training like running or rollerskiing.
PM - (120 min) Skate rollerski technique drills + 8 Combos alternating no pole & double
pole techniques

AM - (120 min) 8 Skate Roller ski combo intervals @ lev 3* w/ 2 minutes of rest
between each.
PM - (120 min) 10 easy Classic rollerski combos

AM - (180 min) Distance Skate rollerski
PM - Off

AM - (65 min) Running Time Trial w/ 4 shooting stages - this TT was in the same
format as a pursuit** biathlon race so we did 5 x ~5 min of running between
levels 4 & 5*. I missed 2 shots of 20 - a very encouraging shooting score
PM - (100 min) Strength workout - Power lifting & core exercises.
AM - (170 min) Distance run
PM - Off

AM - (115 min) Skate rollerski intervals (3 x 20 min. w/ 4 min. rest between each) at
level 3*
PM - (125 min) 60 min Classic rollerski + 65 min strength (Power lifting and core

Sunday - Off

So, I trained a total of 18.6 hours in 9 sessions, including 3 interval sessions, 2 strength sessions, 3 distance sessions, and 1 distance session that included ski-specific strength exercises.

*see my last post from Sept. 4 for an overview of how we categorize the intensity of our workouts into 5 levels -

**There are four different formats for a biathlon race. They will be outlined later in this post.

I hope you're not overly confused at this point. I'm including all this info for anyone that is super interested in the details of my new "job." Many people don't understand how I can be so busy just doing "some skiing and shooting." It's primarily for them that I've included an overview of what an average training day looks like. We wake before seven most mornings and start the day with dry-fire drills, which consists of going through the motions of shooting our rifles. The only difference is that we don't have bullets in the gun and we're 'shooting' at black dots on the wall. This helps us train all the muscles to know proper body positioning and breathing, both being requisite for shooting quickly and accurately. Between 7 and 7:30 we make it to breakfast where we choose foods to fuel the first workout of the day. If the workout is going to be long I eat quite a bit more than if the workout is either short or a hard interval session. The last thing I want to see in an interval session is my breakfast all over the side of the road. After the morning's workout we return to the OTC in time to shower and make it to lunch where the process starts all over again. At lunch we are focused on refueling our bodies quickly so we'll have as much time as possible to recover before the afternoon workout. After lunch we usually take a short nap that helps the muscles regenerate and also keeps the mind fresh so we can focus on the details of the coming workout. Following the afternoon workout we again shower and then head straight to dinner to refuel. By this time it is usually 6 or 7 in the evening and it's time to do a little more dry-firing, watch some biathlon videos to study technique, or simply read a book or focus on something other than biathlon for 2-3 hours before going to bed. The training does get monotonous at times. One key to keeping things exciting lies in good music, good books, and a vivid imagination. My iPod accompanies me on most long workouts so I'm able to do a little 'grooving' on the trails. When I'm in my room recovering I can often be found redesigning the energy-efficient house I'd love to build someday or going through one of the books that I've collected over the last several years. Enough on that though.

I promised earlier that I'd explain the different race formats, so I'll attempt to do that here. I've also included some photos that will hopefully help to illustrate some of the details.

Relay - 4 X 7.5 km; Each skier skies three laps of 2.5 km each and shoots once prone (8 shots for 5 targets) after the first lap and once standing (8 shots for 5 targets) after the second lap.

Sprint - 10 km; This is an individual race that consists of three 3.3 km loops. Skiers start in 30-second intervals and shoot once in prone position (5 shots for 5 targets) after the first lap and once standing (5 shots for five targets) after the second lap. For every missed target skiers are required to ski a 150 meter penalty loop. It pays to shoot well.

Pursuit - 12.5 km; The start order of this race is based on the final times from the sprint race. If, for example, skier X was 1st in the sprint and skier Y was 2nd just six seconds later, then skier X will start six seconds in front of skier Y. In order to win, skier Y must catch skier X and pass him. This makes for an exciting race because both racers and spectators know exactly what position every skier is in. The race consists of five 2.5 km laps with skiers shooting after every lap except for the last (the order of shootings is prone, prone, standing, & standing and racers get 5 shots for 5 targets in each shooting stage). Missing a target in this race gets skiers the same penalty as in sprint races.

Individual - 20 km; This is the original biathlon race. It consists of five loops of 4 km each and racers shoot after every loop except the last. The order of shootings in this format is prone, standing, prone, & then standing. Like the other two individual races, skiers get 5 bullets to hit 5 targets in each stage. Unlike the other two races however, every missed shot automatically adds one minute to the final time of an athlete. So, if you ski as fast as one guy but manage to miss 10 of 20 targets your final time will be 10 minutes slower than his. If this should happen, you definitely won't be taking in hardware home. On the World Cup, hitting 90% of targets is average for many biathletes. That is my goal.

The top picture is of me in prone shooting position. In the distance (50 meters away) you can see the 5 targets at which I'm shooting. The bottom picture is a close-up of the targets with the first, third, & fifth targets hit and the second and fourth missed.

The two pictures below show both prone and standing positions.

I've got a really hard workout in the morning so I'm going to try to wrap up this post. Last week, as you saw above, was a busy one for training. This week has been fairly easy comparatively with only about 9 hours of training. I had an encouraging shooting test on Wednesday, besting my last test substantially. There's still quite a ways to go until I'll have a chance against the likes of National Team members Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey, but it's exciting to see some of the pieces falling in to place. Below is a picture of one of my prone targets from the test. If you click on the picture you'll get a close-up in another window. There are six shots there, all that would score as prone hits. For size reference, since I haven't covered it before, the prone targets are roughly the diameter of the 8-ring and the standing targets are the diameter of the black area on this sheet of paper. When shooting prone, biathletes see the entire large circle, but they must shoot the center of the target for an electronic mechanism to score a hit.

I'm really going now. Don't worry, I'll be back. When I do I'll post some pictures from a recent apple-picking excursion, and several hikes in the Adirondacks that have netted some beautiful shots of foliage that is starting to near its prime. Until the next time, be safe and find some time to get out and breath the crisp fall air. Adios.


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