Speed is not just for sprinters

August 25, 2022

Speed is not just for sprinters, just like long, over-distance workouts are not just for marathon racers. Here’s why.

Speed is not just for sprinters, just like long, over-distance workouts are not just for marathon racers.

Rising star Hedda Østberg Amundsen (NOR) is banking on the sprint to be her ticket to a spot on the Norwegian national team for the 2023 FIS Nordic World Championships in Planica (SLO) this winter.

But while the sprint might be her way into the Championship squad and her best shot at the podium at the World Championships, the 23-year-old is planning on putting her speed to good use even in the longer distance events.

“Sprint time trials and race simulation are some of the best ways to improve your speed and tactics both for sprints and other events,” says Østberg Amundsen, pointing out that both sprints, mass start distance races and marathons typically feature numerous speed surges and covers a variety of different terrain.

As luck has it, these key areas are some of her favorite aspects of cross-country skiing.

“Doing these kinds of speed workouts in a group allows you to work on tactical skills such as how to position yourself on the course in a race field, how to solve different kinds of terrains, technical features such as maneuvering in and out of turns and over maintaining speed into hills and over the crest, as well as managing and initiating speed surges during the race, which is useful both for sprints and distance events,” she explains.

So, what might this look like in a workout? This is Østberg Amundsen’s favorite speed workout for the dryland season.

What is your favorite speed workout?
“There are lots of good dryland workouts that incorporate speed elements. But my favorite is speed work on the roller ski course in Holmenkollen with a group of friends.”

Why do you like it?
“I like roller ski workouts where we do a variety of speed intervals. And I love doing them on the Holmenkollen roller ski trails, because you can do so many kinds of intervals on those trails. We do some high-speed intervals on slight downhill terrain, some surges on flat sections, some grinding ones on steep hills, some where we surge in and out of turns, and some where we practice coming into the stadium and set up for a sprint finish. That makes them super exciting and fun.”

How do you do it, from start to finish?
“I usually start with a good half-hour warmup. Then we start the various speed intervals. We typically do 10-15 of them. Each of the speed intervals are from 10-15 seconds up to maybe 20 seconds, depending on the terrain and the task. We typically ski easy for one or two minutes between each of the surges, just long enough to recover sufficiently for the next surge, or the time it takes to get back to where we started the interval if we are doing repeats on a specific section or element. We also do some of them with ‘flying start,’ which means that we are coming into the surge at threshold speed and then switch to an all-in effort, like in a sprint finish in a race. After all the speed intervals, we do an easy 25-minute cooldown, and that’s it.”

What is the specific training effect/ why is this useful for cross-country skiers?
“Speed is super important in cross-country skiing, regardless of distance – sprint or marathon, skate or classic. And by doing these speed sessions with a group, you get to work on tactical skills as well, like how to position yourself on the course, how to handle various elements on the course and how to transition between different techniques and terrains. Plus, doing them in a mock race format is a great way to get faster. So, this workout is a gem in that you get to work on so many important elements in a super-efficient, compact session.”

How often do you do it?
“Quite frequently, but at least once a week on average.”

How long does it take from start to shower?
“I’m guessing roughly 90 minutes. That includes a half-hour warmup, 10-15 good speed intervals and 20 to 25 minutes cooldown.”