Monday, November 16, 2015

Technique Specific Strength

** asked me if I would be interested in doing one of the featured Wednesday Workouts a week or so back. After taking the time to write this one up it was a no brainer to post it on the blog. This is the original version.

Technique Specific Strength

        It may have been the start of the 2009, or maybe it was the 2010, training season when I first saw “TSS” written in a training plan sent to my inbox. Confused, I asked my coach for an explanation during a skype meeting. To the best of my memory it was described as “rollerskiing up a short and steep hill while focusing on the best form and longest glide possible.” Or something along those lines. If I have to describe it to another athlete, I tend to start with saying it's your most aggressive downhill technique, while skiing uphill. Truthfully, the first question usually refers to not knowing what TSS stands for. Since, this isn't the most popular training idea in US Biathlon history the answer may vary depending on who you ask. The common reply has been “Top Secret Strength” or just “Top Secret Stuff.” My personal favorite is “Totally Stupid Strength.”
         Another way of describing TSS would be to think of it as hill bounding on skis. If you had to combine a weight room strength session with a rollerski technique drill session the result would be TSS. It's on my training plan year round. All you need is a short steep climb you can ski up and down repeatably without being in the way. You're only going as far as you can in 20 poles plants so it doesn’t really need to be an alpine hill.
          The purpose, is to reinforce good ski technique and power with the exact muscle groups involved in that technique. The focus is to generate the best form and longest distance per cycle as you can. Any choice of skate technique will work. Sometimes this tends to feel like skiing in slow motion. Sometimes it feels strange to be forcing a slow tempo V2 alternate up a wall, but it also makes it feel that much natural on the flats and downhills. One of the advantages it has over hill bounding on foot is the use of double pole, adding an upper body component. In my experience, this is as effective doing core strength in a gym.

The Workout:
Technique Specific Strength

The Place:
Groomed trails or pavement. Steep 30ish meter long climb.

Warm up:
Easy distance skating 15 to 20 minutes.

The Important part:
5 x 20 Double Poles
2 x 20 Skating without poles.
2 x 20 V2 cycles
Repeat once or twice and add some extra V2 alternate and V1 sets if the energy is still there.
15 to 25 cycles or pole plants depending on the technique.
Total routine is about 25 too 45 minutes.

Cool down:
20 to 30 minutes easy skiing or running.

         When there is a bad habit in your technique that you can't seem to forget this is the workout to use to combat that habit with a correct one. TSS doesn’t require a lot of resources beyond decent trails and functional equipment. This is a strength training that contributes directly to the sport we're trying to compete it. I'm always trying to update the quality of training in my plan. That being said, the afternoon TSS sessions still find a place in my average week.  

Friday, November 6, 2015


         That abrupt lack of sunlight, the desertion of leaves from the trees, the seemingly always overcast skies? If any of this sounds familiar than you might be experiencing November. Imagine December without snow, or holidays and you'd have November. It's actually not all bad. If you're from the area you can probably appreciate the first day of deer season and with the colder temps the chance of snow is on everyone's mind. Thus far, I'm still waiting on both of those advantages to occur. In the meantime here's a summary of training and other news from the past few weeks.

         The MWSC athletes thwarted the age old Mars Hill climb. To the best of my recollection this would mark the 14th year since we first came up with the idea of suffering up the local alpine hill. Naturally, it was snowing with a head wind. That, and we had to alter the start of the race. I stopped caring about besting my time and went for best workout possible focus. Despite the less than favorable situation both were a success. I set a personal record time and the agony of running up a hill was intact to ensure it was an effective training session.
         After trials in October the energy level was feeling decent. I took this opportunity to get back into the three week training cycle. Before trials it had been an awkward mix of medium training weeks and high intensity periods. The last week had that genuine heavy leg death march feel to it. I managed to dodge the cold rain all but once. When I go for the detailed day to day plan at the start of each the site is my first consultant. The last three weeks have been primarily volume driven. With the colder weather biking has been less of an option. So there has been a lot of long roller ski and running sessions. The two harder effort sessions in each week were at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. The functional range and well maintained roller loop make for the obvious choice of important sessions.

      The lead blasting front has been doing well. In other words, the shooting side is on a better trend. The goal lately, has been to repeat the rhythm of a good confident shot for every shot. Seems obvious, but it's easier said than done. The better the muscle memory of what a hit feels like the more able you are to do it consistently.  Usually, in dryfire I try to work on the basic skills of shooting, such as aiming, follow through, trigger control, bolting, arm tension and so on. Now, I'm just going through the best dryfire stage I can as if it was a race over and over again. A few dryfire sessions have been a hour long. Anything to keep the hits frequent and misses few.
         As always the average day is never dull. There is always something happening and never enough time to do it all. I haven't seen any deer with more than just ears. I've shot at a few birds, but haven't hit anything. My equipment has held up adequately. The leaking tire in my truck was fixed and I replaced my water logged phone. A couple of Rossignol race skis arrived at the doorstep, which is always nice. Sometimes checking the mail is the best part of the day. I haven't had much worthwhile mail in a while, but just the sheer chance of such on the walk out the mailbox is worth the time.
          The MWSC athletes will be at the North Haven roller ski race this weekend. It's actually known as "the lobster roll," but I'm not a fan of lobster and it's my blog, so let's just say I'm doing a 15km race this weekend off the coast of Maine. Next week it's back to the old OTC in LP. Hopefully there will be snow to work with. Forced or falling from the sky it would a befitting end to the rollerskis. Late November and early December is open. A trip to Canmore for the first NorAm is still in the realm of possibilities, but funding is still in the unknown stages, so it will have to wait. Either way, despite not making the first WC trimester I'm starting to feel better about the upcoming 2015/16 racing season.