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Summer Training

photo: Wix media

By Kevin Shields

Are you searching for ways to structure your summer training for endurance sports? If you're a cross-country skier, it can be helpful to have guidance on how to create a productive, healthy, and enjoyable routine. In this article, I introduce some key training concepts and apply them to summer training. I will also share an example of a summer training week.

Before diving into that, let me start by telling you about my coaching background. I have coached cross-country skiing for 28 years. I started coaching in Waterloo, ON, as a volunteer coach and also spent one year in Québec City. For the past 12 years, I have been a professional coach. After a brief period as head coach of the University of Waterloo cross-country running team, I moved to Thunder Bay, ON, to coach with Lappe Nordic. I then spent four years coaching with Nakkertok Nordic, and I am currently the Head Coach at Carleton University and XC Ottawa.

In addition to my coaching experience, I have trained and competed in running for 45 years. Further, I am in my final year of a Master of Coaching Degree from the University of Alberta. My research and practicum are on coach education and holistic practice design. I focus on how coaches can become more responsive and ethical in their practice by understanding their local context.

During the month of June, I will write a weekly article on summer training for cross-country skiers. Topics will include consistency of training, summer heat and poor air quality, the importance of rest days and multisport and cross-training. Further, I will provide a sample training week and some suggested sessions. For this week, I start with an introductory overview of the bases of endurance training.

photo: Wix media

Consistency of Training: What makes up an endurance athlete’s weekly training?

An endurance athlete should dedicate five to six weekly training sessions to aerobic training - that is, nearly daily aerobic training. This could be running, skiing, biking, hiking, swimming or other. As your training capacity increases, the length of these sessions will increase, and some athletes may also add aerobic sessions doing maybe seven to eight aerobic sessions per week.

What is Training Capacity?

Your training Capacity is your capability to do work/training or practice, and through consistent training, this increases over time. Consistent training looks like this;5-6 days per week, which accumulates 24 to 26 days of training per month. By following an “easy session - hard session” sequence, mostly light effort aerobic work with two harder effort sessions a week, you establish an effective and enjoyable rhythm to your training that effectively enhances your training capacity.

So, with consistent training, your training capacity will naturally “grow.” You don’t have to push yourself to train "harder" or longer. In many cases, that approach does not lead to effective changes in training capacity. (On the contrary, it frequently results in in-consistent training, low enjoyment, fatigue or injury.) If your current capacity to train comfortably and experience the enjoyable rhythm of endurance training is four days per week of 20 to 30 min of training, then do that consistently for two to four weeks. (Be patient.) This will allow you to maintain a routine and begin to feel confident that you can handle more training. And, suddenly, you will just feel capable of making that 30 min run a 35 min run. That is how you know you are training healthy and intelligently. For a more advanced athlete, a 2-hour roller ski could be increased to 2h and 12 min or skiing 3-4 km.

Here is a quick overview of a week of training or practice sessions:

  • A couple of easy sessions - short or medium in length

  • A long session

  • Two intensity sessions (or harder sessions) - intervals or tempo workouts.

  • Additionally, people may also do one to three movement or strength sessions per week (e.g. core strength, yoga, other)

Accumulation of training, not Tabulation of distance or time:

It is the accumulation of training - through consistency - that leads to improved fitness, increases training capacity and training enjoyment. A consistent schedule of training with consecutive days of training results in confidence, increased emotional capacity and essential behavioural changes. Keep your training enjoyable, don't make it a chore. You may receive further support and enjoyment by making it a social activity. Accumulate sessions of training, getting out five to six times per week rather than aiming to reach a number of km or hours of training. By focusing on the accumulation of sessions, you understand and respect that life is busy and getting out for a short 15min on Wednesday is better than pushing yourself hard on Saturday to make up missed km or time. Keep it consistent and accumulate enjoyable training sessions. To close for this week, I provide a sample training week. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions on this matter. What has been your experience? What have you seen? Please comment.

June 2023 - Sample Training Schedule (Cross-Country Skier)

This sample weekly summary outlines a training plan with six training days per week. Six aerobic sessions are highlighted in green, and two movement and strength sessions are highlighted in yellow.


The First Lap Coaching offers year-round coaching for cross-country skiers. We offer individual and group coaching programs through monthly programs, clinics and lessons. See our Programs and Fees page:


About the Author: Meet Kevin Shields, an experienced coach with 28 years of experience in cross-country skiing and running. He has coached for Lappe Nordic and Nakkertok Nordic and is currently the Head Coach of the Carleton University ski team. As a University of Waterloo Cross Country and Track Alumnus, Kevin continues to train and compete in master's athletics. He holds a BSc degree from Waterloo and a BEd from Nipissing University. He is in his final year of a Master of Coaching degree from the University of Alberta. Kevin's research and practicum focus on coach education and holistic practice design.

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The First Lap
The First Lap
Jul 05, 2023

In this piece I stressed the importance of consistency. However, In Eastern North America the air quality due to forest fire smoke has affected many people with extremely high/poor, unhealthy air quality readings since early June. In order to train consistently during these periods of bad air you can modify your training plan by shift your rest day(s) and also having an indoor training option.

In future posts in this series I write about managing poor air days and extreme heat days.

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