Updated: May 27
As winter sports athletes, cross-country skiers must find alternate training modes to stay in shape during the summer. These can include biking, running, hiking, swimming and paddling. Some skiers will also choose to roller ski. Because there are many options, it is crucial to be mindful of
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overtraining or paradoxically under-preparation. Let's take, for example, a skier preparing for summer triathlons. Triathlete training demands a lot of time, technical practice and race-intensity work. Suppose the skier believes they must also maintain their ski training while preparing for triathlon races. In that case, they will likely exceed their training capacity or skip workouts that could benefit their race performance and long-term development as an endurance athlete. Importantly, athletes must decide what to prioritize and include during the summer phase of their training that will support their sustained participation in sports.
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Multiple Sport vs Multisport Planning
The above example is a multiple sports approach. The athlete tries to train concurrently for two sports - triathlon and skiing - and therefore has a high risk of injury, illness and poor performance. And the resulting and recurring setbacks leading to struggle and burnout or dropout.
A multisport planning approach, however, creates the space and time for the athlete to focus on one sport at a time—for example, a period devoted to their summer sport with sport-specific workouts prioritized. Then, transition periods are planned in the spring and fall, including appropriate preparatory training to make a successful switch between sports. In addition, the multisport athlete can significantly benefit from working with a coach to design and monitor a multisport program that can aid performance, health and long-term development.
Currently, there are two conflicting elements in the sports world. On the one hand, there is a growing appreciation for multisport participation. On the other hand, many sports programs are run year-round or extend beyond their traditional seasons. This has resulted in athletes participating in multiple sports, such as summer hockey and soccer and indoor soccer and skiing. Cross-country skiing has also become a year-round sport thanks to roller skis. These year-round programs are thought to enhance skill and fitness development in their respective sports, but is this truly the case? Can year-round sports programs coexist with a multisport approach which allows athletes to focus on a different sport during their off-season? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and opinions on this matter. What has been your experience? What have you seen? Please comment.
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.