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The Alaska Club

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Why the Weight Room?

Posted by Sadie Bjornsen, US Olympic Cross Country Skier | Mar 11, 2019 2:30:54 PM



As a cross country skier, I compete in a wide variety of lengths and “styles” of courses. My shortest event takes approximately three minutes, and my longest event takes approximately one and a half hours. Sometimes I am racing straight up an alpine resort, and sometimes I am pushing across long flats. I race all over the world, all hours of the day, and no one course looks like the other. As a result, I need to have a bag full of “strengths”. For me, these strengths have included speed, endurance, power, balance, tactical skills, and more. As a cross country skier, our racing season generally runs from November to April, and our training season runs from May until November. It can be hard to divide my attention during these months between the many skills and strengths I want to work on.

Two of the top strengths I have focused on more and more these past couple of years have been speed and power. Much of this has been done in the gym. While I compete in an outdoor endurance sport, there is no doubt that a foundation of basic strength has allowed me to make the technique and speed skills I have chipped away at.




Since I was a young kid, it has always felt intimidating to me to walk into a gym. There are so many machines, so many people, so much motivation, and often a lot of action going on. I used to find myself hiding in the corner doing a small core workout, or quietly wandering over to the machines and sneaking in when people were taking a break. The thing that has changed this fear for me is to develop a plan before I arrive—whether that is with a coach, looking up workouts on the Internet, looking back in my training book, working with a personal trainer, or finding inspiration in Youtube videos. As long as I have a plan and a mission, when I step foot inside, I am able to overcome the intimidation factor. Just imagine, you wouldn’t try to drive to a location in the middle of a busy city without looking at a map beforehand…




The past few years, the majority of my indoor workouts have been focused on “main muscle groups”. For me, and my sport, that includes my back, legs, core, and arms. For each body part, there are opposing directions. For example, I want to work on both my triceps as well as my biceps. And with my legs, I want to work on my quads as well as my hamstrings. And finally, I want my core strength to equal my back strength. With this simple focus, and “equal emphasis”, I have been able to show up on the ski course with a pretty stable “general strength”. As my general strength increases, I am able to make clean technique movements, and I am able to increase both my speed and power.

This past season one of my technique changes I was focused on most was the power used when double poling and V2-ing. (For those of you not familiar with that technique, it is the moment we set our poles down on the snow and transmit power.) Skiers are becoming stronger and stronger in their upper bodies, so I wanted to ensure I was staying ahead of the curve. The exercise that you would find me doing at least twice a week all throughout the summer and the winter racing season is called the French press. You can do it with any amount of weight and it is focused on your triceps muscles. Start small because it can leave you pretty sore.

I challenge, and encourage you all to pick a new workout, or a new exercise to take on for a period of time, and see if you can find any changes. There is still at least a month left of ski season. What single exercise can you incorporate into your routine at least twice a week?

Check out Sadie's Hotel workout for when you're on the road!


Topics: strength training, ski, travel, fitness routine

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