Sadie Bjornsen on the SkiErg and Secret Opportunities
Sadie Bjornsen is a current US Ski Team member and two-time Olympian, having raced at both the Sochi (2014) and Pyeong Chang (2018) Olympics. We invited her to share some thoughts about how she uses the SkiErg in her training.
This past season, I finished the season ranked sixth overall in the Cross Country World Cup and stood on four separate individual World Cup podiums. This very exciting breakthrough season came after spending five full seasons racing on the World Cup circuit from November until March. A big part of nailing success on the international circuit is just learning how to manage both the lifestyle and the travel that comes with the program. For four months straight, you become a professional at hotel hopping, as you compete 35 separate times across the world.
There is more to this breakthrough season than learning the lifestyle. For me, this big change has come in the form of upper body strength. For the majority of my World Cup racing career, my summer training has been plagued with small little foot injuries. For that reason, I have been forced to come up with some more creative training, often putting more emphasis on upper body work in order to take care of my feet. About two years ago, I made a shift in my brain from thinking about this as a punishment, to thinking of this as my secret opportunity.
One of my favorite "secret opportunities" has been training on the Concept2 SkiErg. On average, I spend somewhere between 18 to 25 hours of training each week, and anywhere from 2 to 7 of those hours are on the SkiErg, depending on the week. Over the past few years, cross country skiing technique has been evolving exponentially. Some of the common theories for this enormous evolution are new equipment, man-made snow, and an increase in tougher courses. Whatever the reason, it requires a sort of "playfulness," where every athlete in the world is trying to come up with their very own innovative way to generate more power on their skis. For me, that has meant attacking my upper body strength. The SkiErg has been a great tool for me, because it has such amazing feedback, and I have found a way to have a ton of fun doing it. As I play with a variety of technique styles throughout my session, I can always look down and watch my watts adjust according to the style.
Through the years, I have come up with a variety of favorite training sessions on the SkiErg. Here is a list of my top five, according to what type of workout I want to get in.
Long and Easy
For my long, easy days, I generally try to move my SkiErg outside to the front deck so that I can get the feeling of outdoors while doing really specific work. For this workout, I play around with a variety of techniques and try to see how it affects my power. In order to sort of break up the session, I force myself to single stick every five minutes for one minute straight.
My all-time favorite game that comes with the SkiErg is the Fish Game. I am one for challenges, so this game keeps my attention really focused, and I get super competitive with the game. The whole goal of the game is to save all the minnows by adjusting how hard you are double poling. Power makes you swim away, so it forces you to work on speed changes without even realizing it. Before you know it, you have done an aggressive thirty minute session while being fully invested in saving the minnows.
For this workout, I do a 15 minute warm up, and then do 30 minutes of 30-30s (30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy) intervals, and finish with a 15 minute warm down. For the 30 seconds on, I try to pick a pace that I can sustain for maybe one minute, that way for the 30 seconds of rest I can still keep poling at a reasonable speed. This workout will feel easy for the first five minutes, but it really creeps up on you by the end and leaves you feeling like you have done some work!
World Cup Race
With so much access to World Cup racing footage, it is easy to pull up a ten to thirty kilometer race, depending on how long you want your workout to be. I generally put the computer screen right in front of my SkiErg and try to quite literally "put myself in the race." When the lead pack surges, I surge. When they chill, I chill. It makes for a great workout, and a fun way to get through a 45 minute workout.
This workout is, as you imagine, great for practicing consistency and durability. After warming up for five minutes, I pick a number of watts that is generally just above comfortable and see how long I can hold it. This is a fun way to "play." It keeps you super focused, and challenges you to find efficiency as the work builds throughout the training session. This past summer, I would often use 120 watts, and I would hold it for somewhere around 45 minutes.
We hope you enjoy these workouts. Thanks, Sadie for your ideas and inspiration!