LIT on cross-country skis – Interview with Christian Flury

If is intended to increase VO2max, as one of the central factors in endurance performance (https://azum.ch/en/factors-of-endurance-performance/), with training, the so-called low intensity training (LIT) is of central importance. The theory to that will be discussed more detailed in later blog posts. However, it should be mentioned in advance, that a large part of the training should be done at this low intensity. Appropriate to the season, here is an insight how this training can be realized on cross-country skis. The cross-country ski coach Christian Flury reports from his knowledge and experience.

Christian Flury, thank you for coming straight from the powder to answer our questions. To get started, please give us a few keywords about your qualifications and your current professional activity.

Gladly. At the moment, I have two mainstays of my work. On the one hand the activities for Swiss Ski, on the other hand I support my wife Barbara in her business activities.

  • Manager/Trainer national performance centre cross-country skiing Davos
  • Training officer for cross-country skiing Swiss-Ski
  • together with my wife Barabara (former world cup- and Olympic-cross-country skier): running a cross-country skiing school and coaching company in Davos (https://flurysports.ch/)

Meanwhile I can show the following diplomas:

  • certified trainer elite sport – Magglingen
  • DAS Sport Management – VMI, Freiburg
  • CAS in psychological and mental training in sports – IAP Zürich
  • Snow sports instructor with federal certificate
  • J+S expert cross-country skiing

With which words would you describe your training philosophy?

My training is based on the principles of polarized training. That means we train either HIT or LIT, “respect your zone” – “keep it simple”.

You worked as a coach of cross-country skiers for several years. Which and how many athletes do you currently coach and how many athletes are training according to your plans without your coaching?

Due to my work for Swiss Ski as head of the performance center cross-country skiing Davos and as the person responsible for education cross-country skiing training, I currently supervise only a few athletes who train according to a plan written by me. I don’t know how many other athletes are training independently according to a plan I have written. Some proven plans are also available at https://azum.ch/plaene/#langlauf.

What measurable or subjective values do you recommend to pay attention to during a LIT session when cross-country skiing?

In cross-country skiing it is the heart rate, which I use as a measurable value. In addition, an athlete should use the Borg Scale to reflect the intensity he/she currently feels. Other parameters such as speed and stride cadence cannot be used as control parameters because of the constantly changing gliding characteristics of the ski.

So which parameters do you recommend to raise or report on LIT sessions?

Time per intensity zone and RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).

As a coach, what do you look for when you analyse a LIT?

Did the athlete complete the training below the aerobic threshold? How did he or she subjectively experience the training?

When I see the athlete in training, I pay attention to the skiing technique. That means I observe how actively and correctly the leg- and arm-work is implemented.

(How) has your analysis of LIT sessions changed with increasing experience? And how does the quality of your analysis relate to the intensity of the athlete’s care?

In my opinion, the quality of the analysis of a LIT is strongly related to the experience as a trainer. As mentioned before, in cross-country skiing we control and analyse mainly via the heart rate. With increasing experience we know better how athletes react to training stimuli and how heart rate behaves differently depending on training level and health condition. Because of the individual characteristics of heart rate, I consider it essential to know your athletes well.

What should self-coach athletes focus on when planning, implementing and analysing LIT on cross-country skis?

Once the athlete has determined the training content, it is a matter of allocating the heart rate zones. If you don’t know your intensity zones in cross-country skiing, you can orientate yourself on those in running. These correspond well with those in cross-country skiing.

Depending on the level of cross-country skiing technique, a suitable training area must be selected. If somebody is not yet able to perform a solid technique, respectively not yet all kinds of strides, then he/she will quickly train too intense. Therefore, you should train on flat tracks and invest time in a good skiing technique (quality before quantity). One or two hours of technique coaching (very gladly also with https://flurysport.ch ? ) pay off in the long run.

Which errors do you observe most frequently in LIT?

  • Skiing too fast or too intense and therefore not training in the target zone.
  • Often the skiing technique also changes. People tend to skate with their legs too stretched or movements are not completed. Thus an economical and effective technique is neglected.

Based on your knowledge and experience, what are tips to optimize the LIT on cross country skis?

There I keep myself short: technique and core-strength training.

Cross-country skiing is considered to be an ideal compensatory sport for triathletes. How often do you meet triathletes on the cross-country skiing trail or how widespread do you see cross-country skiing among triathletes?

I guess not everyone on the cross-country skiing trail pretends to be a triathlete, so I often don’t know if someone is doing triathlon. But also considering the fact that my wife is increasingly welcoming triathlon customers to our cross-country skiing school, I think that cross-country skiing has become popular among triathletes as winter training in recent years.

Have you already coached a triathlete in cross-country skiing training, who did cross-country skiing as a compensatory sport?

Yes, but only regarding the skiing technique.

What do you see as similarities and differences in the importance of LIT in relation to the level and age of the athletes?

The LIT training will always and for everyone take up a large part of the training volume in endurance sports. Depending on age and training goal, the length of the LIT sessions varies. Older and more experienced athletes can train longer in their LIT zone than younger ones. Younger athletes with fewer training hours will experience a drift in the heart rate curve earlier.

It is important for people of all age-groups and all levels to know the individual training zone and respect it. In order to improve your endurance capacity many hours of low intensity training are needed.

Many thanks Christian for the answers. We wish you, the Flury Sports cross-country skiing school and all the athletes a pleasing cross-country skiing season.