Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Adult Registration is open!!

2019-2020 Registration is now open for adult programs.   Skiing (instruction and training) - will be generally on Tuesday and Thursday nights in December, January, and February.  More details to follow


Friday, June 7, 2019

Interval training

Howdy Skiers,

Well I guess we can go ahead and call the season over.  For now.  30+ degrees wreaks havoc on the snow.

We're probably all well into our summer training and have cast off our toques and gloves for shorts and sandals with black socks up to our knees.   Clearly we are the coolest of all athletes.

Here's another write up about intervals from Dr Gabe Merkin's email newsletter:

Short Intervals are Best
Interval training means that you alternate bursts of intense exercise with slow exercise until you feel tired. Short intervals are defined as lasting less than 30 seconds each, while long intervals usually last more than two minutes each. The most efficient, time-saving and health-benefitting way to exercise is to use short intervals (Scan J Med & Sci in Sports, Jan 2014). You can do many more short intervals than long intervals because they do not cause much muscle damage and you do not build up significant amounts of lactic acid in less than 30 seconds. Long intervals can cause so much muscle damage and such high levels of lactic acid that you can do very few of them in a workout. They also take longer to recover before you can do your next interval workout. Competitive athletes need to do long intervals as well as short intervals, but if you are not competing in sports, you don't ever need to do long intervals.

The faster you go in an interval workout, the greater the gain in your ability to take in and use oxygen, and the faster you can ride or run. In one study, short intervals improved one-hour race times the most (Med Sci Sports Exerc, May 1999;31(5):736-41). This study compared 30-second all-out, 5-minute all-out, and 40-min all-out bouts of cycling. In 10 weeks of twice-a-week, effort-matched trials, they found that short interval training was more effective than long intervals in improving mean power output and VO2max (the maximal amount of oxygen you can take in and use per minute). VO2 max is the best laboratory measure of how fast a cyclist can ride or a runner can run over a distance.

How to Do A Short Interval Workout
• Warm up by jogging, cycling or swimming slowly for 5-10 minutes
• Pick up the pace for 30 seconds or less, until you feel a burning or tightness in your muscles or shortness of breath
• Then exercise very slowly until you recover your breath and your muscles feel fresh
• Alternate these 30-second-or-less sprints with slow recoveries until your muscles start to feel heavy or tight
• Cool down by moving very slowly for at least 5-10 minutes.

Apply these concepts to any sport or activity that requires continuous motion. For example, if you are riding a bicycle, warm up slowly for 5-10 minutes. Then increase your speed and the pressure on the pedals for 5-20 pedal strokes. Slow down and recover, then repeat. As you become stronger, work up to 50 pedal stroke intervals, or whatever you can do in 30 seconds or less. Do not start your next interval until your legs feel fresh again, the burning has gone away and you are no longer short of breath. When your leg muscles start to feel stiff and heavy, stop the workout for the day and spend 5-10 minutes cooling down by exercising at a very slow pace.

Rest Periods Between Short Intervals
It makes little difference how long you exercise at a reduced pace between your short intervals. The shorter the rest between intervals, the longer it takes to recover from the next interval (Med and Sci in Sports and Ex, August 2005). When an athlete trains for competition, it is far more important how fast he can run each interval compared to how long he has to rest to recover between each interval. I have seen Olympic champions at every distance, particularly the shorter events, coming back to do their next interval when they feel they have recovered enough, not after they have waited a prescribed recovery time. Athletes learn their ideal interval rest durations through trial and error. They may want to rest until their pulse drops to a comfortable rate, or until they are breathing at a normal rate, or until their muscles lose soreness and feel fresh. Competitive athletes can use either active and passive recoveries (moving slowly or standing still) between intervals (Eur J Appl Physiology, March 2005;93(5–6):694–700). Active recovery drops lactic acid levels toward normal faster than passive recovery (Med and Sci in Sports and Ex, Apr 1, 1996;28(4):450-456).

Rules for Short Interval Training
Athletes train by "stress and recover". On one day, they take a hard workout which damages their muscles. On the next day, they feel sore so they take easy workouts, and when the extreme soreness goes away, they take a hard workout again. You should do the same.
• If you are doing interval training properly, your muscles will feel sore on the next day, so do not do intervals on consecutive days. Always allow at least 48 hours between interval workouts, and 72 hours is probably better.
• Plan to go easy on your recovery days; do not plan to take off. If your sore muscles feel better after a 5-10 minute warm up, exercise at a very low intensity. Stop exercising if you feel discomfort.
• If your sore muscles do not feel better after a 5-10 minute warmup, take the day off.
• You can do your next interval workout two or three days later, or when your muscles feel fresh again. Never attempt an interval workout if your legs still feel heavy or hurt after you warm up.

Advantages of Short Interval Training
Interval training workouts take far less time than conventional workouts that maintain a steady pace at lower intensity. We have known for many years that high-intensity training improves performance and is necessary for competitive athletes in all sports. Now researchers are finding that these short bouts of intense exercise offer tremendous health benefits for everyone. See Interval Training Helps Your Heart
Intervals Lower Blood Sugar
Lactic Acid is Good For You
Intervals for Everyone

Caution: Intense exercise can cause heart attacks in people with blocked arteries leading to their hearts, so before you start interval training, check with your doctor.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Road trip - Part 2 - The Gatineau Loppet

     The Gatineau Loppet previously known as the Riviere Rouge, Gatineau 55 and the Keskinada Loppet has been held since 1979, and has been part of the Worldloppet since then.  There are 20 Worldloppet races, and the Gatineau is the only Worldloppet event in Canada.  The Gatineau Loppet is a two day event, with eight courses ranging from 2 km to 51 km in both the skate and classic techniques.   The 51 km race course is a point to point race that takes you through the rich forests and lakes, the escarpment and the parkways of Gatineau Park.  There are six feeding stations all along the route where volunteers serve up hot drinks and food to the competitors. 51 km competitors are bused to a start line and finish behind the Mont-Bleu High School.  The shorter races all start and finish at the field next to school.
     Our small group of Downtown Nordickers arrived in Ottawa Thursday evening with plenty of time to explore Ottawa and rest up before the weekend Loppet.  We spent Friday resting our legs and visited the interesting Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, before picking up our Loppet race kits and visiting the ski expo on Friday night.
The skiers enjoying the various planes
     The race kit pick up and expo are normally held at Mont-Bleu high school.  However due to a tornado that struck the school and area last summer, the school is still damaged and closed.  Thus the race headquarters was moved next door to the Cegep de l'Outaouais- Gabrierlle Roy Campus.  After registering and/or picking up our race kits, we enjoyed visiting the various booths set up by ski shops and ski manufacturers displaying the latest in outdoor and ski technology.
     The classic races are held on Saturday, while the skate events are held on Sunday.  We all had a great time cheering and representing Downtown Nordic in our various events.  The competition was strong but friendly and welcoming.  The portions of the route that follow the parkway have gradual climbs and descents.  However, when the route enters the narrower trails that run through the forests, we found the skiing technically challenging.  Luckily, the trails were not very icy so it was easy to steer through the steep, curving downhills. 
Stig on the Parkway in the 27 km skate event

Gyula helping Ben hold up his skis following the 51 km skate event.
     The event is very well organized, with lots of friendly volunteers, well groomed and challenging trails, and likely the best post-race meal we have ever experienced.  For all non French speakers, not to worry, there are plenty of english speaking folks to help you through the event.  The event is not overwhelmingly large, so there is lots of room for you to spread out inside before and after the race, and you can register up until the day of the event, making for a pretty relaxed race atmosphere.  We are already planning to return to this wonderful event in the coming years.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Winter Loppet road trip - Part 1 - North Route

People often wonder what exactly retirees do with their time.  While the activity of choice for most retired Canadians remains vegetating on the sunny and warm beaches of Florida, ho hum,

some retired Downtown Nordickers prefer driving a packed VW and skiing their way across Northern Ontario in order to ski at various Loppets.
How many skiers can fit in a VW??

Day one involved an early departure from Winnipeg, in order to arrive in Thunder Bay with plenty of time for a ski before dark.  We arrived at Lappe Nordic Ski just after lunch, and enjoyed skiing in some relatively mild temperatures, on lovely groomed and hilly trails.  The trail fees are $15 on weekdays, and $20 on weekends for adults.  We chose to ski at Lappe, but Thunder Bay also offers lots of nordic skiing at both Kamview and Sleeping Giant.  So many decisions to make! 
After skiing for a few hours, we enjoyed the sauna and showers at the Lappe club house.  We had a delicious dinner in downtown Thunder Bay, where we perused the weather channels with some concerns about a large winter storm that would be causing havoc along our intended highway 17 southern route through Sault Ste Marie.  It was thus that we decided to take the highway 11 Northern route where the forecast was for much less snow.  We also decided to continue driving for a few hours while the weather was still good.  We ended up driving all the way to Hearst, Ontario, a distance of 1,198 km from Winnipeg.  We were already almost half way to Gatineau!  En route we passed another network of ski trails in Nipigon
On day two, we had a nice sleep in before driving to Kapuskasing Nordic Ski Club.  Hearst also has a network of nordic ski trails which we just did not have time to explore.
Kapuskasing nordic club lodge

The Kapuskasing Nordic Club is run fully by volunteers.  A day pass is $10.  We were welcomed at the delightful clubhouse by two friendly volunteers who did everything possible to make us feel welcome.  The trails were recently groomed, and our only complaint was that a rogue moose had trampled approximately 500 m of the impeccable classic tracks.  What a wonderful surprise to ski on the Kapuskasing trails.   Nice wide tracks groomed for both classic and skate.   There were trails ranging in length from about 1 km to 8 km in length.
Beautiful trails in Kapuskasing

We were granted access to the kitchen in the large log cabin in order to heat our lunches and to wash our dishes.  The volunteers wanted to know when we might return in order to have a lunch made up for us next time.
After a few hours of skiing, we piled back into the car and headed east, into what was forecast as a snowmaggedon.  En route we passed more nordic ski trails at both Cochrane and Smooth Rock Falls.  We decided to head to Timmins for the night, where there was a hotel with a hot tub, swimming pool and fitness room just in case we would be unable to drive or ski the next day.
Luckily, the winter storm was not as bad as forecasted.  Following a free hotel breakfast surrounded by happy snowmobilers, we arrived bright and early at the Porcupine Ski Runners Ski Club just outside of Timmins where a friendly groomer was already out grooming the trails following the heavy snowfall.
The day fee rate is $16, or $12 for those of us who are over 60.   They are a volunteer-run not for profit organization with lovely hilly trails as well as a new modern and roomy chalet which is open from 8 AM to 9 PM daily.  The 2019 Canadian Masters nordic ski events were just held here the previous weekend.  With such a large selection of trails to ski, as it was still snowing, our choice of route was basically just to follow the groomer and to ski on the freshly groomed trails.
The trails were challenging and beautiful, especially with the heavy snow cover on the coniferous trees in the Canadian shield.
No shortage of snow in Timmins
After several hours of skiing, it was time to get back into the car and continue driving towards Gatineau.  After a few hours of driving in the tail end of the snowmaggedon storm, we arrived in North Bay where we spent the night, again in a hotel full of snowmobilers.  En route we had to pass on skiing the 20 km of groomed skate and classic trails at Temiskaming
Lots of snow en route to North Bay
We awoke early the next morning, feeling tired from the driving and all the skiing.  We decided to forego skiing that day in order to rest up for the upcoming Gatineau Loppet.  However, we still wanted to visit the North Bay Nordic Ski Club.
Unfortunately, upon arrival, we were so impressed by the freshly groomed ski tracks, the beautiful sunny blue skies, and the lovely hills that we could not hold back.  Before we knew it, we were dressed and ready to ski.  A day pass costs $16 and gives you access to a variety of trails ranging in distance from the 0.6 km sprint trail to the 18 km green trail.  
By using all of our will power, we managed to hold back and only skied about 12 km on these lovely trails.  The trails varied in levels of difficulty, and the hills on the trails we chose made for a nice challenge.  Coach Steve, don't worry, we kept our heart rates low.
Blue skies and fresh tracks in North Bay
We experienced such lovely and unexpectedly beautiful Canadian shield scenery on the nordic ski trails all across Northern Ontario.  The grooming for both skate and classic was very professional, and we were lucky to ski in ideal conditions.  The winter traffic was very light along Highway 11, and driving conditions were remarkable good even through the snowmaggedon. 
There are many accommodations available all along our route.  We used to secure rooms and there was never a shortage of availability.  We found that this road trip offered such an unexpected variety of beautiful trails that it rivalled, if not exceeded nordic skiing in BC.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

How Body Position Works in V2 One Skate

Our illustrious and slightly mysterious coach Steve has found a great tutorial on skate skiing. 
Worth watching....

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Friday, December 21, 2018

Recovery and NSAIDS (Ibuprofen etc)

Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health e-Zine
December 23, 2018
NSAIDs Interfere with Exercise Training
To strengthen a muscle, you have to take an intense workout that damages muscle fibers to make them feel sore on the next day. This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Then you take easy workouts for as many days as it takes for the soreness to lessen before you take your next intense workout. Even if you do not compete in sports, you should use some form of "stress and recover" to strengthen your muscles and keep them strong. You can tell that you are damaging muscles when you exercise vigorously enough to feel burning during exercise and DOMS in those muscles 8-24 hours later (Str & Condit J, October 2013;35(5):16–21). Only when the soreness decreases should you take your next intense workout. The soreness is caused by injury to the muscle fibers themselves and when muscles heal, they are stronger than they were before the soreness occurred (J Strength Cond Res, Feb 2003;17(1):197–208).

Non-Steroidal Pain Medications (NSAIDs)
Some athletes and exercisers use pain medication, such as ibuprofin (Advil, Motrin) and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), because they think it will help them to recover faster from muscle soreness so they will be able to do more training and become better athletes. NSAIDs do not prevent DOMS (Brain Behav Immun, Nov 2006;20(6):578–84). Even if they did prevent DOMS, using them would increase your chance of injuring yourself because you should use DOMS as a signal to tell you when you can safely exercise intensely again (Clin J of Sprt Med, 2002;12(6):373-378). A review of 41 research papers showed a slight association between the use of NSAIDs and reduction of injuries, but the difference was nearly the same as what you would expect from use of placebos (Am J Sports Med, Mar 2017:363546517697957).

Reasons for Not Taking NSAIDs for DOMS
NSAIDs are supposed to reduce pain by blocking inflammation, and inflammation is unlikely to be a cause of DOMS since it does not decrease in any way after years of exercising (Front Physiol, 2015;6:424). Earlier studies have shown that NSAIDs:
• do not significantly prevent DOMS (Brain Behav Immun, Nov 2006;20(6):578–84)
• may not block DOMS at all (J Sports Sci, Mar 1999;17(3):197–203)
• do not help muscles to recover faster (Appl Phys Nutr and Metab, 2008, 33(3): 470-475)
• may delay muscle recovery (J Bone Joint Surg Am, 77:1510-1519, 1995)
• may block some of the muscle growth that makes muscles stronger in the short term (American Journal of Physiology, 2002;282:E551-556; 2011;300:R655-662)
• may cause short-term weakening of bones and tendons (J Bone Joint Surg Am, 77:1510-1519, 1995)

What to Do When You Have DOMS
You can stop exercising when you have DOMS if you want, but you will become stronger if you take easy recovery workouts while your muscles are still sore. Athletes do not usually plan to take off workouts during recovery, even though resting when the muscles feel sore will allow muscles to heal faster than if you exercise at low intensity. Exercising at low intensity during recovery will cause your muscles to become more fibrous and resistant to injury when you stress them in your next intense bout of exercise. If you are a runner, run faster two or three times a week and much more slowly when you feel soreness on the days after running fast. If you are a weightlifter, lift heavy weights once or twice a week and much lighter ones on the following day or days when your muscles feel sore.

What Does Not Decrease DOMS
• cryotherapy, homeopathy, ultrasound or electrical current devices (Sports Med, 2003;33(2):145–64; Phys Ther Sport, May 2012;13(2):101–14)
• glutamine or arginine supplements
• stretching (Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2011;(7):CD004577)
• Epsom salts
• drinking extra water
• compression garments
• massage therapy (J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, Feb 1997;25(2):107–12)
• vitamin D supplementation, unless a deficiency needs to be corrected (hydroxy vitamin D below 20 ng/ml)

How to Prevent Injuries
Before you start an intense exercise program, you should have exercised regularly for many months, be in good shape and not have any health conditions that might cause exercise to harm you.
• Try to set up your exercise program so that on one day, you take a hard workout that damages your muscles so they feel sore on the next day. Then take easy workouts for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away, and then take your next hard workout.
• When you are training properly, your muscles will feel sore every morning. If they don't feel better after a 10-minute warmup, take the day off.
• When your muscles start to feel heavy or hurt, stop the workout.
• If you develop a localized pain (one side only) that worsens as you exercise and does not go away when you slow down, stop the workout immediately.

Tips for Recovery from a Hard Workout
• Eat as soon as possible after an intense workout (J of Sports Science, Jan 2004). It doesn't matter what you eat (Am J Clin Nutr, Jan 2017).
• Go to sleep for 1-3 hours as soon as possible after an intense workout. Muscles recover faster when you are asleep.
• Avoid NSAIDs; they may ease pain but will not help you to recover faster (PNAS, June 27, 2017;114(26):6675 - 6684).
See Recovery: The Key to Improvement in Your Sport

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Is it a stretch to stretch?

Some may disagree but this article is interesting ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Rain bad, snow good

What to do

So it rained.   (sad face)  Now Windsor is closed.   BHP still wasn't mechanically groomed and Grand is more sandpit than ski trail.  You've gotten your early season fitness going but now you can't ski.  What can you do?

  • if you have access to a gym with a ski erg try doing intervals of 30 seconds with enough rest to recover.  It's surprisingly exhausting .  If there's no ski erg the row.... same thing: intervals.
    Warm up for 5 minutes then go as hard as you can for 20 to 30 seconds with a minute of rest in between.  Work your way up to 45 seconds to a minute of hard effort while reducing the rest period in between.  Once your power diminishes (as measured in watts) end the workout and try for more next time.
  • Run.  Even if no one is chasing you.  Running increases endurance and is about the only activity that has cross activity benefit.  Your fitness is relative to the activities you use to obtain it but running helps with almost any sport.
  • Weights specific to skiing.   Use a low cable with an ankle strap to push a weight away from you to strengthen your driving leg.   Use a high pulley with a couple of long attachments to improve your double poling.
  • Fat bike.   Cardio is cardio when it comes to being active and staying lean.   It doesn't translate as well as running does but it will keep your legs active and your lungs working.   The Oak Ridge trail in BHP is groomed for fatbiking in winter as well as a trail in the Nimowin Road area of the park.  Grand Beach has an extensive fatbike trail groomed by an enthusiastic local.
  • Run stairs.   Oh golly,  I hate running stairs.  It is brutally hard but has SO MUCH BENEFIT for cardio training.  I usually run up 6 flights, walk down 4 then repeat until I've had enough, (which is sometimes 1 flight, ha ha)
  • Watch videos about ski technique.  You can learn a lot from watching someone very good at what they do.   Try getting yourself video'd as well when we're back skiing again.  What we think we're doing in our minds and what our bodies are actually doing is sometimes very very different.
  • Organize a day trip to a place with snow.   Riding Mountain, Giants Ridge, Brandon?   
  • Most of all do the snow dance.  
  • Skate.  Like on ice.  Real ice with those goofy shoes with blades on them.   It's the closest thing to real skiing. 
It takes some creativity to keep your fitness when the season grinds to a slowdown... but with a bit of effort you can minimize the training losses until it snows again....
Email me your other tips at

Also; I'd like to hear your trail etiquette tips for a future them to the same address please...