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The key training metrics for cross-country skiing: What you should know and strive for

Cross-country skiing, an ancient winter sport with roots deeply rooted in Nordic tradition, is a perfect blend of endurance, strength and technical skill. Whether you're preparing for elite competition or looking to improve your weekend ski sessions, understanding the essential training metrics can significantly improve your performance. Here is a deep dive into the most important metrics, their target values, and measurement techniques.

1. Aerobic capacity (VO2max)

Target value: Elite male cross-country skiers often have VO2max values above 85 ml/kg/min, while elite female skiers can exceed 70 ml/kg/min.

Measurement technique: VO2max testing is usually performed with treadmill or ski ergometer tests while monitoring oxygen consumption.

2. Lactate threshold

Target value: The exact value may vary, but elite skiers can often maintain competitive speed at 80-90% of their VO2max without significant lactate build-up.

Measurement technique: Stepwise fitness tests combined with blood lactate measurements.

3. Strength and power

Target value: Reference values vary by individual and weight class. However, power in exercises such as double-stroking ergometers can be carefully monitored.

Measurement technique: Gym assessments, including maximum repetition or explosive power tests.

4. Persistence

Target value: Depending on the race, the ability to maintain 70-85% of VO2max for longer periods.

Measurement technique: Time tests or long-term fitness tests.

5. Technique efficiency

Target value: Values vary, but efficient skiers use less oxygen at a given speed compared to less efficient colleagues.

Measurement technique: Metabolic carts while skiing to measure oxygen consumption at different speeds.

6. Heart Rate Recovery

Target value: A reduction of 30 beats per minute or more within 1 minute after exercise indicates good cardiovascular recovery.

Measurement technique: Heart rate monitors during and after training sessions.

7. Muscular Endurance

Target value: Specific for muscle groups, but being able to maintain strength levels without a reduction of more than 10-15% is a good reference.

Measurement technique: Muscle-specific endurance tests, such as repeated squats or lunges.

8. Body composition

Target value: Optimal body fat percentage is often in the range of 8-12% for men and 16-20% for women.

Measurement technique: DEXA scans, skinfold calipers or bioelectrical impedance scales.

9. Flexibility

Target value: Certain values may vary, but it is important to ensure full range of motion in ski-specific movements.

Measurement technique: Flexibility assessments for specific joints or movements, such as the sit-and-reach test.

10. Balance and stability

Target value: The ability to maintain balance on one-legged exercises or on unstable surfaces for 60 seconds or more.

Measurement technique: Balance board or one-legged standing test.


Understanding and aiming for the optimal values in these training metrics will undoubtedly pave the way for improved cross-country performance. While the reference points mentioned are for elite skiers, remember that individual differences play an important role. It's important to measure your metrics against personal goals and progress, rather than comparing to the world's best.

Testing and tracking these metrics regularly can also highlight areas of improvement, allowing you to adjust your training interventions accordingly. And as always, working with a coach or sports researcher can offer invaluable insights tailored specifically to your needs.

Good skiing!


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