By Andrea Henkel Burke
April 1, 2021
By Andrew Henkel Burke
Andrea is a 4-time Olympic Biathlete, winning two Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship titles for Germany.
May, the first month of the new season, new chances, new goals and new opportunities. The chances this new chapter provides will depend on different aspects. The biggest one is the performance level you ended with last season. This is basically the starting point for the new season. Is the task for this upcoming season to close a big gap between you and your competitors? Maybe just a small gap? Or is it that you have been already at the level you need to be on the results but can't afford to let up? Maybe most importantly, are you feeling excited about the new season?
In both cases it’s the best to take a closer look at the existing gaps between your ability and the level you could reach through the training year. No matter how high up in any ranking you are there is something you can be better at. This is the overall goal most of the time; identify areas to get better.
Sometimes it can be a real challenge to just repeat a season at the same level you competed at the year before. How is it that a skier can train the same as the previous year but not show improvement? Maintaining a top level of fitness and results is challenging. Some race seasons it can feel like you improve but your competitors improve more. We see this every season again and again, One athlete makes big improvements and suddenly shows up where no one would have expected him or her. You can be the one! You can be the one to surprise everyone with big improvement. If you are already at the top you can still strive to find areas to work on. This is why at the start of the new training year the goal is simple: to get better. No matter where you are. I think working on ways to improve your daily training is very motivating.
Having the focus on yourself is much more tangible than trying to control your competitors. We can't control what other do. This would leave you with guesses all year long and this might hurt your performance more than it would help. Having strong training partners, a training group, or scheduling test races throughout the year is a good way to orient your goals and track improvement.
If you have not done so, choose your focus point for the new training year. Here are some options. Some might be surprising, others pretty obvious.
- strengt (i.e. general, upper body, lower body, specific… )
- technique (i.e. rhythm, body position, knee, or ankle angle… )
- endurance (training hours)
- flexibility and mobility (for injury prevention)
- recovery (for training quality and many other reasons)
- the intension of each training session (not just doing it, but doing it right)
I often get the question, how many hours I trained. Lots of hours are important, no question! To improve in XC-skiing we need to put in time. But what’s important is taking a closer look. What is what happening in those hours? We refer to this as training quality.
This is why I don't like to answer the question on training hours. I don’t want to compare the hours I did with the hours someone else is doing. A 2h run is not the same as a 2h bike, and both of those sessions can be done in 100 different ways. This is why training hours can be misleading. What makes the difference in your performance is how you spend your training and all those hours. The best way to compare your hours is to compare your personal hours within your training log. How are your training hours allocated? Is there something to learn when planning your training this year? can you spend more hours working on something specific? Logging training hours can be done in many different ways which is why I don't like to compare hours to others.
If you feel like there is no way to add more training hours in the new season please check if it is possible to shift the quality of your sessions. Instead of just training more hours how can you train better? Is there a certain workout you are missing? Can you be mentally focused for more sessions? Being more intensional in each single training session made a big difference in my career.