Winter clubs look to summer for training

Nordic Skiing, Figure Skating take unconventional approaches to summer months

The Nordic Skiing team in action.
The Nordic Skiing team in action.
Credit: 
Queen's Nordic Skiing

As temperatures rise outside, the competitive season for many winter sports comes to an end. However, for the Gaels who strap on their skis or skates every weekend across the country to represent their school, the melting snow puddles filling the streets in no way represent an end to their work for the year.

Marlee Sauder, in her third year with the Queen’s Nordic Skiing team, allows herself a few weeks to recover with some light exercise at the end of the season — which can be anywhere from the end of February to the middle of March — depending on the amount of snow left. In an endurance-heavy sport, sometimes known as the best full-body workout around, Sauder acknowledged that the “strenuous” workload of the season can take a large toll on the body.    

After the quick respite, though, the team will pick back up, trying to build up even greater endurance for the coming season. Describing her summer training, Sauder said, “these months are mostly set aside for high volume training with some strength mixed in as well.” In the summer, without any snow to practice on, Nordic racers will often turn to other endurance sports like canoeing, cycling or running to prepare for weekend meets.  

Additionally, the team may also go “roller skiing-poling” along the street on wooden, road-adapted blades to get more technical practice. Sauder described this as “kind of like roller-blading but specific roller skis for our sport.” 

Once back at school in the fall, the Gaels travel to Quebec for a training camp on snow stored over the summer. Around that time, the team also increases the depth of their training regimen in preparation for the upcoming season.  

“Ideally, we have three high-intensity interval training sessions per week,” Sauder said, “with weights and high volume training, along with some good stretching.” Strength training is designed to improve both long-term endurance and explosiveness for the shorter sprint distances and starting in longer races.

For Gaels competing on ice instead of the snow, the summer “break” is also a misnomer. 

Stephanie Collier, in her second year figure skating as a Gael, notes how in the summer, she always does her best to get to the rink as frequently as possible. 

Combining a summer job with the need to recover from a packed season of competition, Collier admits it isn’t as frequent as during the year. Nonetheless, with such a focus on technique in her sport, the way to work on the skills gained in winter is practicing on the ice.

“Figure skating is very detail-oriented,” she said, “so you want to do your best to practice regularly to maintain proper technique that can be lost easily.”  

For first-year figure skater Leah Monette, in the summer, “off-ice fitness training is very different from actually being on the ice.” It’s important to take a quick rest, after practicing on the ice up to five times each week during the year. Additionally, Monette will try to create new programs for the upcoming season.  

Ideally, the skating programs used in competition have enough difficulty and creativity to build on past performances. Both skaters are looking to add to their trophy cabinet next year. In her first year with the team at the OUA Figure Skating Championships, Monette won a second-place finish in the Women’s 4 team, while Collier earned a bronze with her partner Moria Chang.

For Sauder, coming into her final year with the Nordic Skiing team, she hopes to continue to improve upon what was her best season yet. With the goal of both making OUA All-Star status in the province and supporting the rest of the team, she’ll relish the opportunity to get better, no matter how short this means the break will be.  

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