The NMU ski team has its off-season training down to a science – literally.
All of the athletes on the team have a workout program on their computer in which they log their hours and their progress. The athletes run, roller ski, weight train and do plyometerics, which are jumping exercises, during the summer months to prepare for the regular season, which begins in November.
Head coach Sten Fjeldheim said an average summer week for an NMU skier includes 10 hours of endurance training, 60 to 90 minutes of speed interval training and two hours in the weight room.
Fjeldheim said that, according to NCAA rules, all he can do in the summer is design the workout routine.
“It really holds (the team) accountable. I really believe that any person or any athlete, if you know what you’re doing, the more you become motivated,” Fjeldheim said. “So motivation comes from knowledge and knowing what you’re doing.”
In order for the athletes to see how they progress, Fjeldheim has every athlete measure their max VO2 once a month. Max VO2 is a measurement taken during exercise that shows oxygen intake and how the athlete is utilizing that oxygen.
“Since we are this four-legged animal when we ski, with poles on our hands and skies on our feet, we have to have the legs extremely fit, and the arms extremely fit, and a good strong heart so we can pump a lot of blood,” Fjeldheim said.
Because the summer months are warmer than the regular ski season months, the diet of an athlete is also very important during the training.
“When you are training that much, you have to feed the animal, so it is a lot of caloric intake,” Fjeldheim said. “They will probably burn 3,000 to 4,000 calories every day with the training, if not more. Some intense days, it will be more.”
Hydration is also very important while training in the summer. Fjeldheim said water isn’t always the best thing because your body absorbs regular water too quickly and water with glucose, or sugar in it – like Gatorade or Power-Ade – stays in your body longer.
Many members of the ski team stay in Marquette and train together. Other athletes go home and train with local clubs and camps.
Fjeldheim said no matter where his athletes train, they have to be highly motivated.
“Once they understand what they are supposed to do, they can make the best decisions on their own. So I tell them they have to be their own best coach all summer long,” Fjeldheim said. “And in order to do that, they need to be a student of their sport.”
Fjeldheim said he preaches being a student of the sport because both he and assistant coach Jenny Ryan are. The two of them both have their master’s in exercise science, and science is definitely a backbone to how the team operates.
“Even in college there are very few teams that are as scientific as we are,” Ryan said. ” I think we are even more so than the U.S. Ski Team.”
Fjeldheim said members of the team that stay in Marquette work together when they can.
“They are really good about meeting up with each other and still remaining a team even when they aren’t competing,” he said.
Junior ski team member Ingrid Fjeldheim, who lives locally, is one of the athletes who trains in Marquette during the offseason. She said it is important for the athletes who stay here and train to take advantage of the atmosphere around Marquette.
She said the team has run the trails at both Marquette Mountain and out at Pictured Rocks.
“We always try to keep it fun and different,” she said.
Ingrid added that it is important for athletes to do other things in the summer besides training.
“I don’t recommend for anybody to stay here and just train,” she said. “You have to go to school or work. You need to have structure to your life.”
The NMU ski team resumes regular season practice in August. The summer months are only a preparation for the more intense training which comes in the fall months right before the season, Fjeldheim said. So the summer training is very critical to the rest of the season.
“If you are not training and keeping up we can tell,” he said. “I see it with pretty much everybody that sticks to the plan. I see them do very well.”