Earlier in the summer, the women of the U.S. Ski Team made the drive from their training base in Park City, Utah, down to the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City to try their hands at long-track speedskating.
The workout, performed in conjunction with the staff of U.S. Speedskating, lasted around two-and-a-half hours and took the women through a full warm-up and off-ice drills before strapping on skates and stepping on the ice for more drills and some interval training.
“Getting out of the gym is really good for the girls to stay motivated and try something new,” says U.S. Ski Team Women’s Head of Strength and Conditioning Eirik Hole. “It’s not just going and training ice skating, we actually want to utilize this for endurance training and start practice; we’re not doing this just as fun session because we think it has a lot of value towards skiing.”
The crucial first few seconds of a race when an athlete kicks out of the start gate and skates before taking on the rest of the race course is a key opportunity for athletes to improve. That was one focus of the team as was learning how to powerfully and efficiently create acceleration while skating which could make all the difference in a sport with margins as close as those found in both ski racing and speedskating.
“We’re hoping this is going to make us really fast!” says U.S. downhiller Breezy Johnson. “We’re obviously working on stuff that we’ve worked on on skis, they’re very similar sports in a lot of respects. We’re definitely working on our starts but there’s definitely a lot of other applicable things like the transition of the turn and things like that.”
Reigning World Junior downhill champion Alice Merryweather points out that the body position during a speedskating turn is quite similar to the position made while arcing a turn on snow, too.
“You try to stay very level in your hips and very square with your upper body, which is exactly the same thing that we work on in skiing,” she adds.
Wondering which is the least comfortable form of footwear between speedskates and notoriously tight ski boots?
“Honestly, it’s speedskates,” says Merryweather. “It’s hard to top ski boots, but these are even worse!”
Check out the rest of the workout from our time at the Olympic Oval in the video below: