Strength, Endurance, Etc

Posted on: August 23rd, 2015 by tony No Comments


(another installment of my efforts to qualify for the First Wave of the American Birkebeiner)

The last couple week have gone pretty well
Strength - I’ve been heading down to LA Fitness and doing my one hour strength regimen 3x/wk. It’s really been enjoyable, but I’ve required a quite a bit of assist for pull-ups and dips - and whimping out on a few other elements as well. I’m mainly getting used to the machines - ramping up the resistance a bit each week.

Endurance - A week ago I worked pretty hard over the weekend - each day included rowing, 4hr canoe high winds and whitecaps, and some swimming - it took another couple days to recover.

Kathy and I canoed the length of Upper Bottle Lake the crossed Lower Bottle into a ¾ headwind (whitecaps) on the leeward end of the lake - it was nearly impossible to hear each other shouting in the wind. We managed to keep most of the water out of our canoe. We then cut through a marshy bay - sighting trumpeter swans and five signets, loons and two chicks, and an osprey diving for fish. The marsh emptied into a beautiful stream - into Ema Lake. Another stream and out into Big Sand Lake - with bigger waves yet. By the time we retraced our route we were both exhausted.

(a couple weeks ago)
New Yorker - Enrique Cubillo demonstrated his spikeboarding
 (said, by Enrique, to be a perfect train method for cross country skiing) at Gear West a couple weeks ago. Enrique is a super athlete (he raced Matt Liebsch up a California mountain - spike board against roller skis - Matt won) and knows bike racing, stand up paddle boarding and sports physiology. Enrique was interested in my First Wave Project - when I describe my current program he said “Buddy, you’re running out of time - you’ve got to ramp up your workouts - you should be doing four roller ski workouts a week.”
Here's a video of Enrique on a Stand Up Spikeboard to give you an idea.

Last Friday I had my annual physical - upon hearing about my First Wave Project, my doctor suggested I “start out easy, bodies your age take longer to heal if injured.” When I mentioned the “start out easy” suggestion, Kathy said “Well, you don’t have to worry about that” Meaning what? At the doctor, my weight read as 204. The scale at Gear West shows 201. I think it’s a bit heavy.

Both Lynne (Birkie Champ) and Speedy say I need to do a long workout every 7-10 days. That would be 3hr on roller skis or 4hr on a bike. I’m a long way from being able to do a 3hr rollerski (1hr is my style right now). So I did nearly 4hr bike this Saturday. St Louis Park - Roseville - St Paul - back through Lilydale - Minnehaha - and home. I was pretty wiped. So, the long workout is something I really need to get into my schedule.


Posted on: August 23rd, 2015 by tony No Comments


In March of 2014, I was skiing with a small group of friends on the Banadad Trail from near Gunflint Lake to Bearskin Lodge. It was a spectacular 40km day on a mostly flat trail with a skied in track. With about eight km remaining, we merged onto a trail with beautiful, hard, machine-set tracks. Tim, Lyndon, and Phil started striding out and picking up the pace, like horses returning to the barn. I stayed with the group, but I was starting to breathe hard and my arms were tiring. The last few km were tough, the group was pulling away. I dug down to catch back up. “Why don’t they need a break?” I wondered “Maybe they’ll stop to look at a map. Horses never look at maps.” We glided into the lodge with me a few meters behind. If offered, I would have accepted help removing my skis. That night it was someone else’s turn for dinner. I lay (in a coma) on the couch listening to these same skiers re-hash the day. And comment on my condition.
This should have been a wake-up call. If it was, I didn’t heed it. The winter of 2015 went about the same as 2014. For some reason, my alarm rang in June – it finally occurred to me by training smart now, I won’t have to struggle next winter. I will simply be able to enjoy skiing. That is the true impetus for the Wave One Project.
Roller skiing + setting some baselines
Over the last couple weeks I’ve gotten back into roller skiing – it’s been over ten years since I’d last been on a pair. I didn’t think I needed to train on roller skis. I felt canoeing, biking, rowing, and hiking would get me ready for snow. I thought, “Why waste the summer doing ski imitation when summer sports are so much fun?”. The more I listened to skiers talk about summer training, however, the more convinced I became that roller skiing was a critical component of a well-rounded training plan. On roller skis an athlete can have effective ski specific, weight-bearing, strength and cardio workouts. At the same time, they can receive important technique benefits.  Whether or not to roller ski this summer is no longer a question. I have no choice --my hands are tied.
This time around – better gear.
This summer I’ve already been roller skiing a half dozen times. The skis I’m using are much more stable and roll straighter than the ones I used years ago. After a few outings using classic boots I switched to some old skate boots. The ankle support from skate boots combined with these stable, straight rolling skis has given me a much safer, more predictable experience. With this combination, I can easily pick up my skis and step around corners or do a modified snowplow to check my speed on sketchy down-hills.
Getting the feel
Someone once said it takes five hours to get comfortable on roller skis. I first tested my gear on the flat Cedar Lake Trail near my house and the Heartland Trail up by the cabin. Speedy (at Gear West) invited me out to ski the trail around Baker Park. We met (along with Speedy’s eight-year-old son, Daniel, who was, unfairly, on skate roller skis. I was apprehensive about skiing the Baker 10km loop. I had never been on it and I imagined some terrifying hills. Speedy and Daniel cruised down the hills ahead of me while I practiced keeping light and agile on my skis. By the time we finished the loop, I was feeling much more stable.
Setting a Baseline
A few days later Speedy and I met at Baker again. We skied back to the traditional starting point of the Ringer Roll roller ski race. Speedy started his watch and said, “Let’s go”. We skied medium-hard (at least for me) one lap. 42 minutes 45 seconds. The down hills were manageable, but I didn’t feel like double poling down them. When I finished I was tired but not exhausted. With a bit more practice, I will be able to push myself even harder. My baseline is 42:45. I plan on testing myself against this baseline once a month or so.
The organic creation of a training plan
I am adding elements, to my Wave One Project as, they are recommended by skiers around me. Adding strength was a no-brainer, roller skiing was a skill that, undoubtedly, had to be learned. Next to be added to the plan will be Intensity.
My evolving training plan
1. Getting comfortable with my weight program – 3x/wk – 3hrs
2. Now I’ve added roller skiing – Speedy prescribed 2x/wk – 2-3hrs
3. Continue rowing, canoeing, swimming, biking – several times / wk.
4. Adding Intensity
Bold are the new elements to my workout – roller skiing and weights.
6/26 60mn row – 90mn canoe
6/27 60mn row
6/28 60mn row – 90mn canoe – roller ski 30mn Heartland Trail
6/29 weights
6/30 roller ski 45mn – Baker Park
7/1 weights
7/2 roller ski 60mn – Baker Park
7/3 60mn row – 120mn canoe
7/4 60mn row – 90mn canoe – 15mn swim
7/5 60mn row with 5 minute fast  (experimenting with rowing at high speed. Exhausted in five minutes – dove in the lake after.)


Posted on: August 23rd, 2015 by tony No Comments


At a presentation over 20 years ago, Steve Gaskill (local and national coach) said the best thing a skier can do is improve upper body strength. I should have listened. But, I guess, we do what we like and what we’re good at. Flexible people like yoga and strong people lift weights. I’ve had skinny, ineffective, arms forever - case-in-point, the rope climb at Meadow Lake Elementary School. Other boys grabbed the fat rope hanging from the ceiling and pulled themselves up, hand-over-hand, touched the ceiling and slid back down. Not me, nor that one heavy kid, we would grab the rope and just grunt - “Alright, that’s enough Mommsen”.
Genetics and strength?
I did a bit of research and learned that genetics has an influence over strength and muscle size. But, it was reassuring to learn that a person with limited genetic potential could still become a pretty darn good athlete.
*Notes below on strength on the Mommsen side of my family.

Now it's 2015 and I'm not any stronger. 
I was always hoping cross country skiing was mainly about legs. Or height. Or, that by skiing my upper body would get stronger with all that double poling. Since the 1970s, I’d heard cross country skiing is the best sport for overall fitness, that it uses every muscle in the body. I took this to mean I didn’t need to do anything else. Apparently I was wrong. To add salt to the wound, I heard a report that said pull ups are the best predictor of a cross-country skiers potential. Dang. Now I need to do something about my chicken arms.


I needed a strength program
Friday morning (two weeks ago, I met with Physical Therapist and Cross Country Ski Specialist, Craig Ringsven** at LAFitness. Craig walked me through a regimen designed to improve overall fitness and strength specific for cross country skiing. He taught me the proper technique for core, back and arm workouts, along with a couple leg machines for good measure. For each machine, he had me do 15 reps then do them all again, making a one-hour strength program, which I am to do 3x a week. Even though a regular pull-up is not included in the regime, Craig said this program will help me get to my (secondary) goal of doing a few pull-ups.

Photo: Tony doing lumbar extensions with Craig Ringsven coaching. 

A few days ago I ran into Zach Handler down by Cedar Lake. I mentioned my Wave One Project, he already knew - he said everyone knows - it’s on the web. About strength, Zach said, for himself, he noticed the first month of a program he got weaker, the second month he got back to where he was, and the third month started getting stronger. Okay - I can live with that. Zach also said, “Do you know who’s gotten really fit - Jon Sanborn. He’s working out diligently and he’s eating right.” I will have to meet up with Jon soon - for some inspiration.
Craig’s strength program for me. 3x/week.
One Hour Workout Regime
Do each of these 2x
Seated Row Machine
Keep arms straight - squeeze shoulder blades together 15x
This will help with my posture
Assisted Dips - 90lbs of assist
Glute Machine
Assisted wide pull-ups  (90lbs of assist)
Hip Abduction
Seated leg press
Tricep cable pushdown (machine mirror)
Lumbar extensions
Deltoid fly - squeeze shoulder blades
Plank - front and each side
Partial crunch - lift shoulder blades off the mat

* A footnote
About strength on the Mommsen side of my family tree.

I don’t know if, by looking at my parents and their parents, I can determine my strength genetics. I’ll have a go at it. My father, Curt, had a build very similar to mine - more legs, less arms. That said, Curt could carry a canoe (and a pack) split and stack wood, shovel sand, haul shingles, all day long. My dad's dad, Adolph, was lean as well - he attended the University of Wisconsin, River Falls the first year men were admitted, around 1910, (before that it was an all women’s normal school). That first year there were so few men that all men had to play on the football team. Grampa Adolph was a wiry 135lbs, but strong as a mule. Or Ox. He laid the foundation of their New Richmond home with cement blocks that were poured solid - no holes to make them lighter. Grampa taught Physics and other sciences. During the first day of class Adolph would (catch) one boy (always much bigger than my grandpa) misbehaving, bring him outside (in front of the classroom windows) and beat the daylights out of the deviant - setting the tone for the school year. I know nothing about my Grandma Mommsen’s personal strength or about her mom and dad. Strength on my mom's side will be included in a future entry. [note: this entry was written over a week ago - I have been pretty diligent on doing three days of my strength program each week.]

**Craig Ringven offers run and ski evaluations at Gear West Tuesday evenings.
Craig is the lead physical therapist for the Running and Nordic Ski Programs at Twin Cities Orthopedics.  He works with all joints in the body, both surgical and non-surgical, with a special interest in runners and nordic skiers. He focuses on manual therapy as well as therapeutic exercises to help reduce pain and restore function. Craig has a high school coaching background and a history of division one collegiate racing in running and cross-country skiing.