With the Winter Olympics in Sochi recently coming to an end, one of the major stars of the games – Ole Einar Bjørndalen from Norway, is the winter Olympics Michael Phelps, having won 13 Olympic medals in Biathlon, more Winter Olympic medals than anyone else in history! Here we look at some of the ways he might train for the Biathlon event.
Biathlon is one of a number of intriguing Winter Olympic disciplines, combining the gruelling discipline of cross-country skiing with the fine motor skills of rifle shooting. Originating from an alternative Norwegian military training exercise, Biathlon has been a feature of the Winter Olympic program since 1960.
There are three main areas of training for Biathlon we will look at
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Firstly, we look at the legs, a crucial cog in the training for Biathlon. The cross country skiing in Biathlon is a largely single leg activity, using alternate legs to power themselves forward over the course. A couple of exercises they might do for this are Bulgarian squats and lateral lunges.
Bulgarian squats are a single legged lunge with the rear foot resting on a raised platform. Typically, one might perform 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. The Bulgarian squat provides us with single leg strength, power and stability. Holding dumbbells whilst performing this helps to add resistance when appropriate.
Lateral lunges again, help us build strength, power and stability, this time in a lateral plane helps build strength in the groins, and glutes which replicate the action of skiing and build up the stability and power needed to propel themselves along the course. 3 sets of 8 – 12.
The second area in the skiing element of the biathlon is core stability
As in all sports, optimising performance, getting the most out of every movement, and not wasting energy is vital in securing victory. It is important in the Biathlon to have a strong core. When athletes ski, they push off to the side, similar to the movement of the lateral lunge. It is important that they have a strong core, so the core can keep the centre of the body pointing forward in the direction they are skiing. If the biathlete had a weak core, the body would rotate with the sideways movement of the skiing and some of the power generated would be wasted propelling the biathlete sideways.
Two great exercises for training this are Russian medicine ball twists and roll-outs
Firstly Russian medicine ball twists, 3 x 12-15, whilst in a sit-up position with feet lifted slightly off the ground, keep the core tight and prevent the body from rotating whilst holding the medicine ball and rotating it from side to side lightly touching it on the ground.
Secondly. barbell rollouts 3 x 8-10, rollouts especially work well in skiing as they also include shoulder and arm stability crucial for ‘poleing’ in skiing. Put some weights on the barbell which act as ‘wheels’, kneel down with arms outstretched gripping the bar on the floor and gently push the bar away keeping the back straight until the body is extended as far as possible, then pull the bar back to the start position using the core, keeping arms extended and back straight throughout.
The final element to look at is aerobic fitness
There are two elements of this in the Biathlon a high aerobic capacity is require and provides the ability to keep skiing for prolonged periods of time at as fast a speed as possible. Secondly is the transition between skiing and shooting. Depending on a biathlon event, the cross country skiing is broken up with either 2 or 4 rounds of rifle shooting. Aiming at 5 targets, each missed shot is penalised with a time-penalty or penalty laps of a 150m loop.
When entering the shooting range, the key element is to lower their heart rate as quickly as possible, whilst competing they may have a heart rate of up to 200 beats per minute (bpm) for the body to be still enough to shoot effectively and accurately they need to lower this to around 140 bpm. There are several elements to perfecting this.
Firstly combining with aerobic conditioning, the better trained the body is the quicker it can recover and the quicker the heart rate can return towards its resting rate.
Here is an example of what athletes might do to improve their condition but trains themselves to improve their recovery time
After warming up, work at approximately 70-80% of maximum for 3-5 minutes and then ease off to around 30-40% of maximum effort and repeat this several times.
Performing training like this not only helps to improve the aerobic fitness of the athletes, for the endurance part of the event but helps to train the body to recover quickly which is vital in being effective in the rifle shooting element.
Nutrition is also an important factor in the training of a Biathlete
There are many areas to take into consideration, for example, the energy expenditures of the cross-country skiing element, the concentration and focus required for the rifle shooting and the cold, winter environment in which racing takes place, the body require heat and uses energy to produce it.
Firstly we should consider the carbohydrate intake, because the energy required for the event, athletes should look to take on 8-12g per kg of athletes bodyweight per day when training, for example an athlete weighing 80kg should look to take on approximately 640 – 960g of carbohydrates per day (considerably more than recommended daily allowances.)
Ways in which they might look to do this are consuming carbohydrates on a regular basis during the day to maintain training performance, with food such as bananas/sports bars/cereal bars/dried fruit and nuts, so that there is a constant stream of carbohydrate intake. Sports drinks and sports gels are also an effective way to keep fuelling as they will increase hydration which is vital, and also helps to increase and maintain levels of concentration for the rifle shooting elements.
Recovering from training, and refuelling is a crucial part of the nutritional process, as in the physical elements, training to recover quickly is important, we can do this by replenishing carbohydrate stores as quick as realistically possible after training and continue with regularly hourly intake of carbohydrates during the period between training sessions to maintain stores are constantly replenished.