Billy Demong, America's first-ever gold medal winner in the Nordic Combined, the Olympic event combining cross-country skiing and ski jumping, is looking to repeat in Sochi. We asked Demong to share his training secrets – how to gauge the perfect intensity level for every workout, why time off is essential, how to lift weights for endurance – and explain how amateur winter athletes can learn from his success.
Train with focus.
While the larger changes to the U.S. Nordic Combined training program went a long way towards getting Demong onto the podium, small changes were equally influential. Among them was the embrace of a goal-oriented approach to individual workouts. Gone were the days of running until exhaustion, or maxing out on the bench. Instead, an increased focus on sports science and the analytics of working out allowed the staff to not only identify which specific exercises work, but also how to squeeze gains out of athletes while minimizing the potential for losses.
"Now it's more looking at what things we know make a difference, what things have been proven to make a difference," Demong says. "It's not necessarily [our coach] driving us into the middle of the desert in his van, dropping us off with our roller skis, and telling us to get home." Now the true objective of each exercise becomes hitting individual markers that prove the athletes are actually maxing themselves out. "It's 'we need to go at this heart rate, at this lactate, for this period of time, on this day' in order to get the desired effect," he says. "We need to be very conscious of what our goals are for each session and trying to achieve those goals – whether it's low intensity, threshold intensity, or in the weight room."
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