Greetings from day 14 of an 18 day volume block. Camps like these are a summer staple of the life of a cross country skier, as told through the Instagram accounts of athletes young and old across the country (and world. Hello, New Zealand). In a way, a lot of us identify with the volume block. It’s such Nordie thing (quick self-promotional preview, keep an eye out for the start of the #NordieList coming soon, here, on your favorite local blog website).
Such a Nordie thing, to exercise 4-8 hours a day, everyday, for three weeks, astounding bystanders and laymen as you go, and then keep on going.
However, as much as we would like it to be, the volume block is not contained in a single state of mind. As evidenced by the shocking decrease in unnecessary physical activity and increase in caffeine compared to two weeks ago, I can vouch for the striking metamorphosis that occurs, mentally and physically, in a summer volume block, as represented in the following stages:
Phase 1: Anticipation
You’re at the end of a rest week, unsure that your rest-to-training plan ratio is big enough to take on the upcoming weeks. You’re excited, nervous excited, but also a little anxious, because from where you stand, it’s going to take a lot of work to get money in the bank.
Phase 2: Stoke
Turns out, you were rested! Whether your week starts with a travel day or distance, you feel good, energized. You talk a lot, about all of the adventures you’re going to go on (we should totally check out that swimming hole/restaurant/champagne bar at the end of the week!) The world is bright, and you are brighter. Get at me, exercise!
Phase 3: Woah there, cowgirl
With that much stoke, especially in a camp environment with new friends and places, it’s natural to go a little harder than planned (read: level a little more than one, or L3 plus a tablespoon). After one or two of these sessions, your body be like “I got this!” but your brain be all “Be rational, we still have 40 hours ahead.” Brakes pumped, stoke controlled.
Phase 4: FIRED UP
Forget the brakes! About a week into the block, you’re committed. A little tired but still going, you’ve gained the confidence to know you’re gonna make it. You love skiing. You love your teammates. Getting to go on adventures. This is the life and you are LIVING IT!
Phase 5: Hungry (maybe actually the only continuous state of mind)
Phase 6: The X-eyed Emoji
About 75% of the way through the weeks, you don’t pump the brakes, the brakes pump you. A dip in energy, muscle soreness and mental fatigue all having you looking at your training plan like “yikes.” But you take a nap, drink more coffee, and get going. It’s the nordie way.
Phase 7: Survival Mode
Then near the end of the cycle, you go to sleep feeling trampled and wake up feeling incredible. You lift more, run faster and ski harder than you thought you could. Your body has entered survival mode, it’s the first sign of what we call “riding the line,” where an overstep can send you into dangerous cycle of overtraining and fatigue. But you love it. High risk, high reward.
Phase 8: Muscled Zombie
No time for brain activity. Training feels incredibly good, that’s the survival mode talking, you’re surprisingly focused when your watch is running. But when it’s not? Silence. Cross eyed. Mechanical. Good thing they re-air the tour three times a day, you keep zoning out during the finishing minutes.
Bonus Phase: Crash
This one is technically not during the volume block, but a part of it nonetheless. By my calculations, the body has about a two day delay on survival mode, so two days into your deload week, expect the zombie phase to transition into all parts of your life. Sleep a lot. Eat a lot. Feel terrible in training. Don’t worry, you’ll recover. Just in time to do it again.