Norwegian Training Zones

Anyone want to take a crack at unpacking the training zone model shown in the article by the Norwegian Nordic team Aker Daehlie? It’s an article circulating on my daughter’s nordic team, and while it seems to contain a bunch of good training advice, there’s enough misalignment with the typical 5 or 6 zone model used by the cycling community to create for me some confusion. Perhaps of note is the fact that most Nordic races range in length from 3 minutes (sprints) to 45 minutes (15k), so why the recommendation for the preponderance of intensity to be executed at 2 to 3.5mml of lactate? The authors are after all Norwegian, so I feel I should be taking the advice seriously.

You are training too hard and will never reach your full potential! — Team Aker Dæhlie (

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The zones don’t look that far off those of cycling. I’d think that lactate levels and HR might be higher than cycling since the arms are involved. In any case, zones are for the coach to prescribe to the athlete. The zones don’t need to match any other zone system.

Tempo / sweet spot training. This sounds like straight up Norwegian training.

I fact just listened to Stephen Seiler’s short introductionary video on training zones, where he mentioned that in Cycling lactate may in fact be higher than in skiing at maximum lactate steady state

But overall i think the article was quite clear with use Z3:
"Some of the most important arguments for the effectiveness of i3 training for elite athletes are:

The training requires shorter recovery time, giving better control in maintaining continuity in training. This means you can train longer/more sessions in the intensity zone.

The training leads to a high activation of motor units at velocity/workloads comparable to those in competitions. In technically demanding sports, such as cross-country skiing, it is especially beneficial and advantageous to automate/learn how to move efficiently at a competition specific pace.

The training increases an individual’s fractional utilization of VO2max, and often results in a “shift to the right” of the threshold profile curve (Figure 2). This means athletes can maintain a higher workload over a longer period of time.

Elite endurance athletes often have reached their genetic and personal “ceiling” of VO2max. It is therefore relatively little to gain from training seeking to stimulate/further increase aerobic capacity after the U23 age (17).

The intensity allows for a larger training volume (hours, km – or time in zone) compared to intervals of higher intensity (10). Meaning most athletes potentially can tolerate greater training loads (increased amount of training) over several seasons. Training is about breaking down the body, and rebuilding. In an extension of this, both progression and continuity are perhaps two of the most important factors in achieving continuous development over several seasons."

But again i wouldn’t take Norwegians as somesort of monolith. I’m Finn and all the time i hear from our endurance sports community complain how we do things differently than Norwegians. At times we do too much Zones 4-5 and at another instances do too much Zone 3! I’ve literally read two articles during same day which both compain that we do too much/little both, other was orienteering where we did too much Z4-5 as compared to Norwegians and another was skiing where we lingered too much at Z3 while Norwegians actually hammered it HARD (and this was from one of our female skier training with Norwegians). And ofcourse there is eternal circle of ‘to train at Z3 or Z4-Z5’ which seems to change all the time even in Norway.

So i don’t know what Norwegians actually do. They probably are doing as much different stuff as everyone else. Remember that Stephen Seiler thinks opposite, bit over or under LT2 is good.

But the article i think it is self-explanatory on why it recommends what it does.

Super interesting article by Bakken. Thank you. I think I’m also tripping over the fact that their Zone 1 is something of a conflation of our zone 1 & 2 (cycling 5 zone). While I shoot to have 80% of my sessions in Zone 2 (below LT1), I wouldn’t necessarily categorize them as “very easy.” I would categorize them as “easy,” and “very easy” would be reserved for a coffee-shop ride, which I wouldn’t expect to produce much if any training stimulus. So I’m sort of left wondering if what’s being outlined here is a model where easy sessions are actually easier that I would typically look for and those are coupled with intervals sessions at an intensity that are likewise easier than I would typically look to execute. And maybe this reduction in overall intensity is accommodating a lot more volume.

There’s probably no need for a zone 1 in skiing. It doesn’t seem practical to put the skis on and shuffle over to the warming hut for coffee. The recovery ride in cycling may be kind of unique.

This type of training sounds exactly like Coach Steve Neal’s tempo training. He did say that the origin was his friend the cross country skiing Olympian.

If anyone listens to the Steve Magness podcast, they have covered Norwegian training.

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The potassium pump section was a bit confusing - I’m guessing it’s accumulation of K inside the cell that generates the fatigue cascade…?

I definitely want to know more about how these guys are using lactate testing in the field. It seems pretty far beyond just doing ramp test and setting zones to power or hr. Maybe a topic for a fast talk podcast.

If you have read about Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s training, it sounds like he does a lot of this Norwegian style threshold training with a lactate limiter. Unlike cycling, it’s a lot of shorter duration threshold intervals strung together below a certain level of lactate. My understanding is that the idea is to achieve a hit a high volume of threshold work with a managed (lower) metabolic cost.

I’ve been curious for a while why cyclists don’t train this way at all. Maybe it’s not necessary since cycling is not hard on the body like running. I guess the closest cycling equivalent is over/unders on a trainer or Bilat 30/30s (except the over is usually above threshold).

If one is interested about this kind of training I recommend Steve Magness’ podcast. Go through the back episodes and look for “flux training”, Norwegian training, Marius Bakken, Igloi training. It’s all variations on a similar theme.

Look at eps 211, 210, 202, 192, 189, 186, 181