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Variety and nature are keys to performance, says French nordic ski team athletes and coaches

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"Variety and nature are keys to performance."

In recent years, Maurice Manificat has been dubbed one of the best skate skiers in the world. He has medalled in international competitions and world championship events and performed consistently throughout his 17-year career.

AT 28.09.2021 

With such an impressive palmarès, one could picture his training days being packed. Manificat says his success however is rooted more in simplicity, requiring only time and diversity to immerse himself in the ritual of sport. 

“In endurance sports you can move in any direction you choose,” he explains during a recent phone interview. “One day you can run in the mountains, the other ski, the other ride your mountain bike – this freedom of movement is a beautiful thing.” 

Variety and nature are keys to performance, says French nordic ski team athletes and coaches

“To any seasoned skier looking to hone their performance, I would say that gains are found in variety and in the outdoors – for an hour, three hours – however long you can. It is with variation that you build strength as an athlete in its many forms.” 

Working with progression is another tool Manificat uses to achieve greater performance. If you’re skiing for an hour easily, for example, make your next session 75 minutes, then build on that over four-week blocks.

Structured progression prevents stagnation, he says, and will help all skiers develop. 

Manificat’s favourite ODLO kit: Blackcomb warm base layers.

Performance for beginners: where to start?
Whether you’ve skied for years or are just starting out, being smooth on snow generally starts with instruction. 

“Whether you’re new to the sport or you’ve been skiing for years, I always say the same thing when it comes to technique: start the season with lessons,” Manificat adds.

Not everyone starts this way, of course. French national biathlon coach and former cross-country skiing world champion, Vincent Vittoz, for example, traces his roots in skiing to his family. By age eight, he was a member of his local cross-country club, egged on by an older brother and other club members from whom he learned.

“I remember waiting at the lift in the resort where we lived. It was too boring,” Vittoz says about how he learned his technique early on.

Variety and nature are keys to performance, says French nordic ski team athletes and coaches

“With the pandemic, Nordics are a great means of safeguarding your health and enjoying nature. For anyone just taking it up, lessons from an instructor or finding a local club is the best place to start. If you’re experienced, one or two lessons will help with mental focus. If you’re a beginner, they provide a foundation for movement basics. In either case, they are crucial.” 

Vittoz’ favourite OLDO kit: “Anything that helps me dry faster. The race suits we have for the team are outstanding.” 


Fabien Claude on performance
Having already podiumed during the 2020-2021 season (2nd place in the pursuit in Kontiolahti, Finland), Fabien Claude – the French biathlete – is taking good form into this month’s biathlon world championships in Slovenia.

When it comes to performance, like others on the French ski team, he practices as many aerobic sports as possible. This includes road riding, roller skiing and running to build a varied aerobic base. To build power and core strength, he adds heavy weights and strength training in spring and summer. 

Variety and nature are keys to performance, says French nordic ski team athletes and coaches

“For aerobic ability, all aerobic sports help. For technique, you need access to the arena where you’ll perform and time enough to practice it,” he says.

From wherever you’re starting, he echoes the importance of working on technique with others. “This is essential,” he says, emphasizing that while many cross-country sports are individual, gains are made within a team.

“The most beautiful place to perform and practice sport will always be nature.”

Fabien’s favourite OLDO kit: Base layers that cater to training in cold weather.

Variety and nature are keys to performance, says French nordic ski team athletes and coaches
Photo credits: Nordic Focus

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