Preparing for Nordenskiöldsloppet: Part 1

In three parts, Swedish ski profile Erik Wickström shares tips and tricks on how to best prepare for the Nordenskiöldsloppet. The first part will be about mental strategies during a long competition, followed by training advises and eventually energy intake. Last Spring, Erik double-poled 439 km in 24 hours. That’s farther than anyone else has skied in a day before. Erik is an expert in coaching amateurs with limited time for training. He just published a book about smart endurance training on the Swedish market.



To ski 220 km is far. Not only physically but also mentally. Here are therefore some tips on how to last long.

From March 31st to April 1st, I’ve double-poled 439 km on a 412 m long round track in 24 hours. That’s 1064,5 laps.

Even though the track of Nordenskiöldsloppet will be more scenic and varied, you probably won’t find it fun all the way. That’s why you need to have mental strategies to improve your journey towards the finish line.


Immerse yourself in the race

Besides the physical preparation that I’ve done before my 24 hours of skiing, I also put a lot of energy into mental loading. Not by listening to voices saying positive words but by immersing myself in the situation. During all long distance training I for instance wore the same clothes as I would on the big day. I also drank and ate what was planned and tried to find terrain similar to the track in Vålådalen to train on.

Just by living yourself into a competition and by thinking about every day during a long period of time, you’ll be better prepared.


Erik vid världsrekordet (43,8 mil) i 24-timmars i Vålådalen 31 mars-1 april 2016. Foto: Magnus Östh.Erik at his world record trial (438 km) during the 24 hour, Vålådalen 31st of March 2016. Photo: Magnus Östh.


Think in milestones

Once you’re in the race, my best mental advice also might the most worn out: Milestones.

During my 24 hours I often thought that it soon was time to drink, or to eat, that 6 hours soon would be over or that I soon skied 200 km and so on.

I believe you should think in similar patterns during Nordenskiöldsloppet. Make the next energy station your next milestone. Or the 50 km mark, the distance of Vasaloppet or the turning point. You’ve got to be prepared for psychological up’s and down’s. To ski for 220 km won’t be a bed of roses. It isn’t for anyone. But at the same time that’s the thrill of Nordenskiöldsloppet too.

Listen to music when you’re out running alone in the woods or training by yourself on the ski ergometer in the gym. In a competition where all start at the same time, you need on the other hand to be alert. It’s just not the right time to listen to your latest Spotify playlist or your favorite podcast. So leave your headphones at home.


Dissociate and associate

When thinking of competitive situations, the terms dissociate and associate are sometimes being used.

To dissociate means that one strives to shut out negative thinking and feelings of tiredness by focusing on other things. One can for example count pole strokes or hum a song to disconnect with thoughts of fatigue.

To associate means the opposite – one focuses on the sensory signals the body sends by embracing tiredness, feeling the exhausted muscles or by concentrating oneself on respiration. In a moment of tiredness one might for instance think: “It’s uphill now and it’s OK that it’s tough, soon it goes down again.”

What’s more effective – to dissociate or to associate – depends a lot on the situation and the individual. Normally people mix both options during a competition. Many dissociate in the beginning of a race and switch once tiredness takes over.

The first part of my 24 hours I talked quite a lot with persons close by and thought about what to do the day after etc. In the last hours I again fully focused inwards. I didn´t even turn my head when people arrived to watch. My only goal was the good execution of my next pole stroke.


Erik under Ränneslättsturen 2012. Foto: during Ränneslättsturen 2012. Photo:

Erik Wickström works as lecturer, skiing instructor, personal trainer, writer and photographer. He’s also the editor in chief for the magazine Vasalöparen. He wrote well-appreciated books: Längdskidåkning för dig, 2013 (cross-country skiing for you) and Smart konditionsträning, 2016 (smart endurance training).

In April 2016 he double-poled 439 km – farther than anyone else has skied in 24 hours before him – on a 412 m long track in Vålådalen.

Erik’s area of expertise is training optimization for amateurs and has in recent years become a popular coach and lecturer. Partly because he lives a family live with job and house himself and doesn’t have the time to train and rest as the professionals do. Still, he got very far in his career as an athlete.

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