Strava, the internet’s best-known fitness tracking social network, is not without its faults. It has been variously associated with athletic narcissism, exposing social trails, and dangerous use patterns of popular routes in the attempt to achieve faster times. Some coaches are also not thrilled with the app’s potential to encourage impressionable, kudos-seeking athletes to race every workout.
Having acknowledged its capacity for harm, Strava can also be a heck of a lot of fun for the armchair fan. Want to see how your favorite World Cup or SuperTour skiers are training? What a Tour de France winner does in spring training camp on Tenerife? What a Boston Marathon champion does on her easy days? If they’ve decided to join and to share their training (and Håvard Taugbøl, Chris Froome, and Des Linden, among others, all have), there’s an app for that.
This series will sporadically highlight a skier’s Strava account, and will say something interesting about each one. It will err on the side of pro athletes, public accounts, and propriety; if you are, say, an American college kid with a somewhat more unfiltered, more entertaining, less professional account, rest assured that we will not publicize that here.
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First up: Italian sprint specialist Federico Pellegrino. Hilariously, Pellegrino is on Strava with a plebeian “subscriber” account, and describes himself as, in full, “XC Skier born in ’90.”
Note the single orange arrow below his name, denoting someone who pays for the premium version of the otherwise free service, not the double orange arrows, denoting a pro athlete (which, in addition to the status that this may confer, also saves one $5 a month on a subscription). Pro athlete status on Strava requires that one “actively compete in the most competitive professional-level races at the international level (at least two high-level races or events per year),” or be a “world-class performer in your sport and receive support from one or more sponsors.”
Pellegrino races a full World Cup schedule, so it seems like he’s a pretty active competitor. And he has ample sponsors. Oh, he also has seven global championship medals (two Olympic silvers, in the skate and classic sprint, and five World Championship medals, in sprints and team sprints) and two World Cup sprint globes. And 34 individual World Cup podiums. And is literally a world champion (2017 skate sprint). But none of this has made it into his laconic profile. So he’s humble.
He’s also consistent. We all know that World Cup athletes train a lot, every day, but it is still revealing to consider the sheer, relentless, unbroken accretion of hours that a world-class athlete must pursue.
Here’s what Pellegrino did today for training: morning rollerski session, 2:27, 38 kilometers (with 2,600′ of elevation gain); afternoon rollerski session, 1:25, 22km.
Here’s what he did on Thursday: morning rollerski, 2:22, 35km; afternoon run, 1:33, 10 miles; evening activity, 15 minutes (perhaps form drills or plyos or some such).
Here’s Wednesday: morning foot with poles, 2:39, 11.8 miles (also 3,400 feet of elevation gain); afternoon activity, 24 minutes; afternoon strength training, 1:16.
Here’s Tuesday afternoon: rollerski session, 1:29, 31km.
(It seems far more likely that Pellegrino then declined to log a couple of workouts in here, rather than that he took 48 hours entirely off from training.)
Here’s Sunday morning: Fuori piove, io Zwift (“It’s raining outside, I Zwift”): bike trainer, 2:09, 40 miles. Pros! They don’t like to get wet! They’re just like us!
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Again, what is notable about this is just how un-noteworthy it all is. Pellegrino trains for roughly four hours a day, most days, longer session in the morning, shorter session in the afternoon. It is mostly easy distance; his heart rate never goes over 150 beats per minute during Wednesday’s 2.5-hour foot with poles session up a mountain, and is typically well below that. (For perspective, he was at 189 bpm roughly 10 minutes into this year’s Holmenkollen 50km.) The secret here is that there is no secret, that the only proven way to build up the aerobic base necessary for success in World Cup–level skiing is to spend time on your feet — lots of time on your feet — every. single. day.
There are, to be sure, refinements and subtle tweaks and adjustments to be made to this basic formula, which contribute to the minute differences that decide World Cup medals. Pellegrino is not posting his precise interval specs to Strava, nor should he be expected to. But the base of the pyramid for him largely looks like, well, a whole bunch of easy distance, just as it presumably does for every single other athlete on the World Cup.
Pellegrino has been on Strava since May of this year, it appears. Stay tuned to see if he keeps up regular posts during the World Cup season (CR on the Davos sprint course is calling!), and/or if his sleep schedule and recovery become destroyed once spouse Greta Laurent, currently in roughly week 30 of pregnancy, gives birth to their first child, a baby boy. If you begin seeing workouts with start times of 5 a.m., or workout titles making self-deprecating references to changing dirty diapers, you will know that pro athletes truly are just like us.
— Gavin Kentch