We Have a Podcast! Episode 1: John Wessling and Ski Training Across Endurance Sports


Nordic Insights is thrilled to announce that it is now prepared to conquer all forms of media: We have a podcast.

The inimitable Jon Schafer, universally known by his nom de ski of Fast Big Dog, joins us to helm this new project. Expect great guests, probing questions, and insightful answers, from a wide range of personalities involved with nordic skiing.

John Wessling competes in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Snowshoe, West Virginia, in fall 2023. (photo: courtesy John Wessling)

John Wessling is a great guest to start off this new series. He’s lived all over and has pretty much done it all in sport, both endurance sports and skill sports. He self-effacingly describes himself as “the best of the worst” in most of these endeavors, but he’s also a three-time Cat 1 national champion in cross-country mountain bike racing, so take that last assessment with a grain of salt. Though it is also true that his mountain bike results (he had two UCI World Cup starts earlier this fall) surpass his results in nordic skiing or running.

Wessling is currently a coach in at least three different contexts: for the UCLA cycling team, for Troll Training online motocross and endurance sport training, and for the iFIT workout app.

You might think that this is a broad range of experience that has little to do with cross-country skiing. You would be right about the first part of that, but wrong about the second. Turns out that the world’s top motocross athletes train an awful lot like nordic skiers, and that a broad aerobic base is helpful for anyone.

Put another way, as Wessling observes when describing how he introduces world-class motocross riders to everyone’s favorite dryland training tool, “I go through and kind of kick their butt on the first few SkiErg workouts. You have to gain their respect that your program is hard enough. Within a short amount of time, they’re definitely not stoked to get on the SkiErg.”

If you’d like to hear some fascinating cross-disciplinary insights, this is the podcast for you. If you’d like to hear a pro coach’s top piece of advice for junior skiers dissatisfied with their results, this is the podcast for you. If you’re a mid-pack, mid-life Birkie skier looking to move up a wave, this is, wait for it, once again the podcast for you. Listen to the whole thing for more.

John Wessling with teammates at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Snowshoe, West Virginia, in fall 2023. (photo: courtesy John Wessling)

Three quick notes here in closing:

One, I didn’t tag this episode with an “explicit” note. That said, there is a single, offhand sh*t at one point in the proceedings, fyi. Everything else is clean.

Two, the infamous Joe Dubay/Chris Parr bib-swapping win at the 2012 classic Birkie is discussed (they were Wessling’s collegiate ski teammates at St. Scholastica). You can find the contemporaneous FasterSkier article — which is followed by, at least as memorably, 76 generally unhinged and generally anonymous reader comments — here.

Three, Wessling also discusses the finish of the locally famous 2011 Minnesota Finlandia skiathlon, in which he and another local hotshot collegian memorably got their butts handed to them at the line by local legend Farmer Phil. Wessling urged listeners not to watch the video, which I took as my cue to find and embed it above.

Chalk Farmer Phil’s win up to some true old man strength on display in the finishing stretch and vastly superior tactics. Watch Wessling grow roots in the transition area (1:05 to 2:07 mark of video) for an excellent example of how NOT to feed in races. 

Thanks for listening. You can listen to this episode in your browser via the above embedded player. You can subscribe to us on Spotify here, on Apple Podcasts here, or anywhere else you get your podcasts (some other options: Podcast Addict, Deezer, Player FM).

We have a full slate of podcasts planned for the upcoming season. Expect slightly less ski-centric content while there’s still no snow on the ground, then slightly more nordic skiing–focused guests once the race season starts in earnest. Expect both a significant number of new episodes over the next several months but also little rhyme or reason in the production schedule; this is still very much a DIY production here. 

Along those same lines, in keeping with the spirit of the entire Nordic Insights enterprise, the emphasis of this podcast is going to be firmly on quality of content, so expect high-level discussions and low-level production values. Podcast participants of the quality we intend on having on the show are by their nature very busy people, often on the road, so don’t be surprised if episodes sound as though they were recorded from some remote outpost via a sketchy cell connection, as they likely were. If you want quality audio, NPR does good work in this space. If you want to learn something interesting about cross-country skiing while laughing to yourself about our sound quality, don’t touch that dial.

Again, thanks for listening. Tell your friends to listen too. And if you know someone in possession of a good fortune who would like to be the presenting sponsor for the first season of Who Woke Me Up?, the fastest-growing nordic skiing podcast out there, please be in touch.

— Gavin Kentch

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