Emelie Forsberg is not originally from the mountains – she’s from the hills. She was born in a hilly area on the east coast of Sweden called Höga Kusten. “There are no mountains, but the terrain is really playful with 300-meter-high hills,” Emelie says. Still she has become one of the world’s top mountain runners and ski mountaineers. How to do that?
Do you actually need mountains to train for the climbs?
Actually, not at all! If you have an uphill that is just 100 or 200 meters high – or even only 30 meters high – that’s ok. You just need to do more repetitions. But if you like mountains, I think it is important to also go to the mountains to train in the long climbs.
Do you prefer more mellow or steep ascents?
I like them both, because they are so different. I am quite powerful so the steeper climbs normally are a little better for me. But I have improved on the less intense climbs, too.
When setting a skin track, do you head straight up or…?
I did go really steep in the beginning! I was strong but didn’t really have the proper technique then. But now I like to set the track in a more mellow, comfortable angle.
How do you pace yourself in the long uphills?
First of all, I listen to my body because I think it is interesting to learn about my body. In training I always have my heart rate and analyse the data afterwards. That also helps me to understand my performance.
But in some races, that are not so technical, I may have a more mathematical approach and use heart rate also while racing. I can just look at my heart rate I say: “No, this is not enough. I need to speed up!”
Is training for uphill running and skimo the same?
It’s more or less the same interval training that works for both. Maybe I train little shorter intervals in the winter. But all intervals are important for me; from one minute efforts, where I can really feel the lactic acid coming, to more manageable four minute efforts and up to ten minutes where it is like race pace. Interval training can be super fun.
When you feel that you are in a good running form does that mean you are fast on skis, too?
If I am in good shape for running, I think it is easier to transition to skiing. Going from skiing to running feels harder.
Tips for increasing uphill speed?
My tips are really basic, and more mental than physical: You need to like what you are doing and have continuation in what you are doing. Not to train super hard one week and then have three weeks without any training.
Even if you only have time to run for ten minutes one day, go for that! It’s going to make you want to go out the other day, too. And try to make training a pleasure.
For me interval training has really worked. It’s an easy way to improve because the sessions are manageable. The workout can be like one, one and a half hours, and you really feel like you have done something really good when you finish.