Biathlon Training

All about Biathlon Training

Biathlon training typically involves skiing, target shooting, endurance building, and mental conditioning.  Many people find the biathlon a strange winter sports event because it involves what seems like two completely unrelated activities, cross-country skiing and target shooting.  As you might expect this sport arose out of Norwegian military practice.  (Modern biathlon sometimes only refers to swimming and running, but most people refer to classic biathlon when they say “biathlon.”)

So what is involved in biathlon training?

Cross-Country Skiing

The biathlete spends the majority of his or her time skiing along a flat or slightly inclined surface in classic biathlon.  The challenge in this section of the biathlon is to keep moving at a steady pace.  Thus, in order to get themselves ready for this section of the competition, biathletes spend much of their days trying to improve their times in between targets.  Since biathlon is at it core a race, they want to make sure that they get as fast as they can and go into the biathlon strong.

Rifle Practice

Equally important is their rifle practice.  You might think that this is the easy part for biathletes, but, in fact, this part is just as difficult as cross-country skiing.  Once the biathletes reach the shooting range, they must consider the effect of wind speed and temperature on the trajectory of the bullet.  You also must consider that they must aim and fire while still tired from the skiing.  This takes years of practice to get it just right.

Endurance

It is not enough to be able to ski fast.  During biathlon training, the athlete must build up their endurance so that they can race for long stretches without tiring.  This means they have to build up their endurance year round.  Many biathletes find that the high altitude in places like Colorado can really help them expand their lung capacity so that they can endure longer distances when racing.

When snows have melted rendering skiing impossible, many biathletes turn to running or biking as means of staying fit.  Some change hemispheres to find other snowy area where they can continue to train.  Biathlon training is a year round practice, however.  No serious biathlete ever really takes a summer off since the amount of time it would take them to get back in shape would throw away any real chance at success that year.

In addition, since an athlete’s competitive life is already so short, they really cannot afford to do anything to shorten it further.

Mental Conditioning

Finally, the biathlete must toughen themselves mentally.  It is not enough to have skills and endurance.  A biathlete, like any other professional athlete, must be able to perform under pressure.  Many biathletes have coaches to help push them and test the limits of their willpower.  Such tests help biathletes to stay mentally sharp and ready for the stresses of competition.

A Note on Biathlon’s Origin

The biathlon was developed in Norway between the World Wars in order to help militias in that snowy land practice patrolling in case they should be invaded.  It became a sport and the Olympic committee tried it out in the Olympics before and just after World War II.  Because the northern European countries that had developed this activity into a sport could not agree on a uniform set of rules, the Olympics dropped biathlon as an exhibition sport after 1948.  During this period, the sport became more popular and leagues were set up where amateur athletes could compete.  The Olympic Committee finally accepted it into the Winter Olympics in 1960, when Squaw Valley, California hosted the games.  They have been a regular feature of the Olympics since.