Outside's American Birkebeiner Training Plan by Bill Pierce

With temps below zero, over 4,500 feet of climbing, and 9,400 competitors, Wisconsin’s American Birkebeiner is the largest and one of the toughest cross-country ski races in the United States. Crossing the finish line is nothing short of a lifetime achievement.

This 16-week plan, written by renown Birkie coach Bill Pierce, will get you there. Including ski-specific strength, endurance, balance and technique workouts, this plan is intended for anyone who can exercise for an hour straight and wants to take on the Birkie challenge, which is similar in endurance difficulty to running a marathon. No prior ski experience is necessary, nor is access to snow, however a few trial workouts in snow before the big race are recommended.

The plan is divided into 4 phases of 4 weeks with workouts totalling 6 to 10 hours per week. (NOTE: If you'd like to do the 14.3 mile Korte or 7.5 mile Prince Haakon race, you can use this plan. Reduce the workouts by 25% and 40% respectively.)

Sneak peek: Check out the first week of workouts below. Runs/Roller Ski sessions can be done as a run/hike if you're not up to running the entire stated time or don't have roller skis. Videos of workouts and techniques are included in the plan.

Consult your physician before starting any exercise or endurance program.

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