Maria Heikkilä



Highlights from the coaching year 2016

When I started my blog I was asked whether I could write some of the texts also in English. My foreign friends told me that google translating the texts from Finnish to other languages have been quite entertaining but the main message of the texts is not always clear. I don’t doubt that!  That is why I promised them I would think about writing in English every now and then. As I tend to keep my promises I realized that it could be a good idea to summarize the highlights from the coaching year 2016 in English. So, my dear non-Finnish friends, this one is especially for you!

As all of my background info is also in Finnish I’ll start with briefly introducing myself. Even though I come from the southern (too often non-snowy) part of Finland, cross-country skiing has always been one of my biggest passions in life – earlier as a competitive skier and more recently as a coach. Luckily, my youngest brother and my best friends are also into skiing (or other endurance sports) so they understand why one would want to spend most of the freetime on a skiing track. My other big passions are my PhD studies in sports nutrition and Norway. I studied in Norway five years ago and instantly fell in love with the country. I just love the nature, the skiing and hiking possibilities and the friends that I have there. Since I moved back home I’ve been the head coach in the youth group in Espoon Hiihtoseura (the local the skiing club in Helsinki area) for twenty 14-17 year old athletes. In addition to that, I coach four athletes individually.

I think that over the years, coaching is becoming more and more important to me. Coaching has given me plenty of good memories, taught me a lot, kept me in good shape and brought great people into my life. When I started to go through the pictures from 2016 I realized that coaching or skiing were somehow involved in many of the most unforgettable memories this year. In short, here are the highlights from the coaching/skiing year of 2016:

January – February


The Christmas weather in the southern Finland was just as horrible a year ago. I was extremely thankful when I was invited to spend the days around New Year’s Eve in Lapland with a family from my skiing club. We really enjoyed it there and skied a lot (one day I made my record with skiing over 100 km at once!). After the perfect and snowy holiday it was nice to come back home and get prepared for the competition season which started for most of the athletes in my group in January. In the end of January I took part in a long-distance ski race, Dolomitenlauf, in Austria with my friends. That was absolutely one of the best trips during the whole year. Skiing conditions in Austria were really tough but all of us were very satisfied with our results. To be honest, I remember February mostly from sitting in a car (competitions around Finland) and from failures. My athletes were mostly unhappy with the results in the important competitions in February. In addition to that I hurt my back pretty bad during a long distance race in February. Luckily, the memories from March are much, much better.

March – April


Success, smiles, laught, tears of joy and results beyond all expectations. This is what I mostly remember when I think of March. All the athletes in my team did really well in the youth Finnish Championships. It’s always nice to end the season with good results and not with disappointments. Especially the awesome results from relays meant a lot to me. We were rated as as the second best skiing club in Finland after the relay day in the youth Finnish Championships (Hopeasompa). That was simply unbelievable.

dsc_0847I had promised to bake a cake for every medal won at the Finnish Championships which meant that I was quite busy in the kitchen after the season 😀 April has always been the month to take a little break from coaching because we don’t have any trainings together in April. The competition season also ends in April. My personal highlight in April is always the trip to Lapland with my family. Nothing is better than skiing there when the sun is shining and the skiing conditions and company are perfect.

May – June


The main highlight in May/June was, without any doubt, the skiing camp at Sognefjellet in Norway with Team EHS (the elite team of our skiing club’s adult skiers). Of course, the start of a new season in the beginning of May is always a highlight but nothing can be compared with the feeling I had throughout the camp. We travelled there right after an interesting ski coaching seminar. Those two seminar days were filled with lots of interesting lectures, good food, great company, networking, too little sleep, you name it… The only bad thing at the skiing camp at Sognefjellet is the endless drive from Finland to Norway. Especially this year it felt endless because of the injury in my back. Luckily, my brother and our friend took care of the driving. When we arrived in Norway the weather was, well, typical Norwegian weather. Despite the rain and fog the views in the mountain area were incredible. I still can’t believe how lucky we were: the first night we arrived there was the only day with rain. The following ten days brought us only sunshine and warmth. The coach/athlete ratio was really good which meant that the athletes were able to keep the quality of trainings on a high level. We typically skied once a day and the second training was either roller skiing, running or strength training. The Norwegian ski teams and some elite skiers from Finland were at a camp at the same time with us. It was really interesting to see how they trained and also to get some inspiration from them. Another inspiring event in June was a coaching course held by the Finnish Ski Association in Vuokatti. The course started in June and the last lectures will be held in Lahti in January 2017.

July – August


In July I had a summer holiday from coaching (or to be precise, only from the group trainings and not from other coaching related stuff 😀 ). I spent July mostly travelling and hiking with my friends in Kuusamo and Norway. For me that was the perfect way to enjoy the summer. After the hiking holidays I travelled to Vuokatti to coach on a big skiing camp. Nearly 100 young skiers took part in the camp. I learned a lot from coaching those young athletes and from the other coaches on the camp.

September – October


Different tests (strength, running, roller skiing etc.) and basic training filled my September. It’s always nice to get back to the normal training rhythm with my group (trainings 3 times/week) after the summer holidays. That keeps both the athletes and their coach motivated. This September differed from past Septembers in the amount of athletes in the trainings. There have never been over 10 – 15 athetes in the trainings on a normal autumn day. This must be because of the team spirit which is really good in our group. The team spirit got even better on a camp that we had in October in Leppävirta. For me, a camp in a crowded skiing tunnel has never been a highlight but I guess it was for most of the athletes. For me, the opening of the competition season in Vuokatti next week was much bigger highlight even though, almost all of my athletes were really dissapointed after the competitions. Well, it doesn’t matter at all in October, there’s still plenty of time before the important competitions are in view. However, my main highlight in October was the unexpected trip to Rovaniemi. One of the girls that I’m coaching moved to Rovaniemi for her second term in highschool. She was going to travel there with her mum but she suddendly got sick. I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to travel to Lapland to help her and to train with her. The long weekend was amazing in many ways and I was so happy I was able to travel there.

November – December


I only spent five days at home in November! December was pretty busy, too. That’s why I wasn’t really surprised when I got sick during the Christmas holiday. My PhD studies and coaching kept me busy during these past few months. I travelled through Finland and collected data for my first articles from athletes and their coaches. Working with them was really cool, something that I’ve always wanted to do. There were also camps, competitions and additional trips to Rovaniemi in November/December. Even though I was tired after all the travelling I’ve never been so happy at this time of year. The camps, trips to competitions and just the basic trainings with my group have been really rewarding. The trips to Rovaniemi to visit Rebecca meant a lot to me both as a coach, a friend and an athlete myself. In addition to those activities, the camp in snowy Saariselkä and coaching course in Rovaniemi were the highlights of my December. It’s too bad that the course is already ending next week and that there won’t be any camps for many months. But it just means that it’s time to get prepared for the competition season now.

Yay, I made it all the way here in English. Who knows, maybe there will be more posts in English in the future. Just let me know if there should be! However, the main the language of the blog will still be Finnish… 🙂

Happy and sporty new year!

Hiihtokauden avaus Leppävirralla ja Vuokatissa

Kesäkuun Norjan leirin jälkeen sukset olivat saaneet odotella varastossa jo aivan liian kauan, mutta viimeisen parin viikon aikana sisä- ja ulkohiihtokausi pyörähtivät viimeinkin kunnolla käyntiin. Hiihtoputkeen ei ole ollut suurta hinkua, joten sen takia sinnekin tuli mentyä ”vasta” lokakuun puolivälin jälkeen. Ulkolumia puolestaan olen odotellut käytännössä siitä saakka kun edellistalven lumet sulivat pois.

EHS:lla on ollut syysleirejä Leppävirralla jo vuosikausia. Joka vuosi hiihtoa odottaa yhtä suurella innolla, vaikka vuosien kokemuksella jo tietää, että putkessa hiihtäminen ei ole mitään suurinta herkkua. Mutta onneksi sillä saa kuitenkin lihaksiston jo totutettua hiihtoon, jotta oikeilla lumilla pääseekin sitten jo kunnolla hiihdon makuun. Leiri vietiin läpi tutulla, hyväksi todetulla kaavalla. Suurimmassa osassa treenejä keskityttiin PK-hiihtoon, jota höystettiin nopeus-, VK-, voima- ja tekniikkaosioilla. Tekniikkakuvaukset jätettiin kokonaan pois, koska niillä saa putkessa aikaan vain kaaoksen (vinkki muillekin isoille seuroille…). Tekniikkaa ehtii myös hyvin kuvata lumileirien aikana, syksyllä nuorille tärkeintä on saada hiihto sujuvaksi ja päästä eroon rullahiihdon mahdollisesti aiheuttamista tekniikkaongelmista (mm. liian löysä potku perinteisessä). Leirin kova MK-treeni tehtiin sauvarinteessä, sillä sitä ei olisi mielekästä tehdä tupaten täydessä hiihtoputkessa, eikä muutenkaan vielä suksilla näin aikaisessa vaiheessa kautta.

Nuorten osalta leiri oli onnistunut. Laadukkaita ja monipuolisia treenejä tuli paljon ja niissä oli aistittavissa hyvää tekemisen meininkiä. Porttikieltoja kylpylään tuli myös huomattavasti edellisvuosia vähemmän, onkohan jotain kasvamista pikkuhiljaa tapahtunut? Omalta osaltani leiristä muistuttavat edelleen valtavat mustelmat polvissa – onneksi mekko- ja shortsikelejä ei hetkeen ole tiedossa. Yksi leiriläisistä otti ylämäessä vähän turhan läheistä kontaktia suksiini ja seurauksena oli kaatuminen jäiseen mäkeen. Leirillä mukana ollut lääkäri totesi turvotuksen ja kivun perusteella, että pahimmillaan polvesta meni eturistiside poikki. Jalkalenkit ja vapaan hiihto jäivät sitten kokonaan väliin, mutta perinteistä polvi onneksi kesti. Hyvä niin, sillä pää ei olisi kestänyt sitä, että muut pääsevät treenaamaan ja minä en.

Leppävirran leirin jälkeen kävin käännähtämässä kotona ennen Vuokatin reissua. Vuokattiin lähdin sekä huvin että hyödyn vuoksi. Tällä hetkellä jatko-opintojeni tutkimusvaihe on edennyt pisteeseen, jossa kerään urheilijoilta ja valmentajilta kyselytutkimuksella tietoja heidän ravitsemusosaamisestaan. Koska Vuokatissa oli suuri määrä nuoria urheilijoita paikalla, otti tutkimus reissun aikana ison harppauksen eteenpäin. Kaikin puolin antoisan ja onnistuneen reissun alkuosan olin Habitaleirien mukana, viikonlopun kisaturistina Suomen Cupissa ja loppuosan luennoimassa Vuokatti-Ruka Urheiluakatemian urheilijoille. Marraskuu tulee noudattamaan kaiken kaikkiaan hyvin samanlaista kaavaa – Vuokattiin on tulossa lisää tutkimusmatkoja, samoin ainakin Rovaniemelle ja mahdollisesti muuallekin. On ihan loistavaa päästä työmatkoille näihin paikkoihin, sillä samalla pääsee nauttimaan muiden hiihtoihmisten seurasta sekä hiihdosta ulkoladuilla.

Suomen Cup meni valmennettavieni osalta vaihtelevasti. Viikonloppuun mahtui paljon onnistumisia, mutta myös mm. sairastelun aiheuttamia epäonnistumisia. Kokonaisuudessaan seura onnistui jo ensimmäisen Suomen Cup -viikonlopun aikana hankkimaan enemmän cup-pisteitä kuin koko viime kaudella yhteensä. Ei hullumpi saavutus! Tästä on hyvä jatkaa kisakautta Rovaniemellä marraskuun puolivälin jälkeen. Kisakauden alku merkitsee valmentajallekin sitä, että tästä eteenpäin lähes kaikki talven viikonloput on ohjelmoitu täyteen. Mutta eipä se mitään, kisoissa ja reissussa on hyvä olla.

PS. Hiihtokausi toi mukanaan myös suksien voitelun. Voisipa aina valita suksien voiteluun kesäkuiset kelit ja Norjan maisemat. Autotallin seinissä ei samaa fiilistä oikein ole…


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