Biathlon: the winter sport you never knew you wanted to try

Taking a lot of mental and physical strength, biathlon could be the perfect off-season training motivation to keep you fit for the tri season. Swedish national athlete Christofer Ericksson sheds light on the ins and outs of this dynamic sport.

Looking for something to keep you motivated to keep fit during the winter months? Ever thought of trying biathlon? We chatted  to one of the Swedish national team members Christofer Eriksson on the in's and out's of this both physically and mentally challenging sport and what it takes to be good.

What does the sport of biathlon consist of?

Biathlon is a former military sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It's a sport with high demands on the athlete's physical body and ability to withstand mental stress at the shooting range.

What are the standard race distances?

The biathlon races are between 7.5km up to 20km for men, with two or four shooting series at each competition. The competition time is from about 25 minutes up to 55 minutes.

How long have you been competing in this sport? Did you come from a shooting or skiing background first?

I have been competing in biathlon for 9 years. Before I was a cross-country skier and a sport shooter (both with pistol and rifle), so in that way it was quite natural for me to combine the two sports, but the combination of these sports in biathlon is hard to manage. It is especially hard to manage the mental stress in the competitions.

How would you train for biathlon races? What is a typical training day for you?

Before a race there is not so much training as I have to be in shape to perform. During the training season I usually train 4-5hrs (cardio) a day, six days a week. In addition I do strength training for about 3hrs a week and 2hrs of solely shooting training. So biathlon is a full-time job.

Christofer Eriksson trains in Orca Compression gear

What is the basic equipment a biathlete would need to own?

The basic equipment is cross-country skiing gear (skis, poles, boots, clothes) and a biathlon rifle. These are the basics, but to be able to train, as the main training season is during the summer and autumn, you need to have equipment like roller skis, bicycle, running shoes and clothes etc. and compression kit for recovery is helpful. It’s normal for biathletes to train many different things during the training season, it can be a lot of cycling and running alongside roller skiing.

Christopher Eriksson trains in Orca Compression Kit

What has been your favourite biathlon race so far?

I was in the Swedish relay team at a World cup in Austria 2013, and we took a 2nd place. That was a cool experience to be at the top spots in a world cup race. My best race was a sprint competition (10k skiing with two shooting series) at the Military World Games in France 2013, I ended up at 6th place among many of the world top biathletes.

Do you compete in any summer version of biathlon?

Every summer I compete in the Swedish Championship in roller-ski-biathlon. These competitions are also observation competitions for selecting the world cup team. Roller-ski-biathlon is also the main exercise during the training season.

Are there other sports that are helpful to compete in in the off season to cross-train for biathlon?

Competing in sports like running and cycling is very good for off season training for biathletes. I like to compete in trail running distances up to 15km. If a biathlete got good at swimming, I think they would perform pretty good in a triathlon competition, as running and cycling makes up a considerable part of the off season training.

What are the biathlon race scene vibes like? 

In biathlon the atmosphere is very friendly, but of course in competition it is intense and competitive. As there are a lot of competitions during the season, there are around three competitions a week, three weeks in a row each month between December and March, we get to know each other between countries very well. It’s like a big family, a biathlon family.

Would you say that biathlon is a sport similar to triathlon in that all ages can continue to compete?

Unfortunately, it is not like that in biathlon. In biathlon it is normal for men to compete up to you are around 35 years old. I am pretty sure that there are no older people that compete in biathlon. I don’t know why it is in that way, maybe it has something to do with the decline in physical ability when you are aging, or that it is just a norm to stop competing after you have reached your top ability.

Christofer Eriksson competes during a biathlon

Follow Christofer on his Facebook page here to find out how his winter 2015/2016 biathlon season goes!


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