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Project Ylläs-Levi: From weakness to strength

One month has passed since Benedikte started her training for Project Ylläs-Levi. How is she progressing? Read more about her experience so far.

Benedikte Friis has trained for Ylläs-Levi for one month.
Benedikte Friis has trained for Ylläs-Levi for one month.

This blog post is written by Benedikte Friis, one of the two Norwegian Project Ylläs-Levi participants.


One month has passed since Robin and I started our training for Project Ylläs-Levi. For those of you who do not know what Ylläs-Levi is, it is one of the eleven ski races in the Visma Ski Classics tour.

This particular race takes place the 14th of April in the Finnish Lapland and is a 67 km long race from Ylläsjärvi to Levi. This is equivalent to 1,5 marathon! So what were my thoughts when I was selected, how was the first meeting with our coach, and how am I progressing?

The nerve wracking Friday

Friday the 1st of December was the official Visma Ski Classics kick-off at the Visma Skøyen headquarter. The Visma Ski Classics vibes were everywhere thanks to the enthusiastic team behind the sponsorship. I was, however, not really able to enjoy it. This was the day of revealing the Project Ylläs-Levi participants.

I had awaited this day with great expectation ever since I handed in my application back in November. As the clock closed in on 2pm, I was almost sure that I had not been chosen, and felt a drag of disappointment.

I was replying to the last couple of emails of the day when my phone rang. To my big surprise, I had been granted a spot in the project! My mood immediately changed from disappointment to excitement. I found myself jumping around in a meeting room all excited about the news – I was ready for the challenge!


Benedikte Friis has trained for one month for Project Ylläs-Levi.

The week before Christmas we had the first meeting with our coach Tom Eirik Thurmur Ombustvedt, an enthusiastic full-time ski instructor at Lyn Ski Club. He has taken on the job of turning us into acceptable cross-country skiers, and his first initiative was an “interview session” to clarify our levels, motivation and expectations of the project. 

I was completely honest with him: I had no other expectations than just being able to finish the race within the time limits. Hit by the fear of putting out a too optimistic statement, I nervously added “what is the time limit by the way?” :-).

It feels good starting the project with an open mind. The fact that I only recently bought my own pair of skis shows that I have quite a job ahead of me. Nevertheless, I am committed to making this as fun as possible. It is not the goal of the race itself which is of most importance, but the tools obtained along the way to be able to reach the goal in the end. In Project Ylläs-Levi, we are given weekly training sessions for 3,5 months alongside a coach and colleagues who motivate you. So, it is important to enjoy the ride!

The first signs of improvement

It is in my nature to approach challenges with a problem solving mindset. First thing up, identify weaknesses. Among others, I found the most threatenings being the lack of cross country skiing technique, core muscles, and maybe not the best cardio level.

For the past year, my primary source of exercise has been yoga, and preferably the restorative you-hardly-move-for-an-hour-classes. The realization that continuing on this path would not bring me from Ylläs to Levi hit me hard, but also motivated me to start sooner than later.

So, one critical success factor for this project will be to turn my weaknesses into strengths. Challenge accepted!

Coach Tom Eirik takes good care of developing my skiing technique. We have worked a lot on “diagonal strides” and recently started to focus on “double poling”. I work on improving my cardio through weekly spinning classes, and strength comes through training sessions either in the gym or in the ski tracks around Oslo, thanks to the generous amount of snow we have been blessed with this first month of the year. The activities are accompanied by amazing colleagues and friends, and so far I enjoy it a lot. I am however aware to not “hit the wall”, so I make sure to take some rest days on the couch too.

In the next blog post I will tell more about how I am progressing and reveal more stories from the preparation for Ylläs-Levi.

Thanks for following the journey!


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