Northug mental training tips to perform better

Petter Northug had a unique ability to draw deep from the well mentally when it mattered most. On the Skisporet podcast, the skiing star reveals how he managed to win gold after gold in championships through good mental preparation.

Listen to the full episode of Petter Northug and Petter Skinstad on Spotify or Apple Podcast.

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Petter Northug has an extrtaordinary winner's mentality. He has World Cup gold 13 times and is a two-time Olympic champion. These figures say it all about how the Trøndelag ski king managed to perform on the largest stages.

What was it actually going on inside Northug’s head when it was time to go for the gold in championships?
On the Skisporet podcast he is asked how he always managed to dig deepest mentally to be the first across the finish line.

Further reading: Linn Svahn talks about the injury nightmare on Skisporet


Visiting Swix: Petter Northug and Petter Skinstad will be guests on the Skisporet podcast in connection with a visit to the Swix office in Lillehammer.

Had already done the race in his head

- How did you always dig deepest mentally when it was most crucial?

"It’s about mental preparation. During the spring, summer and fall, in my mind I was always on the ski slopes that awaited me in the winter," says Petter Northug. 

See Northug explaining mental preparation:

He recalls a particular situation when he had envisioned the race beforehand.

"At the end of the Femmila in Holmenkollen, I was very tired, but I had been there so many times mentally that I knew in advance how painful it would be. Those who want the most pain win.

Further reading: Choosing the right ski poles

Petter Northug, of course, won the mentioned Femmmila World Cup on his home turf in 2011 after an amazing finish.


Gold: Petter Northug won three World Cup gold medals on his home turf. Photo credit: Geir Olsen.

Northug’s tips for recreational skiers

Perhaps you’ve played that you’ve were Petter Northug in your own head when you’ve been out skiing? In this case, it is on the right track of what the ski king himself used as mental techniques in his career. He believes that many recreational skiers can learn from what he did – even if their skiing might not be at the World Cup level.

"I think that for recreational skiers doing mental exercise while you’re out training, for example, when you’re poling, that you put yourself into the situations that you encounter in a ski race.

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"Often when you meet resistance and are in pain, you start breaking instead of chasing.


Experts: Petter Skinstad and Petter Northug are TV 2 colleagues and good friends socially. On the Skisporet podcast, they share two stories from a long career together.

Fired up by a Swedish rival

Petter Skinstad trained with Petter Northug as he entered the legendary Falun World Championship in 2015, where the Trøndelag native won five World Cup gold medals. He recognises himself in what the ski legend from Meråker says.

"I remember a training interval we had, where before my last go, Petter looked at himself, looked me straight in the eye and said: 'You’re Calle Halfvarsson!' He went behind me almost all of the last go, but at the end Petter explodes and crushes me completely. A few months later, he does the same in the World Cup relay race in Falun. "I was Calle Halfvarsson," says Petter Skinstad enthusiastically in the podcast.

New ski poles? See the Swix line of ski poles

For those who don't remember the 2015 World Cup Relay: Petter Northug and Calle Halfvarsson came into the stadium in Falun at the same time, but Northug exploded on the last uphill slope and crushed the Swede up the uphill. 

Petter Skinstad and Petter Northug have been through a lot together. Below you can hear the hilarious story that makes Northug laugh so hard, he cries:

"Practice what opposes you"

Petter Northug admits that situations like this were important to him.

"That’s exactly what Skinstad talks about here as a mental state in training, and I loved it. That was my game," says Northug. 

"These are some fitness buffs can also use. Go over different situations in your mind and train for what you might find at the end of Marcialonga, Birken or Vasaloppet," says Petter Northug in the Skisporet podcast.

You can watch the full episode with Petter Northug and Petter Skinstad on YouTube: