What is a Biathlon? Indoor Biathlon with SkiErg | Concept2

What is Biathlon?

The nordic sport of Biathlon is a combination of fast-paced Nordic skiing and accurate target-shooting. Either one by itself is challenging enough—put them together and it almost seems impossible. Visualize yourself finishing a tough, hilly 2–3k lap of skiing, coming into the shooting range with heart and lungs working, and having to steady yourself enough to hit five targets at a distance of 50 meters! It’s a terrific sport!

Although Biathlon is not a common pastime in the U.S., it is hugely popular in Europe. It’s not uncommon to have over 25,000 fans present at a World championship event, and it’s sure to be televised and viewed by additional millions throughout Europe as well. The combination of two different events—skiing and shooting—adds to the unpredictability of the race outcome and therefore the excitement, suspense, speculation and potential for surprise!

Biathletes at the international level are amazingly consistent, accurate and fast—but they can still have bad days, while less consistent biathletes can have some very good days. In addition, the outcome of a race can change in less than a minute of shooting: each miss requires a penalty lap to be skied (or in the Individual event, a stiff time assessment), which can instantly shift competitors’ standings. Clean shooting can rapidly propel an athlete toward the front of the pack, while misses have the opposite effect. Some of the most consistent high performers are those who shoot well and also ski fast enough that even if they miss a few shots, they can still stay near the top.

Training for Biathlon ends up being a fairly time-consuming venture. Biathletes need to invest the same significant number of hours as regular Nordic skiers into physical training, and they also have to spend a lot of time shooting. A certain number of workouts are done as “combos” of shooting and hard physical effort; other times the shooting is done as “slowfire” where the focus is shooting position and technique, leaving the hard physical exertion to a separate workout.

Once you’ve tried biathlon, it tends to keep you coming back. There’s an irresistible urge to try again, and again, always hoping that you’ll hit more targets the next time.

Bringing It Indoors for Fun
Luckily, the fun and challenge of biathlon doesn’t require rifles and a shooting range. You can get a feel for the sport and reap its benefits using any aerobic exercise and a variety of “target” games—all of which can be done indoors. The SkiErg offers the closest simulation of skiing; but you can also use rowing, or other aerobic activity. For the shooting portion you can substitute a bean bag toss, throwing a ball through a hanging ring, shooting hoops, a laser gun—or for warm days a squirt gun! For the penalty, you can use a penalty lap of additional skiing—or any other challenge you like, such as pushups or pullups.

Biathlon on the Performance Monitor
The Performance Monitor stores interval time, range time and total elapsed time for all workouts. The biathlon function on the monitor allow you to ski intervals alternating with target shooting.

The Biathlon function allows you to:

  • choose the number of intervals you want (from 2 to 15)
  • choose the interval length
  • choose your penalty lap distance (from 50m to 250m in 50m increments) or choose no penalty

Note: If no penalty distance is selected, you will simply have an undefined rest time of up to 10 minutes between your intervals. You can use this for another form of “penalty” if you wish, such as pushups or whatever you need to practice the most!

Suggested Workouts Using Undefined Rest/Biathlon
First, decide what you will use for the target/accuracy aspect of this workout. In real biathlon, you shoot at five targets at a distance of 50 meters and you face a penalty for each one you miss.
Here are a few suggestions:

  • Toss five bean bags or balls at a bucket or box.
  • Set up five plastic bottles and “bowl” at them with a soft ball.
  • If you have a dart board or a basketball hoop near your erg, take five throws.

Second, set up your intervals. Real biathlon races consist of either 3 intervals with 2 shooting stages; or 5 intervals with 4 shooting stages. We suggest that you try five intervals, so you get to “shoot” four times. Here’s how to set up your PM:

  1. On the Main Menu, choose Select Workout > New Workout > Special > Biathlon.
  2. The screen will display the default setting of 500m distance and 3 intervals. Leave the 500m (or use the +/- button to change the distance if you prefer).
  3. Press the right arrow until “Number of intervals” is blinking on the screen. Use the + button to increase to 5 intervals.
  4. Press the right arrow until “Optional Penalty” is displayed, then use the + button to choose the penalty distance. We suggest 100 meters.
  5. Press the checkbox to complete your set-up. You are now ready to begin your biathlon workout.


  • Only PM3s running PM3 Firmware Version 303 or higher include Biathlon.
  • On PM3s and PM4s, the menu path for setting up a Biathlon starts at the Main Menu and is Games > More Games > Biathlon.
  • The SkiErg is more authentic for biathlon, but rowing is fine, too!

Ski (or row) until the monitor prompts you to stop. This is when you “shoot.” After shooting, return to the PM and press the button for the number of penalties you incurred (the number of “shots” you missed. Then select Continue and resume skiing. Repeat until you have shot 4 times and completed all 5 intervals of skiing. Record your time, so you can try to beat it the next time!

Read more details about the Biathlon setting on the Performance Monitor.

Following Biathlon around the World
If you’re interested in following international Biathlon, a good place to start is the website of the International Biathlon Union (IBU): www.biathlonworld.com. Here you’ll find stories, videos, race schedules—and once competition begins in November—live results!