Off-season training tips from the Road to the Olympics
Come this time of year, people often ask me what I do to fill my time in the summer. And it always makes me smile, because I realize how foreign my world of professional skiing must be to most people. While I travel less and have a little more leisure time during the summer, professional skiing is a year-round job, and the summer months are no exception. With the change in seasons comes a change in my approach, shifting to building strength and health in the off-season. That way, when the big events roll around mid-winter, I still have the edge I need.
I've found, however, that there are often misconceptions about becoming proficient in a specific sport. It's often assumed that proficiency comes from continuously participating in that sport. But while this logic rings somewhat true, it has limits. The human body innately strives toward efficiency. As such, your body will train your muscles and nervous system to meet the demands you place on it, but not exceed those demands. That's why I think it is important to have a multi-faceted approach to training. You can't predict how your body is going to be tested during the winter, but you can strengthen and prepare your body to meet the demands.
So this month I'm sharing some of my favorite off-season training tips.
Slackline is a must-try for everyone, competitive skier or not. Among the benefits, it helps improve balance and builds core strength. Not to mention, you can use a slackline just about anywhere. When you're first starting out, set the line low to the ground, anywhere from 8-12 inches off the ground, and consider using ski poles to help your balance. You'll probably notice when you first step on how wobbly your legs feel. This is normal. That wobbly feeling you may experience at first is an indication of undertrained and underused stability muscles. That'll change the more you use it. While most people focus on the primary muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves), stability is just as important, and one of the biggest benefits. (Buy a slackline at Slacklineindustries.com or Amazon.com.)
Not every workout needs to be done in the gym. You'd be amazed how strong you can get without a massive dumbbell or barbell. When the sun is out, I love to do outdoor workouts that combine jogging with a variety of other exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, crunches, squats, jumps, and planks. Bodyweight workouts are a good way to get strong without bulking up too much.
I first got into mountain biking after my first knee surgery, and I cant believe it took me so long to discover it. The perk of mountain biking is that it's a natural form of "interval training," an often used buzzword in the fitness industry. The ups, downs and variation in steepness are perfect aerobic preparation for skiing and snowboarding, while it also sharpens your balance and coordination. Plus, it is one of the most fun things to do in the summer. Bonus points that Lake Tahoe is home to first-class mountain biking trails, while Northstar has its own downhill bike park.
Box and stair jumps
Nothing puts a good healthy demand on your body like jumping. If you have access to a gym with plyo boxes, then that's ideal, but if not, then stairs work great too. In short, higher jumps with lower repetitions builds strength, while lower jumps with higher repetitions builds stamina. I recommend a combination of the two. Start out by doing a set of 20 lower height jumps, followed by a short rest period, and then a set of 10 medium jumps, rest, and finish with 5 maximum height jumps. Repeat this three times and you've done a quick and simple plyo workout.
These are what my trainer and I call precision box jumps. What I do is all about precision, but when I'm not precise on a drill that definitely requires precision, bad things happen. Check out my Facebook page or the link in my profile for a full edit. Also check out rawactionsports.com for more badass workouts. Tag someone you know who tends to land on their head.
This off-season training habit is one that I was reluctant to try, but has been very helpful for addressing back and neck pain. On top of my other training, I struggle to find the time to go to a gym and do a traditional yoga class. However, the digital age has made it much easier. A number of apps and online yoga videos are available to help you increase flexibility in the areas that you want. As with many of my other tips, it's important to find a balance between power and flexibility. Practicing yoga the last couple years has increased my flexibility, while likely saving me from a few injuries.