How do winter athletes train?
From flying through the air on a pair of skis to sliding down an ice track at 90 mph (144 km/h), it’s hard not to be in awe of the impressive displays of athleticism on show at the winter games. So, in order to truly appreciate the amount of work that goes into preparing for the prestigious competition, we’re taking a look at how these athletes actually train. It’ll go as no surprise that it can be quite the challenge, especially in the summer months when there’s little to no snow around at all. We’ll see how it’s all about getting creative, adapting to different environments and staying focused no matter what — a mindset that can inspire and motivate us to achieve our own training goals.
VIRTUAL REALITY, ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL
If you’ve ever heard of, or been lucky enough to try out virtual reality, this should sound familiar to you. SkyTechSport, a company based in L.A. and Munich, have been producing motion tracking ski and snowboard simulators for 15 years now. It’s the perfect summer training ground for downhill or slalom racers. The concept is simple: riders are strapped into their skis or snowboard in front of an expansive 4K screen displaying a glistening white alpine slope. The machine stimulates physical forces that match the sensation of skiing or snowboarding (including G-force!) and allows the rider to choose which ski resort they want to train in as well as the conditions of the mountain. It’s just like the real deal. Plus, you’ll never risk an injury on this machine, which is always a bonus when you’re about to compete for the biggest prize in winter sports.
A SLIP N’ SLIDE TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
Todd Lodwick is a World Champion Nordic combined skier, a sport that combines cross-country skiing and ski-jumping. In the summer, he ski jumps on a plastic ramp that is kept wet with sprinklers for fast sliding. The runway is about as tall as 64 stories, which he and his teammates slide down in about 20 seconds and go flying through the air for what seems like forever (to us, at least). It’s not for the faint hearted, but a perfect example of ingenuity and dedication to your sport. You can channel your inner Todd Lodwick by setting up your own home gym from our selection of sports accessories. Or, if you haven’t got the space, check out our equipment-free home workout guide on Instagram. There’s always a way to keep moving!
FUN IN THE POOL
Aerial skiing is a winter sport where athletes jump 55-60 feet in the air and perform all kinds of gymnastic flips and twists. Somehow, they land back on two skis. Although it’s perhaps one of the most impressive events at the winter games, riders do most of their training in the summer. How? Well, instead of landing on snow, they land into pools. Again, there’s much less chance of injury when trying new tricks, but it takes a whole lot of confidence and courage to make the transition from the safety of the pool to the snow. If we can learn anything from this, it’s that to get to the next level, you’ll need to take risks. So, if you want to go that extra mile, break those personal bests or push yourself to try something new, just go for it.
While the help of innovative equipment and savvy technology can be a lifesaver in the hot summer months, it is often an athlete’s unique pre-game routines, mantras and rituals that can make or break their performance.
Mantras and lucky charms
Alpine skier, Mikaela Shriffin, has her own winning affirmation stamped on her helmet —A.B.F.T.T.B (“always be faster than the boys”). In an interview with the U.S & World Report News, she states the importance of maximising thought, feeling and action in sports, despite the audience only seeing the latter. Her simple way of doing that is writing down her mantra somewhere physical so she can take it with her in action, like her helmet and skis, while reciting it in her head.
Alternatively, Karen Chen, an American figure skater, always wears a jade rabbit necklace, which was gifted to her by her mother. For Todd Lodwick, it’s all about his lucky socks (even during training). Sometimes, lucky charms and little mantra can make athletes feel that extra boost of confidence and security in their movements.
Nathan Chen (no relation to Karen Chen), a three-time World Champion figure skater and bronze medallist at the 2018 winter games, calms his performance anxiety by putting his left skate on before his right. Then, he ties the left skate, then the right, in that exact order. It might not sound like much, but focusing on shorter, simpler tasks can prime an athlete to be the perfect amount of calm, sharp and energised before performing. It’s like telling yourself, “I’ve got to just do this one last thing, and then I’m good to go.”
Research has shown that listening to the right curation of calm and up-beat music ahead of competitions can also have a similar effect.
Recovery with ice baths, power naps and deep sleep
A key part of training is, of course, recovery. It’s super important for any athlete, but their preferred methods of post-training recouperation often differ. As if they can’t get enough of the cold already, some winter athletes claim that ice baths help their bodies recover stronger than ever (you can find out more about cold water therapy here). Others prefer sports nutrition, stretching, or mixture of all three. What most athletes do have in common, though, is emphasising the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep. Mirai Nagasu, a Japanese-American figure skater and a two-time World Champion, apparently loves taking hardcore naps before a performance to feel well-rested and energised.
Do you have a mantra, sporting superstition or ritual of your own? We’d love to see how you put it into action on our socials. Tag us @bodyandfit_official!
THE POINT IS…
Although most of us reading this probably won’t be competing in the winter games any time soon, there’s a lot to learn from the athletes that will be, whether you’re inspired to work around environmental obstacles or incorporate a ritual into your pre-game routine. No matter what your goal is, training is a great way boost your confidence, calm your nerves, and help build up a strong fitness mentality. If you’re looking for an extra boost along the way, we have a range of leading protein powders to support the maintenance of muscles as well as top quality pre-workouts, BCAAs and isotonic drinks. Time to enjoy the winter games and strive for those gold medal-winning performances in your own health & fitness journey!