Over the years, I have written extensively about success and what is behind an elite athlete's ability to win. However, these same factors for success also apply outside of the world of sport.
In the video link below, the woman who is singing is deaf. She was a life long singer who at the age of 18 lost her hearing, yet still managed to pursue and achieve her goal of being a singer.
Of her many qualities, she figured out how to overcome a challenge. It is a misnomer to think that the path to winning, to the very top is not covered with roots, shaky suspension bridges, steep terrain, unexpected wildlife and slippery places. So much so that most people see the path to the top and either never start or just make it halfway.
In the case of this singer, she had a monumental challenge. She lost the use of the primary tool for voice and tone regulation. Imagine losing your hearing and still singing. Or imagine walking on a long mountain trail, blind! Yet, she had the courage to stand on a stage and continue singing. Clearly the word impossible is not part of her mindset.
She found a way to continue singing. Great champions always seem to find a way to win, no matter what the challenge they are abel to make it happen.
In a 2017 Denver Post interview, Kirk Dwyer of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, stated that “the key to any sport is having heroes…”. If left alone, this statement has the potential for a debatable message. John Meyer. Denver Post, 3/16/17 http://www.denverpost.com/2017/03/12/ski-club-vail-kids-watch-mikaela-shiffrin-training/
In my research, I found it best to view a superstar as an inspiration instead of a hero. Making a great athlete into a hero immediately puts the young up and coming athlete a step behind. It allows for the mindset that there will always be someone better. Or worse, it creates a desire for the young athlete to copy or want to “be like” their hero.
The best way for a young ski racer to view a superstar like Mikaela Shiffrin is to think: “If she can do it, so can I”. Or “If she can do it, I can do it better”. Let the Shiffrins of the ski racing world show every young budding ski racer what is possible.
Next, while Mikaela has certainly many wonderful qualities to emulate, there is only one Mikaela. People who succeed in life and sport must have their own personality and approach to living and competing. There is that old saying: “A copy is never as good as the original”.
While Mikaela makes skiing look easy, she has put in many years of extraordinary effort to reach the very top. Perhaps the strongest message or messages, for an aspiring ski racer are those which are not so obvious? To start, the very best in sport are extremely dedicated and focused on their goals. Their entire life is organized around doing what it takes to win. They are supremely committed to becoming the very best and will let nothing get in their way.
"My general fitness is for me, because it's health and it makes me feel good." - "Then there's the elite-level fitness that I have to get to so I can compete well, I see that more as a job and it's not enjoyable." Bode Miller, Olympic Gold Medal skier. November 15, 2016. Max Berlinger.
Bode Miller, one of the greatest ski racers of all time understands the difference between fitness for health and training for elite sport. Do you understand the difference? Are you staying fit for basic health, to enjoy weekend sports and activities or to compete? Each of these 3 goals requires a different approach, level of risk and level of intensity. For most of us, training like a competitive athlete is not necessary and most importantly not worth the risk.
At the start of a recent 4 day ski trip out West, I was unsure of how my legs and body would respond to the long non-stop runs and altitude. I also did not ski for the entire 2015/2016 season due to a knee surgery and the lack of snow here in the Northeast. Thus, prior to my trip I put together a modest routine of leg exercises that included machines for strength, single leg, skier knee bends for quad endurance and bike intervals for cardiovascular fitness. I used the pool for core strength, balance and flexibility training.
This modest routine worked perfectly. I had no muscle soreness. A full day of skiing meant taking a mid-morning fluid break, a relaxing hour lunch and skiing until the lifts closed. It mean skiing very aggressively on some runs and crusising down other runs. A full day of skiing meant enjoying every aspect of skiing on a big mountain, from the varied terrain to the views.
Knowing your goals and what you want out of a health and fitness routine is very important to the success of the program. Further, if you are preparing for a week of free skiing or some other sport or competition, knowing your ability is critical to a successful preparation. As a long time skier, I enjoy long, fast and groomed runs, so I adjusted my preparation accordingly. My intervals and strength routines were timed and created to support this type of skiing.
In conclusion, never at any time while preparing for this trip did I do an exerise that had a high risk for injury. My goal was to prepare so that I could have fun and enjoy my time skiing.
I have known Bill Rodgers for the last 12 years. He is a member of my health club and a regular participant in the Swymfit® deep water, movement based exercise program as well as lap swimming. When Bill and I first met, he was recovering from a leg injury and was working to overcome a gait imbalance. The deep water program I developed helped him to recover from this injury, improve his gait and continue running.
Bill has always been a proponent of cross training and adjusting his fitness program as he ages. However, what is the definition of cross traning and how does water exercise help runners?
As I hear the phrase "cross training", it suggests an exercise program that is secondary or an adjunct to the required training program. For example, in Bill's case as with other runners that I have known and trained, swimming laps would be a "cross training" routine for aerobic fitness. Whereas, a properly designed deep water running routine is sport specific exercise for runners and should be built in to every runner's training program.
In the water, a runner is constantly working against resistance to improve total body strength, hip flexor strength, arm/shoulder and core strength. Better hip flexor strength increases thigh lifting capacity, stronger arms allow for a faster and more consistent arm swing which translate into better leg turnover, longer strides and ultimately improved running speed and performance. Core strength improves running effieicency, enabling the arms and legs to focus on propeling the body forward with speed and power.
A Swymfit® deep water exercie training program will put less stress on your joints, help you to recover faster while also improving your running fitness, range of motion and flexibility.
Looking back on his career, Miller spoke to Hicks about how he wanted to be remembered. "I hope people see truth when I ski," said Miller. "I don't have an agenda when I'm out there. I don't try to cover things up or look cool. Skiing is such a raw sport and people pick out what they want to see.
"That would be something I would hope would stand out - the honesty of my skiing."
"I truly believe that pressure is what you make it," Shiffrin said after coming from behind to win the slalom. "And if you work hard enough and you prepare well enough, no matter how much pressure you feel, you can still perform."
Quote taken from ESPN W. Feb 21, 2015. Mikaela Shiffrin talking about her gold medal in the World Championships in Beaver Creek Colorado.
"I try to win as many races as I can. Every time I'm in the starting gate I'm trying to win, whether it's 60, 61, 62 or whatever it is, I just try to ski my best. So it was more frustrating just talking about this record in the media. But for me mentally it was the same as any other race. Now I'm happy we can stop talking about it."
Lindsey Vonn, as quoted on the FIS-Ski.com website, January 18th, 2015