The top five things you can learn from athletes

By Jonathan Pope

Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of training some of athletes from the Vail and Winter Park ski team. During that time I’ve learned a lot from them, whether they know it or not, and I wanted to share my insights. Based on my experiences I’ve compiled a list of the top five things you can learn from their training.

1 – Build a foundation

Building a foundation is definitely not “sexy” training. A majority of our training is spent correcting imbalances caused by the repetitive motions involved in their sport. A season full of anaerobic training also means that we need to spend some time re-building their aerobic foundation. And finally, we focus on building strength.

Take away:

Move well – Movement = ability to display your physical potential

Get aerobic – Aerobic metabolism = engine of recovery, work capacity, and all energy production

Get strong – The stronger you are relative to your weight the easier everything gets and the greater your potential to produce, absorb, and redirect the forces necessary to excel at your sport

2 – Spend your time perfecting the basics

The majority of our skiers training time is spent perfecting the basics. They don’t do super secret complex plyometric routines with thousands of jumps on bosu balls or doing squats while balancing on a fit ball. We do none of that nonsense, and very little advanced plyometric work in general. Most people make the mistake of using high level exercises or routines when they are a beginner, at best. Advanced jump training for someone with a 20 inch vertical is a joke.

Our skiers, who are great athletes and come to us in phenomenal shape, spend a majority of their summer and fall rebuilding and growing their foundation so they can put more work in on the hill in the winter.

Building a larger foundation allows our skiers to ski for longer, recover faster, and get more out of their sport training.

Take away: Focus on the basics – If you can’t balance on one leg standing still you probably shouldn’t be worried about jumping all over the place on one leg

3 – Be consistent and value quality over intensity

Your brain is always learning and adapting. If you train with poor movement or inconsistently you will perform inconsistently because you will move the way you train when in matters most. Quality and consistency are the keys to the long-term development of any skill and skiing is no different. These girls are always in the gym the day after getting back into town, or find a way to squeeze in workouts despite a busy school and sport training schedule. They find a way to be consistent because they know that habit and practice trumps any effort to make up for lost time.

Take away: You can’t make up for a lack of consistency with intensity

After an 8 month ski season Kelly hits the gym hard for a few months every summer before heading right back up to the mountain. Years of commitment have made her one of the most physically fit and intense clients we've ever had. Don't sell yourself short. Dreams are realized over night

You don’t learn how to do single leg squats like this overnight – years of consistent work, focusing on the basics produces amazing results

4 – See work in the gym as a means to an end / Find a way to enjoy the process

Do any of our skiing athletes love training? Nope.

Surprised? They don’t love training; they love skiing, climbing, mountain biking, and other real sports. Just like most people they would rather be doing one of those things but they see training as a means to getting more out of those activities and can focus on the end result instead of the momentary discomfort.

Take away: Find something meaningful that gives you a purpose for training

5 – Have fun

Everyday training sessions with the skiers are filled with jokes and laughter. They work as hard, if not harder, than any of my other clients (current or former) and have smiles on their faces the entire time. They turn every part of the session into small games and challenges, finding ways to engage in what would normally be boring or tedious work.

Take away: Training isn’t entertainment. If you don’t learn to enjoy the process you won’t ever stick with it in the long run