The road to pro-skierdom is a road seldom traveled for a few obvious reasons: excruciating amounts of physical training and practice, an unyielding level of mental toughness and, of course, you need that little bit of raw God-given talent. With the level of competition on the rise, professional skiers are facing serious pressure; the fight to remain in the top-tier is increasingly difficult.
You see them at events, you see them in the movies, and you see them in the magazines, but what you don’t see is how hard these athletes are working behind the scenes to stay on top of their game. Fitness and mental training become all the more important to retain status and respect. We’re checking in with some of the biggest names in the sport to see how they train in the off-season. For those of you aspiring athletes out there, you’d better bust out your pen and take some notes.
In this latest installation, we check in with big-mountain ripper Rachael Burks.
FS: Tell us about your diet.
RB: I eat what I want. I’m active and feel like as long as I’m moving and recreating one of the perks is eating how I please. However I do believe in vitamins and moderation. And I love kale, broccoli and carrots.
FS: How does training benefit you as a skier?
RB: Wow, big question there. I believe that the absolute most important part of getting ready for a ski season is balancing your body strength. For example, for every single squat that you do to get ready for skiing, you need to do three times as many hamstring exercises. You need to be smart about anticipating certain muscle that you will automatically develop in your first few weeks back of skiing every day and then you need to think of the parts of your body that counter those muscles.
You need to strengthen muscles that you don’t automatically use in skiing. I believe that having a flexible and well-balanced body is what will prevent you from injury as much as possible. Train smart. Don’t go after the things that come naturally with skiing every day, attack and strengthen the other muscles, especially your core. Then, stretch. Yoga. Why not? Yoga is beneficial (I believe) because it gets blood flow to heal, loosen and strengthen joints.
In terms of the mental training that you can do before a season, I think mountain biking is great for mental ski training. Funny, but I learn more about skiing every time I progress on my mountain bike. It psyches me out and scares me, but then I feel like I overcome mental jitters when I’m constantly playing with speed, “jumps” (I do not go big on a bike, I am not claiming anything), and throwing my weight around.
FS: What’s your favorite exercise?
RB: I think that you can do all sorts of fun things while balancing. Adding things that force me to use balance in a simple or difficult workout makes things more challenging and way more fun. For example turn a BOSU ball upside-down and balance on one leg in the middle of the flat part with a weight in your opposite hand and reach with the weight down to touch your toes 25 times.
Even if you’re standing on solid ground it’s difficult on your hammies, add balance and it becomes a totally different beast. Or begin in pushup position, but put your legs on a fitness ball and then taking one foot off at a time and kick it as far as you can to your opposite hand then put it back on the ball and trade legs all while maintaining balance in your core with the fitness ball.
FS: Do you have a favorite place to work out?
RB: [Outside] Mountain biking.
FS: Do you have any favorite workout tunes?
RB: Too many to chose from, but a classic is Phil Collins, In the Air Tonight. However my new stoke up song is quite possibly this new LMFAO Shufflin’ song because it makes me want to learn the shuffle in my room like Napoleon Dynamite, which feels like a workout every time [Laughs].
FS: Is there any special gear you use to workout?
RB: Without a doubt Peak Performance makes the best workout stuff out there (you can get some of it on backcountry.com) It’s amazing; super soft, flattering, and comfortable, it’s made by people that workout. You don’t always look great when you’re pushing it to the max, so you don’t want things riding up, hanging out, wedging, or showing unflattering sweat lines, and you especially don’t want to be conscious every minute about your workout clothes, you need to focus on the workout, not adjusting a top or a drawstring.
Peak Performance gets this. Plus, I wash it after every use and stuff that I’ve had for three years, literally. It looks exactly the way it did when I wore it for the first time. The stuff is amazing [Laughs]. Should I do an info-mercial for them?