This season will be my 20th on the US Ski Team and I have made a lot of mistakes along the way but I have also figured out a lot. I like to think you are only as strong as your weakest link. I like to look at several different pillars; work, recovery, diet, and rest. There are a lot of people on the team who work hard, but do they recover hard, eat hard, rest hard? If you neglect any of these pillars you will break at some point. Below I want to share 5 different things that have helped me have such a long and successful career and help me push the levels of those pillars higher and hopefully, they help you as well!
Hydration is such a key piece of longevity and health in general. Most of the water we currently drink out of the tap is treated with chemicals that not only are bad for you but they dehydrate you. My rules to water are simple: simple filtration is a must. A $35 Brita water filter you put on your sink tap is a good first move. If you want to get super fancy you can get an alkalizing machine. These machines are really high-end filters that also alkalize (raises the ph) your water through an electrolysis process. I personally use a Kangen water machine. It is basically like drinking a lot of antioxidants in a glass of water and it really cleanses your body. After you have your good water, the next step is adding electrolytes depending on your activity. There are a lot of good companies out there but I look for magnesium content in my drink mix. Magnesium is key for muscle communication and recovery, it also aids in your sleep. CLIF, Skratch Nuun, and LMNT make some great electrolyte drink mixes.
Rest/Sleep is not to be overlooked. You spend 1/3 of your life in bed, you might as well be comfortable and promote regeneration as best you can. Fortunately, I have a great ability to sleep when given the opportunity. But it took me a while to figure out what helps me truly rest. Luckily these things are super simple. A few key points are eliminating noise, light and making sure your temperature is correct. I sleep with earplugs This may feel funny and uncomfortable at first but I can’t sleep without them now. Find the right kind that feels the best in your ears. You can use inner ear foam ones or a wax form that sits outside your ear. When it comes to light I like to make the room as dark as possible through some black-out shades. If you’re buying shades I don’t understand why you would get anything else, but if you’re on the move and can’t control your environment I would use a face mask. I really hated wearing them and found them annoying until I tried this one called the Mind Fold it's only $12 and it is a foam that sits around your eyes but not over your eyeball area, there is nothing touching your eyes so it doesn’t irritate and it has a dark cover so when you’re eyes are open it is pitch black. I also sleep on a grounding mat. This is more holistic, but I think I truly sleep deeper with it. The theory is the earth has a frequency that is healing and helps reduce inflammation, but we are always disconnected from the earth through cars, shoes, homes… so why not connect to it while you sleep. You can purchase a simple mat that you sleep on and plug into the grounding portion of your outlet and it connects you to the earth's frequency all night long. If you don’t have a grounding mat make sure to go outside barefoot for 30+ minutes a day. It apparently helps with jet lag as well. And finally the mattress. If you’re sleeping on something that is hindering your sleep then get rid of it! Invest in yourself and get something that works for you. I personally don’t like memory foam mattresses as I get too hot. I like a firm mattress made of the cleanest materials possible. I like a classic spring/air mattress as I feel my body can breathe better and they tend to be cheaper!
You are what you eat! So simply eat organic and GMO-free whenever possible! Another rule I tend to follow is eating according to the rainbow; which means eat all kinds of colors of food. The wider array of colors will mean you are getting a wider range of minerals and nutrients. Chew your food! This will allow your body to digest and absorb your food easier and better. Then if you want to get into the nitty-gritty we can talk about the timeliness of eating. I like taking collagen and vitamin C before my workouts so it is in my system while I am working out. The theory is that the greatest blood flow to your muscles and low blood flow areas is during your workouts. So by having the substances in your bloodstream during the workout will provide your body with what it needs for regeneration. Then 30 min post-workout is the time when your cells are most open to absorbing the minerals and nutrients it needs for regeneration. So have a good protein shake with all kinds of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in it ready for consumption directly after your workout. I also like taking my supplements directly after my first workout because of the absorption rate being higher. I think a good multivitamin is a key element for everyone. Find one that works for you. I personally like USANA and Thorne products.
There are all kinds of ways you can work out, I think what and how you should do it depends on your lifestyle, goals, and current shape. What's hot right now are HIIT and CrossFit-style workouts. If you only have an hour to hammer a workout out then I recommend this style. It is basically circuit training, keeping your heart rate high and stressing your body through loads (weights). For the people who don’t have much time I also recommend running. It is a great cross ambulatory activity, meaning it keeps the heart rate up and it's what we are made to do as humans. You don’t need to go out and be fast, but I do stress learning to run properly and wearing the right shoes. If you have joint issues then biking and swimming are great. They are low-impact activities that will get your heart rate up and give you a good workout. If you have enough time to get in multiple workouts and can really focus on the details I would look at getting a good coach, setting and expressing your goals with them, and getting to work! I am also a big believer in the core. It is the center of our strength and helps link everything together. When I think about core I try and think about all aspects from upper to lower abs, obliques, upper mid, and lower back. Creating a balance around the entire core is key especially for skiing.
Through all my years on the ski team, I have used a lot of different tools and techniques to get my body to the place it needs to be to compete on the world's stage. I have suffered a lot of major injuries (Torn both Achilles, broken both legs, torn both knees to name a few) and have come back from all of them thanks to the help of a lot of therapists, chiropractors, and doctors. Here are a few of the most effective techniques that have helped me. AMIT-Advance Muscle Integration Technique is the most powerful technique I have found. Dr. Craig Buhler helped develop this technique. He can isolate each muscle in the body through certain ranges of motion and determine if they are “active” or not and if they are the right muscle to “activate or turn on”. Through several points (muscle organ, insertion, organ reflex points, acupuncture, lymphatic and cranial points) on our bodies, the Dr. will stimulate the muscle in conjunction with the other points and basically remind the body it is there and how to use it. It is incredible and I always leave there feeling better than when I arrived. It also holds and lasts. When I am done the Dr. urges me to go out and push my body and see if it breaks down. I like how he tells me to go and test it because most practitioners tell you to rest. He wants you to stress your body and see if it holds. If it holds then you know you’re on the right track. If the muscles don’t hold then you know to dig deeper for the true issue within your body. Dr. Buhler is located in Utah and has a small network of people around the nation, so this technique isn’t available to everyone. A good starting point is working with a good PT (Physical Therapist) to help bring some balance to your body. Once again stating your goals to the PT is so much more effective than just going in there and expecting them to fix you. You are your best judge of what's right and wrong. For regeneration and healing response I think stem cell treatments are going to some interesting and effective places. For stem cells, I use the Steadman/Philippon clinic in Vail. They have worked wonders in getting me back to fighting form. Stem cell treatments can be quite expensive so prolotherapy or prolozone therapy is a lot cheaper way to create a healing response.
BRING IT ALL TOGETHER
I hope some of the information I have provided can help you become a better version of yourself. The body is a complex balance of several different systems, but what attracts me most is the relationship between the muscles and organs within the body. Gaining an understanding of what substances you put in your body maximize your abilities (I react poorly to mushrooms, quinoa, and walnuts) is going to help you greatly in this process. Be aware of what you are putting in your body and how your body feels after eating it. Be aware of how you sleep at night after you eat certain things and or what time you eat things. Be your own test dummy and gain a true understanding of yourself.