When you spend a full week with 4 professional skiers - Will Asher, Kris LaPoint, Gordon Rathbun and Todd Ristorcelli - it’s pretty easy to pick up on some of their habits and routines when they are practicing. It’s important to note that there is nothing magical about what each skier does before a set. There weren’t any special acai potions, mystic chants or special “eye of the tiger” music (though Todd seemed pretty impressed with the flowers on his board shorts).
However, there were a few things present that I think we can all take back to our own starting dock. You’ve probably already heard it before, but it bears repeating as the season approaching, so here we go...
1 - Always warm up. This was by far the biggest difference between the pros and joes.
I used to never stretch before I ran. I was the type to jump out of the car or locker room and hit the trail or track and just go without a second thought. Then I hurt my hip flexors training for a marathon and the solution prescribed by the PT was rest and stretching.
There is a school of thought in exercise physiology that stretching is next to worthless. The line of reasoning goes something like this, “Lions don’t warm-up and stretch before they chase down their prey” or “Studies have shown that stretching does not help an athlete prevent injury.”
Ok, whatever. I just know from my experience in 2010 when I was stretching everyday and doing yoga 1 - 2x a week (p90x), I was deep into 28off. Further, pretty much every skier I know (save for a few college kids) who skis 35off or beyond stretches before they ski.
Now I stretch before every run. If I don’t have time - I shorten the run, not the stretch.Will and Kris were partial to foam rollers, stretching out their hips, lower back and hamstrings. Todd preferred resistant flex bands that allowed him to perform plyometric type moves. Gordon and Dave Miller seem prefer more traditional calisthenic type stretches.
2 - Limit your set to 6 passes. You know how it goes, 6 passes turns into 8, 10 or more when you’re trying to “work on something.” In reality, we’re really just working on bad habits.
The only time I ever saw one of the 4 take more than 6 passes was when Will or Kris were actively tweaking their fin and/or binding setup between passes. Will and Todd would routinely ski 4 - 5 passes (32, 35, 38, 39, done), almost as if they were in a tournament.
3 - No wait times between passes. Pretty much each skier would sit back in the water, say one or two quick things to their coach, tighten and go. No “rest”. They don’t need it. They are not using skiing to get into shape. They already are in shape.
I can tell you from experience that if you are used to a 1 - 2 minute (or longer) wait time between passes that you’re going to struggle in a tournament. Typically, the longest wait time is 60 seconds - and that is with the rope tight ready to go. A more conventional time is 45 seconds, but I was caught off guard at one tournament when we had only 30 seconds.
4 - Have a short memory. There was was particular set that Will skied when I was in the boat (not filming) and he was not happy with the results. He and Kris were “throwing darts” with various settings on their prototype skis and this setup did not appear to be working for Will.
I knew it, Kris knew it and a couple of people on the dock knew it when Will jumped out, ran to to the bench and tweaked his ski while still wearing his wet life vest. He then jumps back in the boat and runs a 35 and a 38 and then calls it quits where back at the dock it seems like nothing happened.
The point is, Will didn’t let a bad pass or set ruin his confidence, mood or outlook on the day. I’m guilty of this all the time. Will is very analytical and took the steps he knew to take for a better outcome. For him that meant a tweak on the ski, for us that might mean getting out the water.
In either case, have a short memory and keep your focus on having fun and the fundamentals.
5 - Lose your belly fat. Sorry, but there’s no easy way to say it. Each of these skiers had a high strength to weight ratio, high core strength and a trim waist. I’m sure there’s a relationship to that and their ability to get their hips to the handle.