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Coaches Corner: Winter Olympics Fitness Tips

Elite athletes are not always born great, often they are “made”. There are countless athletes out there who are strong, agile, fit, healthy, skilled, kinesthetically aware, confident, optimistic, and so on and so forth. What separates someone who is born into an everyday athlete from someone who is made into an Olympian? A passion, a purpose, and a plan.

Seppe Smits, a 22 year old from Belgium, had a dream of being the first Belgian to ever snowboard in the Winter Olympic Games. Growing up, Smits had always had a passion for adventure, but he never quite found something that could completely satisfy his craving until he went snowboarding on a vacation to the mountains. Coming from a country with no mountains, the only way Smits could practice his snowboarding at home was at an indoor ski dome one hour from his house; which he went to at least three times a week. If Smits wanted to actually snowboard on a mountain, it was a 20 hour road trip for him and his mother. One evening, Smits was practicing a back flip and ended up landing on his shoulder, causing his collar bone to break. Instead of giving up, he used that 4-5 month recovery period watching countless videos of elite snowboarders, over and over again, to better understand the mechanics of the sport. In 2012, Smits competed in his first Big Air competition, and won. This year, 2014, at the Sochi, Russia Olympic Games, Smits will be making history as Belgian’s very first Olympic Snowboarder.

There are perhaps thousands of things that go into making an Olympic athlete. But when all of those things are broken down and simplified, they become a passion, a purpose, and a plan. The idea sounds simple, and in fact it is, but; often times, greatness stems from simplicity.  Seppe Smits had a passion for great adventure. His self-driven purpose was to make history as Belgian’s first Olympic snowboarder. His plan; understand the sport by analyzing videos, go to the indoor ski dome at least 3 days a week, take vacations to the mountains, and compete in competitions. When you really think about it, this concept doesn’t just apply to Olympic athletes. Having a passion, a purpose, and a plan can turn the average into the great.

It is very easy in the Winter time to make excuses not to exercise. It’s colder outside, the weather is bad, there’s too much ice, less motivation with less sunlight, the list goes on and on. But where there is an excuse there is a solution. Heck, if Seppe Smits can train to be an Olympic snowboarder in a country without mountains, then we can learn to stay active without the access of ideal weather/temperature conditions. For long term success, all we need is a passion, a purpose, and a plan. In this case, finding a passion means finding something you enjoy. Instead of using your energy thinking about why you wouldn’t enjoy something, use that energy to keep an open mind and actually try new things. Who knows, maybe you’ll surprise yourself. Finding a purpose means finding a truly motivating reason to stay active. To help you find that purpose, answer yourself a few questions?

    •  How would staying active in the winter positively impact my life?
    •  What do I hope to gain from being active?
    •  If you’re looking for a beach body, how would that lifestyle permanently improve your life?

Having a plan means coming up with ways to stay active. Seppe Smits used an indoor ski dome, what resources do you have? Perhaps you feel like you don’t have many resources. Below are five tips to help you stay active in the winter;

1)      Body Weight Exercises: Body weight exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home. They are a good way to build strength and can even get your heart rate up when done in a circuit. Below is an example of something you could do.

2)      Find a friend to go to the gym with: Often times when we depend on ourselves to go to the gym, we may decide last minute not to go because of ____________ (fill in the blank). But when you are scheduled to meet somebody, you are more likely to go because you don’t want to let them down.

3)      Wear layers: If you are someone who enjoys the outdoors, it can be cumbersome to wear big bulky jackets. Simply wearing 3-4 thin layers (2-3 shirts [short and long sleeve], thin jacket, workout shorts, workout pants, 2-3 layers of socks, shoes, 2-3 layers of thin gloves, scarf, earmuffs, and a hat) can be just as, if not more, protective from the cold and it is more comfortable to move in as well.

4)      Turn Your Shoveling into a workout: If you live in a place where it snows a lot, you can turn your shoveling into a workout. If you would like to measure improvements, you can time yourself each time you have to shovel and try to set a new record! Be sure to keep your core engaged and use your leg strength while shoveling in order to reduce the risk of low back aches.

5)      Have a quality warm-up: Warming up is always an important part of the workout. When our muscles are warm they are less prone to injury. Not only that, but warming up is exactly what it implies, you become warmer. The cold temperature may not go away, but after a quality warm-up it will certainly be more tolerable.

There is never a good time to do something, but the best time is always now. Let this winter be your time to discover/rediscover a passion, a purpose, and a plan. Use this time to teach yourself how to conquer mountains when all you have access to are hills. Use this time to further define yourself. Use this time to take your something average and turn it into your something “great”.