Why Outdoor Athletes Should Hit the Gym

Most snowboarders (and skiers) do not hit the gym in season. I’m usually not an exception to that. Every winter I ride about six days a week, taking one day a week to do errands, foam roll, stretch, and otherwise sit on the couch. This has left me not only susceptible to mental burnout, but to injury as well.

This season I worked really diligently to prevent this reoccurring seasonal burnout from happening. Since I had already spent my summer snowboarding in South America and spent my fall weight training in Utah, I had arguably more preparation for Winter 2016 than any other winter prior.

Then, in season, my coach and I decided I would need to take strategic breaks every four to six weeks. This would typically be unheard for most snowboarders in season. You do not take breaks. You ride literally until your body needs a break, and ignore all signs of fatigue. It’s not an ideal strategy for a sustainable performance as a mountain athlete.

The approach to Worthington Glacier starts out pretty mellow. Note the crevasses ahead of me. Yikes. Mary Gootjes photo credit.

The approach to Worthington Glacier starts out pretty mellow. Note the crevasses ahead of me. Yikes. Mary Gootjes photo credit.

In early February, I took about a week off snow to train at the gym. It had the two-sided benefit of making me a little bit stronger and making me a little bit more motivated for the rest of the season.

After this stretch in the gym, I flew to Alaska. The terrain in the Last Frontier is bigger than any place on Earth. I had ridden there three seasons ago, before I’d broken my back. It’d been a long-term goal to return there, but this time, ride big lines without helicopter or snowmobile assistance.

A few touring partners and I scaled glaciers off of Thompson Pass in Valdez. It was mostly near or below zero for the entire week we splitboarded this huge terrain. The temperatures made climbing debilitating at times. I got frostbite twice, including on my face and toes. The snow was perfect though, which made every moment of suffering completely forgettable.

I was happy to see how strong my upper body had gotten from training. When you have to carry a pack up a mountain and then descend 3,000 to 5,000 feet with the same pack on your back, you need to have a strong shoulders, back, and core. I felt like I could really endure long, cold days of climbing without being too tired or sore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *