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The Aging Athlete

11/01/2010 12:59 ● Published by Deb Olsen

Nelson Carmichael staying young on Mount Werner. Photo Corey Kopischke

By Nelson Carmichael

I’ve often asked myself how athletes can effectively modify their activities as they age. In my competitive days, a typical day same run up to Thunderhead before breakfast, lunch on the way to the gym for weights, and finish up with plyometrics after dinner.  The following day I’d fit in a two-hour bike ride, a sprint workout on the track, and more weights.

This was fairly routine dryland training, and all designed for mogul skiing. Yes, it was painful.  But it was also simple, and I loved it. I figured the harder it was to get prepared for competing, the easier everything would be once I was on snow. While I can still imagine doing all of that a mere 15 years later, I wouldn’t be able to keep that intensity day after day. I’ve found that one or two less taxing activities suffices, and they don’t need to be as specific. 

Conditioning consists of four basic elements: endurance, strength, flexibility and nutrition. While I believe these are lifelong pursuits, as I age I need to tone down the impact and lessen the chance of injury. So, I may do yoga in the morning, then ski a couple hours in the afternoon. Or, do some weight training then play hockey. A summer morning jog followed by an afternoon of kiteboarding is ideal for me these days.  Activities are not as specific, yet I’m always striving for a level of fitness that enables me to enjoy many things while not tearing my body down.

Like many sports, with skiing and snowboarding we tend to analyze more as we age.  When we’re young, it’s jump first and check the landing later. That just doesn’t work anymore. The risk of injury creeps in, and we realize our bodies take longer to recover. Yes it’s sad, but true. Now, for example, I’ll warm up gradually on cruisers before venturing into more challenging terrain. I’d rather build up slowly run-by-run as opposed to flying recklessly down the hill right away. And I’ll definitely check the landing first.

--Nelson Carmichael is a two-time World Cup mogul champion and bronze medalist in the 1992 Olympics. Meet him for free mogul clinics at 1 p.m. outside the Four Points Hut.

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