Tuesday, November 26, 2013

An evening with the US Women's Olympic ski jump team

I should start this by saying I recognize how incredibly lucky I've been to have the opportunity to not just meet, but work out alongside, Olympic athletes. You might remember my swim with Nathan Adrian a few years ago before the 2012 Olympics in London. I certainly remember it well. Now, thanks to the Got Chocolate Milk? campaign who sponsors many of the athletes who represent the US on the world's stage, I was able to meet 3 more. Last week I had the absolute honor of spending time with the very talented and hardworking Alissa Johnson, Abby Hughes and Nina Lussi of the ski jump team, all hoping for an opportunity to jump (or FLY) in Sochi in February 2014. This is an incredibly special year for the women of the ski jumping world, not only are they going for gold, but 2014 is the first time that women will be allowed to compete in the Olympics alongside the men who have been jumping since the time of skiing in wool sweaters in Norway.
The fight has been epic, to say the least. The women of the US ski jumping community have been battling the IOC (International Olympic Committee) since their quest began in earnest back in 2002. In Vancouver the team sued the IOC for discrimination against women, but the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in favor of the IOC, crushing their dreams yet again. There's a heartbreaking moment in the documentary "Ready to Fly" when Lindsay Van finds out they've lost the case and a reporter asks her what she has to say to the young female ski jumpers of the world and through tears she says "not to do it, there's no future." It's crushing to hear the #1 ski jumper in the world say that about her beloved sport. Luckily for those future jumpers, Lindsay and her teammates never gave up the fight and the women will jump in Sochi.

Lucky for me too because I got the chance to see some of these graceful, strong women in action on a recent visit to NYC. Alissa, Abby and Nina were gracious, fun and energetic last Wednesday evening despite having spent the day doing interviews all over the city. The ladies and their coach, Alan Alborn, were kind enough to humor me and 8 or 9 other bloggers and writers and let us join them for a strength workout lasting about an hour. We met in a sleek, clean, small, boutique studio called Uplift on 23rd St near 6th Ave and had time to meet the jumpers, mingle and change before diving into a warmup routine of running in place, high knees (their knees go much higher than mine!) butt kicks, and half squats all done for 1min each, 2x. We went right into a series of other activities like squat jumps, trunk twists, v-walkups, push-ups, resistance band rotator cuff/shoulder stability work and lots of other butt and hip work, as you might expect. I anticipated lots of glute and quad work, but I wasn't prepared for just how HIGH the women can jump from a simple squat. Wow. 


Not only can these ladies jump, but they do so in with their toes pointed skyward, whereas most of us jump by pointing our toes. It was harder than I thought when I tried it myself! Abby pointed out to me that her favorite muscle is her tibialis anterior (the muscle in front of your shinbone) and it was then that I noticed they all had bulging anterior lower leg muscles. It turns out that you need strong shins if you're going to FLY, and that's exactly why they do these workouts. Every aspect of their sport requires strength- the position they hold while flying downhill at 60mph, the push off that propels them for what can be a football field or greater length and the landing from that flight. Can you imagine landing that? I can't! Alissa mentioned that sometimes they work out in a pool to lessen the impact on their joints while still getting in the strengthening necessary to be so explosive. It was so exciting to have a glimpse into this very elite world of what seems like a very extreme sport. 

After the workout ended and we were all stretching out, someone walked in with a rolling cooler overflowing with various types of chocolate milk which everyone happily grabbed and drank to jump start recovery and refuel after a long day and a hard workout. The Got Chocolate Milk? campain has started the Built with Chocolate Milk campaign which consists of the women's ski jump team and an Olympic men's hockey player. My evening came complete with a bag of goodies from the Built with Chocolate Milk sponsors including tons of scientific evidence toting chocolate (or regular) milk as a superior recovery beverage to other recovery drinks. Chocolate milk has calcium, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus and the perfect balance of post-workout carbs and protein that I read about in every running, triathlon and fitness magazine or website out there. It makes sense to me- refuel with carbs and protein for repair of muscle fibers damaged during strenuous activity and what young woman doesn't need more calcium and vitamin D to strenthen her bones? For the record, no one is making me say these things- I really believe in the science behind chocolate milk as a perfect recovery and refueling drink. If you don't believe me, check out their website for yourself: Gotchocolatemilk.com 

Check out some of the goodies I got from the evening, including the Ready to Fly DVD I talked about earlier. 

How did they know I'm a triathlete and love 2XU? 

The official 2014 Sochi ski jumping Olympic pin!! Rad. 
The perfect mug for morning coffee or post-run hot chocolate! 
2XU headband just in time for frigid temps in NYC! 

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