Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. This blog is a unique perspective of one persons journey into fitness. Not all clients and participants at Parsons Training undergo the same training, and each person makes his or her own decisions regarding dietary discretions.
By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
February 12, 2018
In the grand scheme of the international sports world, just imagine the major competitions like they were a group of kids in one big family. You got the oldest kid being the Summer Olympics, having to put aside their personal feelings to keep the family happy because you are the example for the other kids. So when you have an outburst and don’t do what the parents request, it is a big freaking deal. Then you got the World Cup, the rowdy second born that wants a lot of recognition but is too busy causing fights due to his passion of trying to one-up the eldest. You got the middle child being the FIBA World Basketball Championships, which typically stays unnoticed unless the United States loses the championship. Then you got the bizarre twins that the parents were surprised to have, being off shoot events like the Rugby World Cup (which is fun to watch) and Baseball World Cup (which is not fun to watch). Then you got the absolute screw-up in the family that was the result of bad birth control and poor parental self control….the Winter Olympics. Yup, the Winter Olympics is the drug addled, frequently jailed offspring that shows up every four years for a little recognition from the viewing public when it flashes some ice skating and the meme-tastic sport of curling. I say this because the Winter Olympics has been a train wreck since they changed the four year format back in 1994, making it a stand alone event rather than “the other olympic” games when they shared the same four year cycle with the Summer Olympics. By doing this, the event was turned into a huge cash grab and has been a struggle to find it’s financial and competitive footing in the world. Gone are the days of “The Miracle on Ice” in 1980 and the Jamaican Bobsled team of 1988 (which one of the original bobsledders stated “Cool Runnings” would have been boring if they followed the actual story).
Lillehammer in 1994 and Nagano in 1998 were fine events, but of course things started going south when Salt Lake City—led by former governor and presidential business “guru” Mitt Romney—led the charge of corruption. Enough palms were greased in that deal to make the slopes 50% faster. Then you got the train wrecks that were Turin and Vancouver, where in a lot of instances the cities had to truck in snow for some events while Turin suffered massive financial issues afterwards. You heard that right, they needed extra snow because there was not enough. Socchi in 2014 might as well have been called the corruption games due to the fact that Vladimir Putin gave free money to his construction buddies, blowing up the proposed budget nearly fives times over and the place was still missing sewage covers and bathrooms in the Olympic Village. Oh, and they also had to truck in snow as well as backtrack from a proposal of having “doggie death squads” to deal with the rampant stray dog problem in the city (which is something the entire country has a problem with in unique ways http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3503544/How-Moscow-s-metro-dogs-learned-navigate-city-s-subways-Canine-senses-help-master-complex-routes-claims-scientist.html) So far, Pyeongchang has gone off without a hitch despite our president doing his best to prompt a world war with North Korea in the months leading to the event and the fact the ENTIRE Russian national team was banned for corruption and doping (seriously, I guess people like Putin for his obviously public corruption rather than his secret corruption like they do in ‘Murica). Heck, the two presidents of the competing Koreas shook hands! Oh, and there was the shirtless Tongan guy that lit up the internet. Yup, we will post the picture for you ladies. Promise.
Okay, enough of the snarky and snide stuff. I wanted to get my feelings out of the way because ultimately when you stuff the corruption and extra curricular scandals aside, the athleticism is pretty amazing. To put it in perspective, the Tongan guy (his name is Pita Taufatofua as opposed to “oily, muscled up dreamboat”) shouldn’t even be at these games, considering he is a taekwondo fighter that competed in Rio in 2016 (another debacle meant for another day) and somehow qualified for the cross country skiing event. So you probably wonder how a Pacific Islander can somehow compete in a sport where he literally lives nowhere near snow. Well, much like a previous blog, sports specific training has become quite rampant in the Olympic World. We will no longer see overweight guys like Italian downhill skier Alberto Tomba winning events because of natural ability and gravitational pull aiding his trajectory. These days, with the capability of training year round and people utilizing other training regimens to improve, the games have gotten better and faster throughout the years (with the exception of curling….how do you even train for that?). To put this in perspective, a slight angular screw up or brushing a turn flag too much on the Super Giant Slalom (my favorite event) could be the difference between a first place finish and a 10th place finish https://www.olympic.org/sochi-2014/alpine-skiing/super-g-men. I mean, the top 20 was separated by 1.61 seconds! Or how about on the ever so interesting to look at sport of Moguls, where if you straighten your back too much it might knock you to the ground and lose the race. When you really look at the Winter Games, you have to really settle on two things. If you want to be great, you have to have a great core and strong legs.
Leg work and core strength are especially apparent, even more so than the Summer Olympics. With the exception of maybe cross country skiing where you need a lot of shoulder and arm strength, dexterity in your legs and the ability to maintain balance with your center of gravity is key. If you ever wonder how speed skaters stay in shape when there is no rink around, many of them train in cycling and running! https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/the-workout-speed-skating-with-eddy-alvarez/ Needless to say, a great many athletes in the competition rely on the old standards of standard leg weight training. While they will still do the type of training that aids in their sport, doing this sort of cross training is essential to success. Take the bobsled for example. You have to have quickness and thrust to take off from the starting block. Then you have to have core strength to jump in and get yourself into a low position. After that, you can only hope you have a good driver who will not crash into the walls too much. One thing the Jamaican bobsled team did prove (and might be credited for the entire revolution of winter sports cross training) is you can get some solid sprinters to make up a respectable team. The United States tried something similar with football players earlier in the decade but they never qualified. Other nations gave it a shot like Trinidad and Tobago, which has an abundance of sprinters and track athletes, but it is still an uphill battle since they are at a competitive disadvantage due to the lack of snow. Several African countries have sent some athletes to compete, but the big story this year is the Women’s Bobsled team from Nigeria. https://www.yahoo.com/sports/nigerias-first-ever-bobsled-team-prepares-triumphant-olympic-arrival-044402788.html This change also forced powerhouse countries like Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden—who rule the bobsled—to change up their training methods when the availability of winter weather wasn’t the only factor in the competition anymore. This approach has also made it easier to cross recruit athletes and give them some other options if one sport does not work out too well. Football great Hershel Walker was the most famous example when he competed in the two-man bobsled back in 1992. https://www.si.com/olympics/video/2015/07/01/herschel-walker-bobsledding-1992-winter-olympics Hershel Walker is also a freak of nature and decided to give MMA fighting a shot…at 52 years of age!
Take for example in the 1990s when people first noticed that washed up or ineffective speed skaters could still be great cyclists due to the natural power in their legs and the natural rotating motion that can utilized for each sport. There is also a reason why the United States and Canada are a powerhouse in the snowboarding competition, mainly due to the fact both countries have an abundance of skaters who’s halfpipe skills are perfect for the competition. For the moment, the majority of competitors from warm weather countries are cross country skiers, and it is pretty easy to see why. While you cannot replicate the chill and consistency of snow, you can easily replicate the needed training through resistance training, which you can easily do without snow. While you can definitely be strong and capable enough to compete in the cross country race, having that winter weather at full availability is still key. The only competitor that qualified for the 15K Cross Country race in 2014 from a country where snow was not available was Gary Di Silvestri of Caribbean country Dominica….where he did not finish the race. In 2018, no one from a warm weather country qualified. So yeah, Pita Taufatofua has an uphill battle waiting for him. The other popular sport amongst warm weather countries is Luge, which you will not see me ever on because if that sucker flies off the track, you are pretty much dead. And don’t even get me started on Skeleton, which is basically luge only you go head first into your potential death rather than feet first.
When you really think about it, just about any athlete can find a place in any type of sport. I mean, there is the story about a back-up basketball player named Mason Cox from Oklahoma State who is now a star in Australian Rules Football because he has an awesome wingspan and can jump. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason_Cox Seriously, Cox was just a guy that wanted to be an engineer and now he is a superstar in Australia. The Winter Olympics is really no different, but having cold weather and a natural exposure to the sport is key to really being great in the Winter Olympic sports. Eventually, someone will make a breakthrough (other than skater Sean White) and prove that being good in another sport can really equate into success. I am sure there is some kid in Alabama with amazing running legs and possesses a good shot (but has never seen snow) who might be really good in the biathlon if someone plucked him up and groomed him properly (biathlon is cross country skiing and target shooting…how the US is not dominant in this event is mind boggling, but then again we only care about guns as opposed to actually knowing how to shoot them properly….straight fire and that is the gist of the politics in this article today!!). By the way, the United States has never placed in any of the Biathlon events. What the hell America!! 100 millions guns and we don’t have a person who can ski and shoot at the same time? Maybe I have found my calling in life. See you in Beijing in 2022!!!
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
Any views or opinions presented in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.