Winter is on!

Last week it snowed up to 1 meter from the northwest – the ideal weather direction for the Arlberg region – winter is on! I’ve had some great days skiing with the girls at Stubai Glacier and first off-piste runs in St. Anton with Stefan, Björn and Geli. My legs feel really strong and snappy, without the quad burn I typically have at the start of the season. For my first day skiing off-piste again I used my Kästle BMX108 in 188cm, a ski I know well and use for competition. This week I’ll be testing the new Kästle FX104 in 184cm, I’m curious to see how the shorter length will suit me. I’ll report back to you here.

The snow in St. Anton on Saturday was surprisingly good and what we like to call “creme cheese”: a rather compact yet soft snow layer which carries a skiers weight easily, so no breaking through to rocks. Right now I’m mainly focussing on good technique and keeping my weight over my skis. I’m trying to keep the pace high and ski all the way to the bottom of the run without stopping, something I have to do anyhow if I want to keep up with my skiing buddies Stefan and Björn. We were lapping “Bachseite” in St. Anton, perfect terrain to get your freeride legs back. More soon!

Eccentric Training for Skiing

This is what happens if you don’t prepare your legs properly for skiing by training with ample amounts of eccentric motion (Harry Putz filmed this line of me for “HIKE – A Freeride Project in the Austrian Alps”):

So this doesn’t happen to me anymore, I’ve started eccentric strength training this week. Eccentric movements (resisting gravity on the way down or the lowering portion of a movement) are key in skiing, especially for sticking jumps. This is because with skiing, you start at the top of a mountain, so you can only go down, and by going down, you’re performing all eccentric motion by lowering yourself the entire way down the mountain, resisting gravity the whole time by controlling your body movements during turns and bumps. Some excellent eccentric leg exercises are walking lunges or even better, jump-style lunges.

Eccentric motion is known to produce more muscle soreness and requires more muscular repair than concentric motion (the pushing or lifting part of a movement). I’ll have 2 whole days to nurse my muscle soreness from training with Phil yesterday, since I’m flying to Melbourne in a couple of hours for a close friend’s wedding. Hope to get some surfing in while I’m at home in Torquay!

Film clip about my training

Our new film clip about my training for the upcoming competition season is online! It was filmed and edited by Hanno Mackowitz, with whom I worked with for the first time during the Warren Miller shoot at the Arlberg in 2009. He did an awesome job. We filmed in my home mountains in Lech/Zürs am Arlberg. Let me know what you think and give me your feedback; if you like it they’ll be more to come 🙂

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New downhill trail in Lech am Arlberg

Since I didn’t take off for Australia and New Zealand this year, I could finally start mountain biking this summer. I’m no talent on a bike by all means, but my skiing and snowboarding friends who kept telling me mountain biking is just like freeriding in winter had me intrigued. In June I pulled the trigger on the SCOTT Genius 30, a full suspension, carbon frame trail bike. To learn the right technique from the start I visited the BIKE Magazine Women’s Camp in Sölden with Karen Eller and the SCOTT Contessa team riders. I discovered that riding single trails toughens me up mentally – perfect training for the winter.

In August the Bergbahnen Oberlech built a downhill trail along the winter tobogganing track, directly behind my house. My initial excitement receded though after the first attempt, since I had to walk most of the way down. “It’s too hard” I thought, making up excuses of why I sucked. I was riding the cable car with tough and experienced looking boys and men, decked out in their gear, worn from regular use. It was intimidating, but I didn’t give up. Today I managed to ride the whole trail and only had to get off my bike once. I’m stoked!

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The steepest section of the new downhill trail in Oberlech

New trainer Phil Anker from Physiofit

It’s been four and a half months since my last blog update and also since I resumed training, which has been progressing in leaps and bounds! The big news is that I’m finally working together with a personal trainer, Phil Anker from Physiofit in Innsbruck. Phil has a lot of expert knowledge and experience in training top athletes, and the gym in Physiofit is state-of-the-art and offers exactly what I need to train as effectively as possible. Given that Phil is a competitive freerider, he fully understands the physical demands in freeride skiing, making the program very specific to my sport. Our main focus is on strength training and coordination, but I’m also doing a lot of cardio (mountain biking, jogging, inline skating).

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My new trainer Phil Anker from Physiofit in Innsbruck.

Coordination training on the slackline

BIKE Magazine Women’s Camp

I just came back from 3 full-on days of riding single trails in Sölden at the BIKE Magazine Women’s Camp run by Die Rasenmäher. 25 women of varying abilities all wanted to learn from three times winner of the Transalp Challenge and biking icon, Karen Eller, and her team of coaches from the SCOTT Contessa Team. We rode some amazing and very challenging trails around Sölden, a favourite biking destination among the coaches. I was actually amazed I managed to ride the trails the coaches chose for us – I just started biking this summer – but the women in my group really motivated and inspired me. The two founders of Flowsister, a biking network for women, were also at the camp. If you’re looking for a fun group of women and friends to ride with make sure you check it out!

The top women's group with Karen Eller, Pic: Mia Knoll

Resuming training

So after 7 months of chronic illness which ended in getting my tonsils removed, I finally have sufficient energy levels to resume my training. Let me tell you, it’s bloody hard work! I started the training regime with a medical assessment of physical performance at the Sportservice Vorarlberg, and the result was not too bad…for a recreational sports person. Basically, my fitness is at rock bottom, and I have to work as hard as I can to get fit enough in time for the coming winter. I’ve been taken up as an athlete on the team at the Sportservice Vorarlberg, which provides me with all the training facilities and support that I need. Athletes from different winter sports train together with a coach on Tuesdays, consisting largely of sprinting drills, speed and agility as well as coordination exercises. So far for me it’s simply been a battle to survive and get through the 3 training sessions of the day. I’m not giving up though and it’s motivating me to be able to train with other professional athletes, so I’m going to stick with it and hopefully it will get better each week. I’ve got lots of work ahead of me!

Medical assessment of physical fitness

 

 

See ya later tonsils!

So I’ve decided: after fighting with infection all season, I’m getting my tonsils removed. Luck was on my side and I got an operation date straight away on Thursday 24/02. Since I can’t ski and train normally right now I want to operate ASAP. Removing my tonsils will unburden my immune system resulting in less illness and more energy. Since I have chronic tonsil infections, there’s also a risk of the bacteria spreading to other organs such as kidneys and heart, especially as an athlete. I can’t train or do any sport 3 to 4 weeks after the operation, otherwise I could have problems with bleeding. All going well though I’ll be able to enjoy the end of the season on skis.

I’m not even thinking about the Freeride World Tour anymore and the fact that I missed out this year. All that matters to me now is getting my health back. Once I have that I can start skiing, training and competing again – and you can be sure that I’ll be more motivated than ever before. So watch out for me next season!

Training begins, so does the countdown

Today was the third day of training for me after a substantial break of 14 weeks! Yikes! I’m starting with 45 minutes of moderate spinning daily, core work and balancing on unstable surfaces (such as an air cushion) to activate my VMO on my right knee: the all-important muscle on the inside of your knee that stabilises the knee cap. Since I haven’t been able to train my knee’s condition isn’t where I would like it to be.

This is where I train, in the sport.park.lech

It sure feels good to be doing something again and working towards a goal: that is the Freeride World Tour stop for the women in Hochfügen, Tirol, from 4 to 8 February. It gives me 4 weeks to prepare. Health wise I’m feeling better, which is encouraging. It’s slow going though. Since I’m missing 2 major events of the women’s FWT I’m going to have to ski all the more solid once I’m back competing – I need 3 good results to make the finals of the FWT in Verbier. The top 5 women make it. But maybe I shouldn’t think like that because it might put me under too much pressure. Anyway, going skiing tomorrow on my brand new Kästle LX92 (1cm wider than this year’s Kästle LX82) which arrived in the mail on Friday – woohoo can’t wait to ski again and tear up some groomers!

Feeling positive despite illness

Today I skied for the first time again since 19 December. According to a specialist I saw recently I’m allowed to do moderate exercise, around 60 to 70% of my normal level. The funny thing is, I had to really motivate myself to get out there, despite the nice weather. Is it from simply feeling low on energy? I think it’s also to do with skiing alone – I really don’t like skiing without my mates, who are all skiing off-piste over in St. Anton. So in the end I went out for the afternoon with my Dad and stepmum, a very rare occasion, skiing the firm pistes in Lech. It was really fun and I even did a little carving workshop with Dad – even a ski instructor of 40 years is motivated to learn some new tricks!  We ended the day with a super delicious Kaiserschmarren in the Burg Hotel – probably the best in Lech Zürs in my opinion. If you can find a better one let me know!

My doctor said I contracted Mononucleosis infectiosa a long time ago, I just never knew it. Since then my immune system hasn’t been functioning as it should, and I’ve actually picked up all sorts of nasty germs, including Hepatitis A – probably in Bali. I’m actually feeling quite positive these last few days, because I’m so glad to finally know what my problem is and apparently it’s quite treatable, it just takes time. I can’t wait to get back to skiing and competing while feeling totally on top of my game, something I haven’t for the past 3 years!