Wednesday, May 22, 2019
A Workout Now Prevents ‘Torture’ Later
Betsy Youngman demonstrates that one can build their arms and core for double poling, even without special equipment.
Monday, November 19, 2018


At 92, Ketchum bicyclist and Nordic skier Charley French still competes in Masters competitions around the world—he climbed the podium three times during the 2017 Masters World Cup in Klosters, Switzerland.

And, yes, he’s still looking for ways to shave a few seconds, a few minutes off his time.

He found what he was looking for a few years ago on a strength training machine.

Jessie Vaughan performs an oil rig, which involves lowering oneself to the ground, then reaching up towards the sky.

“Today’s classic ski racers do so much double poling, as opposed to kicking and gliding along the tracks. I found that I can cut my times by building up my upper body,” he said.

The trails around Sun Valley and gyms like Zenergy Health Club and Spa have come alive with Nordic skiers running intervals and holding their bodies like wooden planks to strengthen their cores for the upcoming ski season.

 “It’s all about building endurance so when we start skiing we’re not going to die,” said Joney Otteson, who is among those coaching the VAMPS Nordic skiers. “Nordic skiing is the hardest sport I’ve ever done. It’s such a suffer fest and, when you don’t do anything ahead of time, you feel it when you do get out on the snow. We work on the upper body to help with poles and we work on things like calves, which are particularly important in classic skiing.”

Everyone, it seems, has a slightly different twist on just how to go about it preparing the body for the upcoming ski season.

Running or speed walking, as Paula Perry is doing, builds the cardiovascular capability so you won’t be huffing and puffing once you get on skis.

Mary Rose, who has competed on the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s elite Gold Team and now coaches the competition team, leads men and women through 90 minutes of high intensity interval training. They run up hill, pushing themselves to the max for five minutes, then rest on the downhill.

“It’s the quickest way to build up cardiovascular system,” she said. “It has lots of benefit, getting the heart rate up.”

VAMPS coaches EJ Harpham and Joney Otteson put their exercise groups through lunges at Lake Creek. They skip, concentrating on getting their knees as high as possible. They walk sideways in what they call crab walks.

They do oil riggers in which they dip at the waist touching one hand to the ground as one leg comes up in the air behind them.  And they reach up to the sky as they stand on their toes in what they’ve dubbed  the “Ivana tiptoe” after Czech Olympian Ivana Radlova who until recently managed the Nordic Center at Sun Valley Resort.

EJ Harpham says it’s difficult to mimic the moves of skiing without actually being on skis. But every little bit of exercise helps.

“I need to do this so torture is not in my future,” said Jessie Vaughan.

“I would not do this left to my own devices. When I try to work out by myself, I don’t push myself so I need these ladies,” added Deb Robertson, surveying the 20 ladies in her midst. “Their support  motivates me to get better, to keep going, to be energized.”

The women balance on one foot, then the other. Then they do three- to five-minute walks or runs with the goal being to go further each time.

Occasionally, Harpham puts poles in their hands and they bound or skip uphill, using the poles as they go. They bound from side to side mimicking the skate skiing as much as possible. They stop ever so slightly, balancing on one foot, from one bound to another.

Joney Ottesen leads the group as she mimics ski bounding on the flats.

“The idea is to lock and load,” said two-time U.S. Nordic Olympian Elizabeth “Betsy” Youngman. “You hop on one foot, hold it for a split second, then repeat with the other foot.”

Youngman and her husband Bob Youngman, a national champion bicyclist, keep their legs strong throughout the summer with hill bounding and bicycling.

The two concentrate on upper body strength with exercise routines they can perform while walking their dog on the Sun Valley Golf Course near their condo.

“It used to be ski training was all about cardiovascular work. But it’s becoming increasingly about power,” said Betsy Youngman.

Youngman performs pushups on a bridge traversing a creek. She puts one foot on the foot tall bridge railing raising her body off the ground 20 times as she stands up straight.

She does dips on a nearby bench, placing her hands firmly on the edge of the bench while lifting her butt off the bench and lowering her body until her elbows are the same level as her shoulders.

And she does a few pull ups or chin ups on a tree limb before raising her knees to her chin then straightening them out horizontally.

If she wants, she can wrap resistance tubing around a tree branch and practice pulling the tube with one hand across the front of her body while standing sideways from the tree. Or she can wrap it around the bottom of the tree, and sit down facing the tree and pulling the tubing with both hands as if she’s rowing a boat.

If she’s dealing with an injury, she performs specific exercises for that.

“I used to get a sore knee skiing so I did exercises specifically to build knee strength,” she said.

While strength is so critical, people tend not to do it, Youngman said.

“I would say: Set a goal of the number of repetitions you’re going to do and then do it three times a week,” she said. “What doesn’t challenge you won’t change you.”


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