No Brain Mo’ Pain

With all the hype surrounding fitness these days, it’s tough to overcome the nausea induced by the overly energetic lycra-wearing geeks who own infomercial land. But that’s not the way it has to be. Cross-training, for maintaining a higher level of year-round fitness, and as a means to feel good, is commonplace amongst today’s pro snowboarders. Pumping iron or masonite, pedaling singletrack or paddling waves, hiking or hacking–it’s all good.

The medical world supports the physiological and psychological benefits of cross-training. The most important point, however, is that the black and white benefits of cross-training are practically irrelevant compared to the technicolor fun you can have by simply going out and doing something.

We took a cross-section of pros to see what they do to stay on top of their game during the off-season. For an authoritative perspective, Dr. Tom Moore gave us his expert medical opinion on the choices and benefits of cross-training.

Doctor’s Orders

Dr. Thomas P. Moore, M.D., Ph.D., doctor of sports medicine, orthopedic surgeon, and United States Snowboard Team physician based out of Crested Butte, Colorado, encourages year-round fitness. “To be in good snowboarding shape when the snow starts to fly, stay active in other sports throughout the summer and fall,” Dr. Moore tells us. “To be in the best snowboarding shape, participate in snowboard-specific cross-training activities. With a good cross-training program you can ride more, feel better, and avoid injury next winter.

“Ideal cross-training activities are those that involve the same neuromotor skills that an athlete’s primary sport involves.” Examples he gives include skateboarding, surfing, and wakeboarding.

“Like snowboarding, the skills involved in these sports include balance and the use of force directed through your feet to maneuver the board,” Dr. Moore adds.

Rarely does one hear a doctor encouraging people to partake in board sports. It’s a healthy step away from the juvenile stigma attached to the sports when we hear Dr. Moore say, “Although not exactly the same as snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing, and wakeboarding are similar enough that they will reinforce the nerve pathways between the brain to the lower extremities that are active while snowboarding.”

Using other sports that isolate primarily lower extremity muscles for snowboard conditioning is paramount. In-line skating, cycling, hiking, soccer, and similar activities are good crossover sports in which to participate. Dr. Moore even recommends balance boards to reinforce the balance needed in snowboarding.

Dr. Moore also emphasizes the importance of heart health: “Serious riders must maintain their aerobic condition with regular activities that elevate the heart rate. Anything like running, cycling, aerobics, or even the Stairmaster will provide a good aerobic workout. Weight training is also beneficial to staying in top boarding shape.” (see Fit to Ride, October ’99)

The Patients

What physical activities do you participate in outside of snowboarding?

Craig Kelly: Mountain biking, swimming, surfing, hiking, sea kayaking, and yoga.

Julie Zell: Wakeboarding, karate, hiking, golf, shooting pool, swimming, and cardio and weight training at the gym.

Andy Hetzel: Skateboarding, golf, working out at a gym, surfing, basketball, kayaking, rock climbing, tennis, and mountain biking.

Barrett Christy: Mountain biking, tennis, golf, yoga, surfing, and swimming.

Dave Downing: Mainly surfing. I also spend time skateboarding, golfing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.

Morgan LaFonte: Yoga, skateboarding, dirt bikingg, telemark skiing, tennis, waterskiing, cliff-jumping, rock climbing, and enjoying nature and what she has to offer to the fullest.

Noah Salasnek: Skateboarding, motocross, BMX, and go-karting.

Do you consider these activities cross-training?

Craig Kelly: Yes, but not consciously so. I enjoy each on its own merits–the cross-training part is just a bonus.

Todd Richards: I don’t really think of the other sports I do as “cross-training.” In fact the term cross-training conjures up images of ski racing and Rollerblading, two things my life can definitely do without. I skate a lot and have been surfing tons, too. I really think all the board sports complement each other. For example, surfing helps with upper body and core strength, while skating helps me with lower body, stamina, and mental strength.

Julie Zell: Stuff like the gym is direct muscle building for the strength and power I can’t get from any one activity. It gives me an advantage over what I would be able to do if I was only snowboarding. Otherwise, I’d definitely say everything else I do is cross-training in some form or other, be it mental or physical.

Andy Hetzel: All of these activities could be considered cross-training, but I do them because I enjoy them. I have to exercise otherwise I get stressed and go crazy.

Dave Downing: I guess. I do these activities because they are fun, not to get better at snowboarding.

Morgan LaFonte: Yes, indeed. Each of these sports improves my endurance, strengthens muscle groups, and keeps me in a “happy mental state.”

Noah Salasnek: Yes, definitely. Motocross is super good exercise and is probably the most physically tiring of the four. Skating is great exercise and the moves can translate to snowboarding. For me, BMX and go-karting are really good ways to increase endurance and are equally exhausting.

Do you have a coach or trainer?

Craig Kelly: No, but I have in the past and as a result I do know the benefits of focused training as well as cross-training.

Todd Richards: I don’t think a personal trainer would work so well for me, I’m never in one place long enough. I just do what feels natural, I guess–try not to force anything.

Julie Zell: At the present I don’t have either, but in the past I’ve had both. I think a great coach and/or trainer is a huge part of any success story.

Andy Hetzel: I have a trainer to make my time in the gym and workouts more efficient. I will get my legs in shape preseason, otherwise I work out to feel good physically and feel good about myself.

Dave Downing: No. I don’t look at snowboarding like that. It is freedom of expression that comes from your soul. I don’t like seeing coaches and trainers that can’t snowboard that well telling people how to ride. People should just have a good time.

Morgan LaFonte: My friends are my trainers. I am my coach.

–John Chorlton