Friday, June 26, 2015

Do Winter Athletes Train in the Summer?

Once the winter games are over, elite athletes are able to enjoy some relaxation and fun in the sun, right? Not quite. Olympic athletes train year round for their moment in the spotlight, using the summer months to hone those skills to bring home the gold in what we term dry-land training.1 A great example of this is bobsled athletes.

While living at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York, my teammates and I spent untold hours walking the track, memorizing the lines, and working as a cohesive unit with the single goal of making that smooth transition from ice to sled for a safe trip down the mountain. With sleds weighing between 300 to 500-pounds, athletes must learn how to come off the block with explosive power and carry that sled forward with speed, while running on ice, before jumping in. With crushing gravity forces and sometimes debilitating hits against the wall, the bobsledder must be able to handle what the mountain can dish out.2 For these reasons, dry-land training and the summer months become critical for success. For this sport, power cleans, jump squats, lunges, plyometrics, along with shoulder, arm, and back workouts in the summer months translates to surviving the ride within the bobsled. Hours and hours of static strength holds, power cleans, and sprint training boils down to less than one minute at 90 miles per hour at race time.
While the winter months bring on actual competition, summer is when the real work is done and no one is watching. Speedskaters most often turn to mountain biking while hockey players grudgingly run, and everyone hits the weights. No matter the [winter] discipline, athletes draw upon sports-specific skills like balance, speed, and explosive power for dry-land training. As U.S. Hockey athlete Hilary Knight said, “Our summers are known for making our biggest gains.”3  Lindsey Vonn shared a typical summer training regimen with her fans in a private facility in Austria, whereas the Canadian men’s alpine team sweats it out in a public park. No matter the location, it is the dry-land training that makes or breaks the elite winter athlete. At the next Winter or X-Games, as you watch an athlete put in a one minute performance, know it took all summer to get there.

1 Quin, E. (n.d.). Winter Olympic Sports Training: How Athletes Train for the Winter Olympics.
2 O'Connor, A. (2014, February 5). The Workout: Training to Bobsled. New York Times.
3 A Winter Athletes Guide Training Summer. (n.d.). ESPN.


  1. I enjoyed this article. It has always amazed me at how much goes on behind the scenes. Thanks for this look into what makes a winter athlete so successful.

  2. Brilliant read Alex, very inspiring. It even makes me want to write more myself.

    I believe your words are relative to all sport training like you say. 'post competition' training after rest..and working all year round is imperative!

    you can now work on your weaker parts. You can evaluate what you need to improve on and try different training routines to stimulate the growth that you desire. Not only will it help to enhance strengths but give your mind a different stimulus as well. Experiment with different ways of training and the frequency of training at that. Getting out of comfort zones and pushing yourself to limits.

    Now I want to go bobsledding (if that is what you would call it)

    You are awesomeeee !

    Run for president thanks

    The Brit in your country ;)

    1. YASSSSS! Love it. And I am working on my weaker parts now. A work in progress. :)

  3. This is a very great read. It is so interesting to see how the skills of one sport can translate and improve your skills in others. The balance, speed, and explosive power that you write about is essential for almost all sports. It never occurred to me that mountain biking could help a speed skater or that dry-land running could help a hockey player. The concept of muscle confusion plays a big factor for athletes who are searching to make a break through in performance. I'll look forward to reading your next blog!