Thursday, February 18, 2010

Never Too Cool for a Hard Workout [videos and images]

“It was not long ago that most snowboarders, even professionals, saw exercise and training as redundant. Snowboarding was exercise enough, and the sport’s countercultural ethos did not mesh with the structure of a fitness regimen or a gym membership. ‘When I first started snowboarding, nobody trained off-hill,’ said Gretchen Bleiler, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist and a favorite to top the podium for her event, halfpipe, scheduled for Feb. 18. ‘People weren’t going to the gym and getting stronger. Snowboarding was more self-expression, like skateboarding. It was just something you went and did. It wasn’t something you trained for.’ Ms. Bleiler, 28, is among the sport’s icons who have been leading a cultural shift by example. She probably spends more time in a gym than on a mountain, more time in workout clothes than in an oversize jacket and snow pants. With more at stake than ever — in terms of prestige and money, mostly earned through endorsements — the ride-hard, party-hard attitude among top snowboarders has given way to a more mainstream, professional athlete work ethic. Even Shaun White, the top men’s rider, likes to jokingly flex his gym-built arms. One of Ms. Bleiler’s many sponsors is 24 Hour Fitness, the health club chain. And in past years, she has showed off the body hidden beneath all those baggy clothes in various magazine spreads. These days, Ms. Bleiler divides her snowboarding time between halfpipe competitions and back-country riding. The one constancy in her busy world is training — before she takes the hill, after she comes down and through the off-season. Her general advice is never to forget about cardio, take care of the oft-injured joints like knees and shoulders, and do not underestimate the importance of a strong core.”

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