Joel Reichenberger: Ski fit not seasonal for Spillane | SteamboatToday.com
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Joel Reichenberger: Ski fit not seasonal for Spillane

Steamboat Springs — For us mere mortals, getting in ski shape can be a sweaty affair with enough lunges and box jumps to make any flatlander sick. — For us mere mortals, getting in ski shape can be a sweaty affair with enough lunges and box jumps to make any flatlander sick.

— For us mere mortals, getting in ski shape can be a sweaty affair with enough lunges and box jumps to make any flatlander sick.

It’s a difficult affair for man-among-Steamboat’s-boys Johnny Spillane, too, though his attempts to recover from a mid-summer knee injury that required surgery and months with a brace and crutches might not look too familiar to those of us bobbing up and down across parks or hammering a workout to a Lady Gaga album on an elliptical.

Spillane wowed the town by winning three Olympic silver medals in February and then tore his ACL and the MCL in his left knee in July when he jumped off a cliff into a lake.



He said the return to World Cup condition has been slow but his progress steady.

He started his comeback by assaulting Twentymile Road on the Moots road bike he was hammering early in the summer before his injury.



“I can only ride for about an hour at a time for now,” he said. “If I was doing it fully healthy, I would ride a lot longer than that.”

The riding serves to preserve his fitness, even if he can’t yet focus on activities more directly related to Nordic combined skiing, like leaping from the all-season jump at Howelsen Hill or blasting along area roads on roller skis.

He’s not strictly limited to the bike, however, and slowly has been expanding his focus to include gym work.

“I do a lot of stuff with medicine balls, balancing and throwing off your balance so you have to move the weight of the ball,” Spillane said. “As you’re doing that, you’re working all those little muscles. That’s something you don’t want to have to think about, controlling all your balance.”

In all of that, he has plenty of advice for the everyman.

He explained that balance is important and that people sometimes put too much focus on upper-body strength.

“I’m a big believer in doing as many different kinds of exercise as possible,” he said.

Soon, more work with weights will come, and eventually those skis. He guessed he could recover entirely in terms of his ski jumping and come within a few percentage points of “all the way back” on the cross-country skiing course.

However, Spillane did admit that his life as a professional athlete and the training experiences that have come with it give him a decided advantage over the weekend warrior who might have ordered a few too many plates of nachos after the mountain bike was put away a month ago.

“Train as many years as I have full time, and you don’t lose as much as you would if you’re a younger guy,” Spillane said. “It might be different, even if I were 20. But I have that extra 10 years of training. Really, it’s about getting muscles back in shape, which isn’t very hard.”

Turns out — and this is a real shocker — Olympic heroes in the prime of their career never really get out of shape. Injured or not, they give the rest of us something to aspire to.


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