Mikaela Shiffrin, who’s been lauded as the best alpine skier in the world, is hoping to bring home some more Olympic gold medals from PyeongChang to add to the one she won in Sochi—but her plans have been thwarted a few times already.
Two of Shiffrin’s must-watch events (the women’s slalom and the women’s giant slalom) have been postponed due to extreme winds on the South Korean slopes, giving her an extra, albeit forced, day to prep. As long as the weather cooperates, she’ll finally make her 2018 Olympic debut tonight, Wednesday February 14. (Check NBC Olympics for updates.)
Grueling practice is a fact of life for Olympic athletes, but Shiffrin has a reputation for her intense training, even among elite athletes. As Shiffrin waits to hit the slopes, we decided to learn as much as we could about how she got to the Olympics in the first place. Here’s everything we know about how the gold medalist and reigning slalom skiing world champion trains.
She warms up with some light cardio and stretching.
Even for an Olympic athlete who spends the majority of her day moving, warming up is a crucial part of a workout. This past summer, Shiffrin trained at the U.S. ski team’s facility (named the Center of Excellence) in Park City, Utah. According to the The New Yorker, she started her days with a 10-minute warm-up on the stationary bike and stretching. Good reminder: If an Olympian can make time to stretch, so can you.
Lower-body strength training plays an important role.
Her coach Jeff Lackie told CNN that strength training is a major focus of Shiffrin’s program. She often works through “squats and various types of lifts with a weighted bar.” Lackie calls this method of training “eccentric overload training.” This essentially means that the strength moves focus on the lowering portion of the exercise, training the muscles to be stronger in the lengthened position—for a skier, that means being able be strong and stable in a squatted position.
Her interval training workouts are no joke.
A sample day in Shiffrin’s program includes circuits filled with sprints pushing and pulling a weighted sled, squats, rowing machine work, and skating on a slideboard, according to The New Yorker. This interval training workout sounds tough as hell—the writer says he had to look away, it was so intense. But Shiffrin finished the work that had to be done, and then moved onto the next part of her training.
She tracks the intensity of her workouts—and they’re usually really, really intense.
As The New Yorker reports, Shiffrin grades her workouts on a scale from 1 to 10. Most days, they’re pushing the high end of the scale. “We have a grading scale that I fill out for every workout. Ten is dying or passing out. I rate nine fairly often.” And while she admits to coming close to puking from an intense workout, she never has. “I’d pass out before I’d puke,” she says. (And you thought your HIIT class was rough…)
She also spends time working on her balance.
Anyone who’s ever skied (or skied and failed) knows how important balance is to making it downhill in one piece. After her interval workout, Shiffrin does an hour of balance work, which includes walking on a slack line. She once posted a video on Instagram of herself walking on bolsters while juggling—if that’s not true mastery of balance and hand-eye-coordination, we don’t know what is—and another of her walking backward on the tops of dumbbells.
She is her number one source of motivation.
It may seem like the entire United States is cheering on Shiffrin, but when she trains, she has a rule against too much positive reinforcement. According to The New Yorker, her mantra is, “The motivation must come from within.” Lackie will push her along during an especially tough workout, but at the end of the day, Shiffrin knows that it’s just going to be her out there on the slopes.
She sleeps nine hours each night, on average, and naps every single day.
Shiffrin sleeps so much and so often that she’s earned the nickname Sir Naps A Lot, according to NBC. She considers her bed her most prized possession and has a mandated daily nap break. She’s even fallen asleep on ski lifts and in the snow before a race. Getting enough zzz’s is a crucial part of any training program—you have to let your body recover after a tough workout so it can come back stronger. After all that hard-core training, it’s no wonder Shiffrin gets some shut-eye whenever and wherever she can make it happen.