In December 2006, downhill specialist Steven Nyman crashed during a training run in Val Gardena, Italy, and injured his back. Though he could barely walk, he raced anyway—and won. Since that time, 26-year-old Nyman has relied on his uncanny fitness to carry him through two strenuous racing seasons.
“Steven’s a ginormous athlete in all aspects,” Lundstam says. The Utah-bred racer (his dad ran the ski school at Sundance Resort) holds all the records in the history of the U.S. Ski Team for endurance, and he’s impressively flexible for his 6-foot 4-inch, 215-pound frame.
Nyman, nicknamed The Albatross, comes by some of his athletic prowess naturally. (“My mom’s an incredible athlete—she used to ride mountain bikes and beat up on all the guys at the races,” he says.) The rest has been acquired through sheer will. “Steven’s one of the kindest people I know, but when it comes to working out, he’s actually quite ferocious,” says James Urianza of Studio Physiques, a Provo, Utah–based Pilates facility where Nyman trains in the off-season.
Nyman dedicated this past summer to fully rehabilitating his injury, so he can do more than just make it through the race season. “I know how to win pretty much everywhere,” he says. “It’s
a matter of being physically capable to do that. I’ve got to fix my back before anything else happens.”
Rehabilitate back. Boost core strength. Maintain strength, power and endurance without aggravating injury. Most natural athletes push through pain and never take time to fully heal. Be cautious in your workouts and aggressive in your rehab. (Nyman opted for acupuncture, muscle activation therapy and six weeks of wearing a cast from his waist to his chest.)
To maintain his endurance without straining his back, Nyman swam and did deep-water running with a flotation device. “It gets my heart rate up, but it doesn’t put a load on my spine,” he says. “And swimming uses your entire body.” He also incorporated medicine balls and exercise balls into his routine. Once his back improved, Nyman still had the core and cardio foundation he needed for high-level strength and power exercises. Plan for three or four swimming or deep-water running workouts each week. Start with 10 to 15 minutes, and increase the time as you’re able.
Nyman praises Pilates for boosting his core strength, coordination and control. “It works all those muscles deep in your core and develops great balance
and flexibility with no impact.”
GO OLD SCHOOL
Steven Nyman’s focus on his core led him to kettlebells, a Russian training tool that’s been in use since at least the 1700s. A kettlebell is a cast-iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a
handle. It’s used mostly for Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches, but it forces the athlete to stabilize from the core and allows for a greater range of motion than barbells or dumbbells. “Kettlebells are a lot more applicable to skiers,” says Studio Physiques trainer James Urianza, who guides Nyman through his kettlebell workouts. “You’re often in a crouch position, and you have to have a lot of control. It’s very dynamic.” Get your own Quick Start Kit ($155)—which includes a kettlebell, a book and a DVD—from russiankettlebells.com.