I was skiing in Jackson Hole Wyoming this past week, which I believe to be one of the most spectacular mountains in North America. I ski Aspen, Whistler/Blackhome, Alta, Snowbird, Mammoth, Squaw Valley, Targhee, Crested Butte and others but there's something truly special about Jackson Hole. Jackson is also one of the most difficult mountains I have ever skied. There are more double black diamond runs on that hill than anywhere. This mountain will eat you alive. If you're looking for steep, narrow runs with plenty of tight trees and cliff bands then Jackson Hole is the place for you.
Every time I go to Jackson I meet up with my dear friend Steve Holmsen. Steve is a super fit life-eater who loves skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, mountaineering and anything else that involves the great outdoors. He was my "Steep & Deep" ski instructor 4 seasons ago and we've remained friends ever since. Steve is also my workout partner while I'm at the resort. Our workouts are crazy intense and mildly competitive, in a good way. We just love to push each other. Every one of our workouts are done on the fly. Never a preset routine. We'll pick 2 or 3 body parts and see if we can destroy the other guy. Pushing hard and flying by the seat of our pants, just like on the hill.
These routines always involve plenty of balance and stabilization exercises. All the leg work, core exercises and much of the upper body exercises are done on a stability ball, Bosu Ball™ or basket ball. These routines/exercises prep the body for the ever changing terrain at Jackson Hole. You're not just sitting down doing biceps curls, you're standing on one leg (on the flat side of a Bosu Ball™) doing biceps curls, followed by swimmer's presses. Talk about Synergistic exercises. Holy crap! When Steve introduced me to this stuff it was like starting all over again.
I love technique based exercises anyway (yoga, plyo, kenpo, gymnastics, etc.) but balance/stability work brings in a whole new, very powerful dimension. It forces all your core muscles, connective tissue, ligaments, tendons and many (formally untapped) tiny muscles in the body to get involved during every single repetition. There is plenty of "Muscle Confusion" during these workouts. Lateral leaping plyometric push-ups off of a basketball or one-legged squats on the backside of a Bosu Ball™ changes the game completely. If your body isn't ready for this stuff or your technique is off, you will get hurt.
When I'm on the mountain with Steve he loves to ski what he calls "Esthetic Technical Lines." This kind of skiing usually involves a very precise specific path down a ski run. These type of runs are not for the unskilled casual skier. They are usually steep, narrow chutes peppered with trees and rocks. They require a plan and an attitude before entering them. One mistake can result in a twisted knee, broken bones, a concussion or worse. This kind of skiing might seem insane to some. To me skiing this way is a metaphor for life. The hard work done in the gym the day before prepares you to ski an esthetic technical line. The time and energy you put into your work, family and fitness will also determine how much joy, happiness and success you'll have in this life.
I don't mean to turn a story about exercises and skiing into an esoteric lesson for life but I do want to point out that we all have multiple options when it comes to our journey on this earth. I know for myself that when I choose to take positive steps toward conquering difficult, scary and compelling challenges, I end up learning things that change me forever. I'm not talking about taking silly dangerous risks with the hope of a positive outcome. I'm also positive that hoping, wishing and just wanting something rarely produces anything. I do know that small steps, practice, hard work, asking for help, falling down once in a while, plus a healthy dose of determination will help you find your way down that esthetic technical line.