From learning the basics of weight training and physical therapy with Olympian and physical therapist Derrick Crass in Belleville, IL back in 1998 to working with US Ski & Snowboard for four years leading into the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea, Tracy Fober has worked with athletes and patients of all levels of ability.
Over that time, she has promoted the concept of physical health for life and sport, integrating knowledge and practical experience from the fields of exercise science, rehabilitation and the sport of weightlifting. Tracy is a respected performance professional in the United States and actively works to promote integration of sports medicine and athletic development through local workshops, national presentations and social media.
She brings her passion for physical health to the residents of Park City with her private practice, Iron Maven Performance Health. Inside her small but mighty facility, Tracy is able to take a very personal, individualized approach with every patient, client and athlete, providing them with the care and attention they deserve.
- The rehab/performance continuum and Tracy’s career influences
- Tracy’s work with US Ski and Snowboard
- Unique aspects of working with high level snow sport athletes
- Common injuries in this population
- Benchmarks Tracy uses to gauge readiness off the snow
- What Tracy learned from elite alpine and freestyle athletes
- Psychological readiness and performance mindset
- Collaborating with technical coaches and members of the performance team when there are overlapping skill sets
- Long term athletic development for snow sport athletes
- In season and offseason considerations
Links of Interest
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Welcome to the Resilient Performance Podcast. I’m your host, Doug . And today I’m joined by Tracy Fober. From learning the basics of weight training and physical therapy with Olympian and physical therapist, Derek crass and Bellville, Illinois, back in 1998, to working with the U S ski and snowboard team for four years, leading up to the 2018 winter Olympics, Tracy has worked with athletes and patients of all levels of ability or that time.
She has promoted the concept of physical health for life and sport, integrating knowledge and practical experience from the fields of exercise science. Rehabilitation and the sport of weightlifting, Tracy’s a respected performance professional in the United States and actively works to promote integration of sports, medicine, and athletic development through local workshops, national presentations and social media.
She brings her passion for health, to the residents of park city with her private practice, iron Maven performance health inside her small, but mighty facility. Tracy is able to take a very personal. Individualized approach with every patient, client and athlete, providing them with the care and attention they deserve.
And this episode would be discussed the way that Tracy seamlessly integrates rehabilitation and athletic development. And we also get into her work with elite, Alpine and freestyle athletes with both the us ski and snowboard team, the national team and her private practice. Without being dramatic. Um, these are the types of athletes where if they are not truly physically and psychologically prepared for their event, the consequences can be catastrophic on the snow.
So Tracy gets into some of the unique aspects of preparing these athletes for competition.
Tracy, thank you so much for coming on. So I wanted to begin by talking about. No, there’s this seemingly new trend in the field of physical therapy where physical therapy has been integrated with strength and conditioning, and you have a lot more, uh, therapists you can, you know, are comfortable treating along that entire continuity of care.
I think it seems like it’s new because with social media, there’s just more awareness about that kind of stuff. But this is something that you’ve been doing for a very long time, even before it was like, it was the thing that it is now. So can you just talk about kind of. Your evolution as a, as a clinician.
And, you know, at what point in your career, you began to realize that, you know, there, there is this kind of seamless continuity between strength and conditioning and rehab. I’ve had the great fortune of, um, being able to work in a variety of, of settings. And that started, uh, four months after I graduated from PT school, um, way back in December of 1997.
Um, I was an inpatient rotating therapist at st. Louis university hospital for four months. And then I got the opportunity to go work in a private, um, orthopedic sports med clinic, very small. And that just happened to be owned by a therapist who was an, uh, a weightlifter in the 84 and 88 Olympic games, dairy crass.
And he opened a small 1200 square foot facility in Bellville, Illinois. And we saw traditional outpatient orthopedic patients, but then also did some sports performance with local high school kids and, and did some personal training type stuff. And so right away at the beginning of my career, um, I was able to start learning to manage both in the same setting.
And I think that’s, that’s very important that, that, that there was no bounce, no physical difference of, of, of the environment that I could, that I was in, where I could do both things. So, so that kind of set the scene. Um, I also got to. Experience what it was to do. Um, progressive higher level resistance training.
Derek mentored me, um, in, in resistance training. I’d been an athlete in high school and college, but no real formal training. And, you know, and in the, in, in your PT education resistance training, doesn’t get a whole like actual programming. Doesn’t get a whole lot of, um, time. So I was learning all of these things and doing them on a daily basis.
And he sent me to burn gambit as building and rebuilding in there. I sort of, I got to really see, um, what it was to have a foundation of body weight, eight movements in your toolbox and started integrating that. And then as my career progressed, I was in a high end personal training setting where I got to see my first cash based.
Physical therapy patients in home. I also work in the velocity sports performance, a franchise back in 2005, um, as their assistant director. And so I started, I had my hands in a lot of different areas, whether it was sports performance or orthopedic rehab. And then when I opened my own practice in 2010, And I was managing young athletes, both their, their physical preparation and then any of their rehab.
So if they had a sore shoulder, they had patellofemoral pain, they had a sprained ankle. Um, it was very easy to rehab them because we had built this foundation of this physical literacy and movement competency, and boom. We could just put them right back in if they had, you know, a dent or a ding or. Or even a more serious issue.
And we, it, it was clear to me that this stuff truly is on the same continuum. It’s just a matter of how you apply it and dose it. There’s no difference if you understand that it’s all movement based, right. It’s all human movement, you know, it’s the same thing it’s just looking at, you know, how, how vigorous it is and how.
Um, how, how the physicality is a little bit different with some people, but, but it’s basically all the same. Yeah. And you mentioned, um, you know, Vern being an influence and like just looking at some of your, your work it’s it speaks to the fact that you’ve sought a lot of mentorship and experiences outside of the field of physical therapy, you know, to kind of connect some of those dots.
So besides Vern, like what were some of the other experiences or people. That influence you outside the field, because I’m just, you know, you’re doing like you’re having a rally to do Olympic weightlifting. You’re having them do track and field influence things. And none of which are things that we actually get in our formal education.
So you have to have gotten it from somewhere, right. That started probably with, um, weightlifting coaches, um, working with Derek and then meeting. More of the weightlifting community, getting my own weightlifting coaching certification. I was never a competitive weightlifter. I’m a groupie. I love the sport.
I love supporting those things fleets because those coaches taught me that strength and mobility are not mutually exclusive things. Okay. That’s where I really saw. The benefit of thoracic spine, shoulder mobility, what ankle mobility means to back health, what hip mobility means tobacco health, and that, you know, basically weightlifters are just solving the problem of picking heavy things and putting them down.
And that applies to a lot of our patients who, who get injured. And so. So weightlifting coaches, um, Derek crass, Harvey Newton, Mike Bergner, um, John thrush, uh, those people right. Really influenced, um, one my, my understanding of resistance training programming, and using, using heavier training. In the preparation or the rehabilitation of athletes, and then, uh, Kelvin Giles, um, who became a part of the, the gain community, who was a coach, a track and field coach, physical educator, you know, a coach at the highest level.
And, and so it really the idea of, of giving people a mechanical efficiency, the idea of resilience. Um, he, he was very influential in my, uh, understanding of that and that all sort of really fed into, um, my physical therapy education in Shirley sermons. You know, a lot of people, um, Really refer to Shirley and having Shirley in person was, was such a privilege.
But, but the whole idea of that you look at the movement system and you, you see movement as something that can, um, from the top down, create challenges, basically affect tissue effect affect the body, but then you can also use movement to, um, Address those things. And, um, we’re not necessarily having to do a lot of manual work or Madame use modalities.
We can, we can be different. We can truly be the experts in movement and using movement to help people, um, accomplish whatever goals they have in life and to, and to be in their environment successfully and take care of themselves. So, so weightlifting coaches versus, um, Kelvin, um, I would say, uh, a guy named Steve, Maryland, um, just, just really embracing.
All of this stuff that is outside traditional physical therapy training and, and what, um, tools there are. And that, that our greatest tools are space, the human body and gravity. So then, then you, you get to have fun learning how to use all of these other. These other fun things. Yeah. And it’s funny because I mean, obviously, you know, the things that people like you and I will post on Instagram or social media, it’s only a snapshot of what we do and same thing with everybody.
You don’t want to judge somebody based on their social media and their online, uh, you know, characterization, but it also, it can be revealing. And if you Google do a Google image search for physical therapy, it conjures up certain images and those images. Look, nothing like the things that, that you’re posting.
I mean, you’re really the things that you’re doing are more indicative of like athletic development, true physical education. It kind of reminds me of sort of an adult version of some of the stuff that Jeremy Frisch is doing with, with youth athletes. And, you know, I think as a field, you know, physical therapy, they’re pretty good at like restoring range of motion, getting people to quote unquote physical level of function, you know, a normal level of function.
And I don’t think there’s a lot of controversy about like how to get. Full range of motion back in a knee. But I think that where the profession is probably lacking is like, all right, once you get that range of motion back, how do you truly prepare somebody for sport? Which is where, you know, you’re differentiating yourself.
You mentioned some of these cool experiences you ended up. I think, you know, um, within the last couple of years you had a position as a physical therapist for us ski and snowboard. So how did, uh, how did that come to be. That came to be through some connections, uh, with a coach Mike Bond, he was in the gain gain network.
Mike became, um, a strength and conditioning or athletic development coach with us ski and snowboard. And then they, um, ended up needed a strength, needing a strength coach for women’s Alpine and. The job opened in March of 2014. And I thought, Hey, what the heck? I’m going to apply? Um, and very fortunate to, to be hired.
So I was hired by U S ski and snowboard as a, as an athletic development coach. Okay. Okay. Not a physical therapist and okay. And it was kind of rare because, you know, if you don’t have it variance in snow sport, it’s kind of a challenging to get into snow sport and be accepted. Um, but, uh, I was very grateful that that Mike, um, you know, sort of encouraged me and then, um, his boss, Troy Flanagan, who’s now the head of high performance for the Milwaukee bucks and orchestrating that, um, That organizations, um, high-performance department, uh, Troy Flannigan hired me.
And that was how I got into to snow sport. I was first hired for women’s Alpine, and that was somewhat of a challenging situation because in us ski and snowboard, um, high-performance all of our coaches and athletic development were hired separately. They were not hired by the coaching staff. Okay. So as you know, you need to have good engagement with your technical and sport coaches, if you want to be successful.
Um, and it was kind of like a, um, a perfect storm. They just hired new women’s Alpine coaches who are European. They hired me to be the strength coach for women’s Alpine, the world cup team. And, um, that really just didn’t quite work out. And so, so I was lucky enough, Troy was like, Hey, you know, it’s going to be okay.
And so then I became the rehab strength coach. I had the wide enough skill set. He was like, we’re gonna, you’re gonna stay. And we’re gonna like, let you help rehab people. And so that’s how that worked. And so I was there doing, um, sort of helping transition people from acute. A rehab to their return to sport.
And then we had another there coach. We had our snowboard halfpipe and slopestyle athletic development coach move on to professional sport and they needed somebody. And so they put me into that position. So I held this, the position of the athletic development coach for snowboard teams, but then also continued doing some.
Return to sport rehab and helping out the therapist. So most of the time I was not really acting as a physical therapist. I was acting as a, as an athletic development coach. That’s interesting. And that’s what I was going to ask you. Cause you, when you were hired, you had this physical therapy, credential license.
You’re being hired to be a strength coach, and obviously you have the skillset to see the entire continuum. So was it difficult to just like. We’re a strength coach hat, and then just pretend that you’re not going to delve into the medical side of things. It’s a weird situation to be in the weird situation to be in.
And sometimes it was challenging and that helped me to grow professionally, to learn how to sometimes not speak my mind. And then other times, how do I communicate things with people and how do I, how do I, um, help. The whole, our group of professionals, uh, integrate, uh, in a, in a more efficient manner that, that benefits the athletes.
And so, um, like one of the cool things I got to do was we, we wanted to, um, they were using the FMS for screening and they said, well, we’d like to maybe make a change. Can you develop something else for us? So. I got to put together a whole new, um, athlete readiness and screening program. And that was a really, um, challenging, but professionally, uh, invigorating, uh, champ thing to do.
And that’s still in use right now. Oh, with them. Um, so it, it was hard, but. There were opportunities for me to do, to use the whole extent of my skillset. And, and that was professionally satisfying to be able to work in those. But at the same time, it’s also very interesting because you’re never quite accepted as a real physical therapist, and you’re never quite accepted as a real strength coach.
Um, and, and, and that’s always kind of made me smile sometimes. Like I’ve been. I’ve applied for jobs as physical as a physical therapist for us. They’re national teams, and I’ve been told I’m not clinical enough. Mmm,
as opposed to more Bosu ball pictures on your Instagram, and there’ll be more critical. Right. And you know, I, I don’t have a w I’m old enough that I don’t have a DPT and I have not gone back to school to get my DPT, like that matters. Right. Right. And I, and I don’t have an OCS and I don’t have an SES. Um, and those things, uh, can be roadblocks, um, in some organizations where they don’t.
They struggled to appreciate what it is to return an athlete from, um, a devastating injury back to high level sport. They don’t, you don’t learn that in school. You can, you really can only learn that through kind of the years of experience and going through the process and, and managing a number of athletes in, in, in different, with different situations.
Yeah. I mean, I don’t know how deep you’re comfortable going into this, but like when it comes to acceptance the athletes, don’t really, the athletes don’t care. If your title is a strength coach or a physical therapist, they just care about, can you help them? So I feel like when it comes to your roles and responsibilities, it’s really, and I’m just kind of hypothesizing.
I mean, if I was in that situation, I feel like the only person who would care. If I was, you know, a dual hat, PT strength coach, when I was, you know, wearing the strength coach at the only person that would care if I was doing quote unquote therapy too, would be the physical therapist on staff. And they might feel threatened.
Now, some physical therapist would be like, great. I could use that help. In other words, might be like, you should only wear your you’re only the strength coach. You shouldn’t do rehab, even though the lions aren’t very clear. So did you feel like you had. If you’re able to talk about, like you had support from the other medical providers where they recognize that you are credentialed physical therapist and you could help there, or that where they kind of like, you know, this is our job and we don’t want you delving into it.
My physical therapy colleagues and my athletic training colleagues at USC and snowboard were outstanding. They were very accepting and. I wanted, I F I acquired it, them respect that they deserved. And, and we would like, I just never, I did not do any manual work. I’d never did that. I, I would go in the PT clinic and I would observe, and I would ask questions and I would.
You know, say, Hey, I’m seeing this, you know, how, how do you want to approach this? And I really saw my role is as my job was to use movement, the higher level movement to support what they were doing. That that was my job. And I, I was lucky enough to have the, the background and the training to understand what they were doing.
I could talk to them and, you know, I could speak to them in their language. They, they, you know, they, they respected me because they knew I had been through the same thing, you know, kind of more than the strings. So sometimes I was like this interpreter between, you know, the performance staff and the sports medicine staff and helping guide that and see like, well, we’re really all in this together.
And we’re really closer than you think. And, and to really, um, Fully integrate the two and, and make sure that everyone was welcoming in the, in the one space that we shared. Right. And making sure that people understood language. And so we would have in-services about resistance training and sure. The therapists and athletic trainers understood the equipment that was available to them.
And they weren’t afraid to use the barbell. They weren’t afraid to use the hex bars. Um, and that they understood the programming behind, like how we might do that. I mean, that was really cool. There were some great, great things that we did there and, and to really try to make sure that our, our processes of like, like putting some, getting someone back into.
They’re plyometric work. How could we best do that? And that our language was the same, um, that we, we viewed, we viewed the exercises as the same. And that’s a big challenge in any organization, especially when it’s a larger organization, you’ve got seven different teams and all these different professionals.
Trying to manage it. It, it gets it’s complicated, but if everyone can be honest and feel like, like they can safely. Ask questions and they can safely say, you know what? I don’t understand this. I don’t get it. Why do you, why do we do this? And then you, you have those conversations, right? And, um, w you always keeping in mind that you have to have your coaches as part of the process.
And then the athletes are really, it is going to be, you know, athlete centered. And that that’s the most important thing at the end of the day, but it was a challenge. But I just wanted to make sure that I made them know that they respect that I respected them. I knew exactly what they were going through and I was there to, to help them into sort of like expand their capacity with what, what we were doing outside of any treatment sessions that they were doing with the athlete.
Okay. Yeah. That situation kind of speaks to how some of like, even obviously we’ll have to have titles generally, but how some of those titles are kind of antiquated because there is also strength coaches that are very comfortable with all, but the very, very acute rehab. And so it’s, you know, in an ideal world, I guess people would hire you you’d hire professionals with various skill sets and just empower them to utilize their skillset because the title, I think can often create more unnecessary conflict.
Um, but yeah, that, that’s a pretty interesting story. I mean, and then even if internally you’ve got along, there can be politics from outside your team. So it’s, there’s a lot of, a lot of layers to this. Um, and then, so when you finally saw well into your role there, where you like traveling with the team to various races throughout the world, or were you kinda more like stationed at home and then working with the athletes that were injured and couldn’t travel?
What was that like? More the second option. I, I stayed home more and, and worked with athletes who were there. And, you know, the reality was that the snowboard teams, historically, they had not had the strength, coaches travel with them. And financially that wasn’t always, um, Available. So my job with them was to really, to really communicate with our athletic trainer and he was great cause he was, he got his CSCs.
He was really embracing learning, um, about the strength conditioning and athletic development elements. So, so basically my job was to work with him very closely and he would be on the road with them. Throughout the winter months, traveling with them all the time. So he would do all the rehab work and then also run most of the, um, The physical preparation session.
So, so my job was to really work through him and work with, with him on those things. And then back home in park city help the other coaches who may have been on the road and the therapist who were based there manage the caseload there. So I didn’t travel much to competitions. I went to some camps in Colorado.
I did get to go to New Zealand. Um, with a snowboard half-pipe, um, camp leading into the 2018 games. But, um, I was mostly here, which is fine with him, which was fine with me because in the reality of it, traveling with world cup, snow sports is brutal. It can be fun at a certain point in your life. But if you’re further along like the point that you were at, it probably isn’t as fun.
Exactly. It is brutal. You are lugging around bags and bags of equipment and treatment tables and your risk. You know, a lot of the staff are supposed to help set. If you’re in the Alpine world, you might be helping to set Gates. You might be out in 20 below zero temperatures, video doing video. So, so there’s, there’s a lot of hats you can wear on them.
No, it’s really, it’s really unglamorous. And I mean, I’m only like a recreational skier, but like I’ve been in Squaw Valley. I was there during the, uh, the woman’s world championships. And I, I would see, you know, like after some training runs like all various national teams and this like hotel gym, trying to solve it, some kind of a workout they’d be, they’d be in the hall routes of their hotel room, you know, trying to do stuff and like, Yeah, a lot of them, like you said, don’t have a lot of funding.
And I remember I was with this group and I won a, a. I won a raffle and I got a box of cliff bars and I’m like, you know, I can’t breathe. I pack pretty light. I’m like, you know, I don’t have room for them. So I went up to one of the national team coaches and I’m like, Hey, do you want to box a cliff bars?
And he’s like, absolutely. He just grabbed it. Like, you know, like, it’s, you know, you think that, I think people have a perception that even at this level, that it’s very, very. Glamorous, but, you know, I think except for like the really, really like top people that are sponsored, they’re really like scrapping to, to, to make a living.
Right. There’s that kind of your experience, right? That the pay is not, um, you’re not being paid the highest by any means. Um, you’re, you’re, you’re benefiting, you know, from the intangibles, the experience and all this stuff. Um, it was. One of the most interesting examples of, of what the humble surroundings, the non-glamorous surroundings, um, when the free ski and snowboard world championships were here a couple of years ago, I went up to the park city, mountain lodge and, and talked with Jeremy Shepherd or yeah, have, do you know Jeremy?
I don’t offer him. Yeah. And so I’m working with the Canadian snowboard. Yeah. And he is in the lodge with him, with his, a sports medicine person. And they’re working with two athletes, literally laying on the lodge tables. You know, they have very little equipment. They’ve got a yoga mat and they’ve got maybe a foam roller.
No, it’s some tape and stuff. And, and he’s helping his athletes get warmed up. And his, the physio is helping hold them together there and there, you know, and the, the lodge, one of the lodge employees comes in and says, Hey, you got to move because we got these kids coming in to eat lunch. You gotta get out of here.
I mean, you’re finding any nook and cranny, you can that’s that has some proximity. Yes. To the competition venue. Because you’re staying way over here. And then at night you’re doing treatments in your condo where the four of you are staying, you know, you’ve got your assistant coaches, you’ve got your, your athlete development, coaches, your sports medicine, people all crammed into this tiny condo.
You’ve got to go to the grocery store, buy food, you got to cook for yourself, you know, and you gotta be on budget because most of these, um, Olympic sports, they do not have. High budget. So it’s not a glamorous life. If you’re working for someone like Mikaela Shiffrin or Lindsay Vaughn in you’re the Inn, and that athlete is your only responsibility, then you might be in a little better setting, but you’re still under great stress.
The travel is really challenging and the schedule is demanding because you’re expected to be outside. At the training venue and, um, you’re up early and then you’re, you’re working late to try to, you know, fix any, any issues that came up that day and then prepare them for the next next session or the next competition.
So it’s 24 seven job, 24 seven. Once I was going to ask you like some of the top performers, was it the kind of thing where like everybody in the national team. Was sort of required to do, you know, work out with the strength coach or did some of the top people bring in their own staff and they were, they were kind of like running their own sort of camps on the side.
It, it varies, um, from discipline and it varies with the coaches. So our cross country teams, um, they’re altogether, they, um, they train together, they eat together, they live together. Um, none of, none of the team members. It goes out individually and has their own thing. Alpine is a little bit different. They get to some of those, those athletes have the resources and they have their own staff.
And then the rest of the team has the national team staff supporting them in the snowboard and free ski sports. They tend to all be together, but. Um, how much they interact with the strength conditioning staff, um, is kind of left up to them. They have a lot of independence with what they do, particularly if they’re very successful.
So it like Kelly Clark, five time Olympian, you know, in snowboarding for over almost 20 years. Um, she worked very closely with Hashana Schiller. Um, who was her strength coach, even though I was the snowboard half. Hi strength coach. She worked here. She had worked with Tishara since 2010, so she continued to work with her and then I helped.
Kind of manage that. So, so it is a very fluid situation and, um, most of the, of the, the acrobatic sport athletes, um, it was, we tried to help support them and to get them to really engage and understand the importance of, of their physical preparation in terms of their, their health and their longterm. You know, career aspirations.
Um, but that was, is up to them and they were allowed to, to do as much or as little as they needed or as they wanted. So it just, it really, it depended. And that was, that was challenging because I came from a team sport world. I was a team sport athlete. Um, my husband is a swim coach. Those sports are highly.
Regimented and structured. Right. And everybody does the same thing. Everybody shows up on time. You know, everybody trains together. Um, that’s very different in some of these sports. And so it took a little bit of to get used to that and to be comfortable with that. And to be like, well, every day is a new day, gotta be ready for it situation.
Um, gotta be open to, to helping people gradually and not, I couldn’t force anything on anyone. I had to get them, uh, as Jeremy Shepherd. So, so. I’m wonderfully says you want to not just get buy in, but get engaged. You want to really get them to value what you do you do and show them that we’re, we’re doing all of this so that you can, um, do your sport better.
This isn’t, we’re not, we’re not trying to do this just to make you sore or to embarrass, you know, this is for you and we’re going to make sure get four, you know, We’re going to tailor it to your needs. Um, and I’m going to win your trust and we’re going to do this together. I’m not just going to impose this on you.
And that’s interesting because there’s obviously like a huge variance in some of these snow sports. And I feel like the, like the Alpine racing is a little bit more formal. And I think that strength and conditioning has been a part of that culture for much longer. And some of the freestyle sports. Did you, was it hard to get buy in?
You know, cause some of the freestyle sports it’s a lot, I think what makes some of those athletes so amazing and creative is that they don’t do things in a regimented way. And you know, they just, you know, like when they’re young, they just go to the mountains and they, they kind of play and they find things to jump off and, and then to go into like a really formal environment where it’s like now you’ve got to lift weights and do squats.
Do you find that it was, you had to kind of tailor your communication style? Differently, depending on who you’re working with within that, that subset of populations. Absolutely. You have to learn to, um, be very open to them, um, to help them be comfortable because seriously, they, there were a lot of these young people who they, they were intimidated by the weight room.
They didn’t want to be there. They want to be outside. They’re very expressive, very physical, but most of them have been unstructured for their entire career because they have a lot of, they have a lot of say in how long they train when they train what conditions they train. So tell them to be in the facility from two to three 30 dressed and ready to go.
That sometimes, um, was a struggle. So you have to really kind of, um, help them feel the value in what you were doing, whether it was a simple warmup or four movements to help them make sure that their knees didn’t hurt. After their training runs and stuff like that. And if you could get them to see like, you know what, Hey, I feel better.
I can, I can train in the halfpipe longer. Um, I’m not feeling as beat up. Then they would, then they would start to get at any, if you would say like, look, I’m going to give you these things you can do by yourself. We’re going to do them at four o’clock. Nobody’s going to be here. You don’t have to worry about anyone watching you.
Nobody’s going to make it, you know, because. Cause culturally, the fact of the matter is that sometimes some of the Alpine athletes would be in wouldn’t would say things or intimidate some of the freestyle athletes. Um, and so. Because because you are correct. Alpine skiing has a rich tradition of resistance training and preparation and conditioning, and they’re, they’re hard hardasses.
And they, I mean, if you say we’re running through the brick wall today, they’re like, okay, let’s do it. They lift heavy. It’s like the flip ball of the college sports setting. Okay. They lift heavy and you know, and they’re the top dog. So when you have the acrobatic athletes and the freestyle athletes, um, there’s a lot of cultural tension sometimes.
And then sometimes we would have the best relationships and sometimes individual athletes would really connect and mentor each other and help each other learn. And that was, that was great. When you could facilitate that. But then on the other side, you had to respect where the freestyle athletes were coming from.
What was the history of their individual? Um, coaching and in upbringing. And then what was their teams, uh, culture and how did their coaches sort of talk about preparation? And so those were things that those are barriers to really overcome and work with. Um, the Alpine community is, is very, is very interesting.
You asked me if there was one topic that I’m really kind of. Engaged by right now. And that’s, that’s young Alpine ski athletes. And there are just so many of these athletes who are, um, they lift heavy, they lift too heavy. Um, they’re conditioned to death. They’re like they’re seen as miniature professional skiers.
And, um, it, it just is, is hard for me to watch. I can’t tell you that the knees and the. And the backs I’ve seen just to get, what age are we talking? Like how early are they starting doing this? 14. Okay. 14 to 18. And have to have kids come to the national team setting and be terrified to back squat because they already had herniated discs.
My coach wanted me to start with 165 pounds. This is 145 pound 80 17 year old female. This is what we start with one 65, the bar that’s my warmup set. Yeah. There are, there is no warmup. Um, so, so, you know, if you it’s, like I said, it’s very similar to football and you have the sport coaches running a lot of the, of the conditioning sessions and there’s very much the mentality of, um, if it’s hard, it must be beneficial.
Heavy is good. Um, there’s not a lot of patients to really train lightly and there’s not a lot of appreciation for, um, bodyweight work leading up to that. Um, and, and all of these athletes are risk takers. They’ll do it. Yeah. They’ll do it until they can. Yeah, absolutely. And they, and they firmly believe that if it’s not painful or it’s not burning, it’s probably not beneficial.
It’s gotta be hard. Every workout has to be hard to be better official. I mean, these people will, you know, he racers are like soccer players. They, they get their boots fit very, very snugly. Right. They will, they will train until their feet bleed. I mean, that’s, that’s just, you know, they kind of, that’s the kind of mindset that they have raised their ass off and the racing suit.
Yeah. Yeah. And so, you know, if you break a wrist or a collarbone on a downhill mountain biking training session, well, you know, that’s part of that, that’s part of the gig. And so it’s just, um, I think, uh, there can be a lot, yeah. Of change in the preparation of a young, the longterm athletic development of snow sport athletes on the, on the snowboard and free ski side.
They need a little bit more preparation. They’re becoming professional at such a young age. Right. They’re 16, 15, 16, 17, 18. Um, we need to help support them and get them to, uh, be into the idea of, so of their training as self care, not just getting strong or whatever, cause that will fly with a lot of them.
And then on the Alpine side, we needed to be more patient and, um, less. Put less emphasis on heavy training and hard training and teaching them how to move, how to, to move as athletes. Um, you know, there’s, there’s some interesting things about these sports. These are not gait related sports, right? These aren’t athletes who run for a living, right.
Their feet are locked in these bindings. And they, they slide, they slide around. So some of the things that hold for the majority of athletes don’t really hold for these people. And, um, so we try to figure out where do we spend our time? How much, how much basing running mechanics cutting do we do with them?
Cause they do use running in their preparation a little bit, but they don’t run for a living. Um, so how do you prepare these people? Where do we need to go from the general to the specific, and then, you know, they, their sport places, tremendous forces on them. Yeah. They have to be strong. They have to be resilient, but we can’t break them in the process.
How do we do that carefully? How do we manage those loads? And when they’re young, we have to give them, we have to be patient and give them time to develop. Cause cause you know, they, or they just want to survive well, and that’s one of those timeless, the Gates, right? Of like how specialized do you need to be?
Because you can make the argument. Well, they don’t run, they’re locked in a ski boot or in a binding, but at the same time, These board sports or the snow sports usually require you to specialize pretty early. Like you don’t see people who started skiing at 12 years old, making it to the Olympics. You can’t just get by on athletic ability alone.
It’s very technical. And if people have never had that general athletic base, then maybe even though like running isn’t that important? I’m not saying you’ve got to make them like an elite track athlete, but maybe like teaching them at a skip and how to run. Do some lateral change of direction work where their ankle like actually has to articulate.
Like, I feel like maybe that’s, I don’t know it, my, my instinct would be that I would give them the least specific stuff possible because they’re there on snow so much. Like you really need to do things that mimic skiing or snowboarding in the weight room. Like, you know, do general strength, work things.
Everybody does squats, dead lifts. And then just like, and be like an athlete. And in the case of a youth athlete, like have them be a kid learn to do kid things. Right. And, and that is the struggle because there are more and more sport coaches who the kids are on snow more often with the exception of this year.
Um, they’re, they’re traveling all over the world, chasing the snow, and then they’re there. They are trying to replicate. Their sport in the gym. They’re stand there on unstable surfaces in their ski boots. No, it wasn’t even real unstable actually, but yeah. Right, exactly. Yeah. So I’m sort of avalanche, right?
I was like, we’re going to Slack line and we’re going to stand on this Swiss ball and we’re going to wear a ski boots on this. And you’re like, what, what what’s going on? And so, um, it is it, and that’s a mindset that, that we. As athletic development professionals and sports medicine professionals have to try to help them understand that these, these athletes need to develop as athletes general athletes first, and that will support their infrastructure to manage the special, the special skill that you develop on snow.
Um, so like I have, if I have two, I have two ski racers right now. One was fortunate enough to, he played, he was ski racer. He, um, played lacrosse. He is, he got his black belt in karate and he is a very well rounded, um, athletic individual who ski races, very robust. I have another individual who played some baseball, but has mostly been ski racing.
And then also physically is later develop physical later developer. So from a durability and infrastructure perspective, I think he struggled because he didn’t have as robust of a, he didn’t get to sample as many sports and, and be as robust as some of the other, other individuals in the community. And, you know, ski racing as a, as a wealthy.
Sport. And so, you know, if you’re 12 and 13 and your parents can send you to Chile and August, and then he can send you to Europe in September, and then you go to Colorado in November, and then you, you traveled the United States, the rest of the winter, and then you go to mammoth in may. And so you’re, you’re maybe off snow two months out of the year.
It’s it’s incredible. So they can, I’ll be skiing all the time in normal times. Yeah. And so there, the opportunities and the windows that we have to actually give them those experience, those other experiences, whether it’s the, the ability to, to play other sports. Or to just, um, kind of help build their bodies.
It’s it’s getting more rare and rare because there’s a, there’s a big, um, push to, to really get into the ski racing scene and, and be on snow all the time. Yeah. That’s a big challenge. Can you speak to, cause I mean, I think that. You understand movement. It really doesn’t matter what type of athlete you’re working with.
And the reality is this is just my opinion. I don’t think that like we’re making, creating better skiers, so to speak, but people like you and I are getting them the physical potential to manifest that skill so that they don’t have a physical limitation that prevents or preclude skill development or, you know, capacity like on a, you know, on a race course.
I’m just like that, that those, those buckets of physical potential, but at the same time, There is something unique about the snow sport athletes, because there’s a huge confidence component. I mean, I thought it was funny that you mentioned the, um, the freestyle athletes, like they’re willing to go off a half pipe or do 10 flips a hundred feet in the air, but they have anxiety about squatting for the first time in front of somebody.
So it shows how, like this anxiety is so context specific. And performance specific, but I would imagine that these, these athletes probably taught you something about even like the mental side of preparation, because it is different. I mean, if you, if you’re not physically prepared for like a basketball game, you’ll lose the game.
You might even get hurt. But if you’re not totally locked in, like on an Alpine ski race and you catch an edge. It can be totally catastrophic. Yes. So, and I would imagine that in a snow sports scenario, there’s even less room for false confidence. Like if, if somebody has crappy rehab, they’re going to know, right.
Like they’re not going to even make it to the race because in a training run, it’s going to be like, I can’t, I don’t have that gear. Whereas I think that you can be not fully rehabilitated and even some team sports and kind of get away with skill and have strategy and tactics and the team caring individual.
An individual sport that you’re dealing with on the snow. I don’t think there’s any room for that. So what was kind of like surprising or unique to you working with that population and like, what did they, what did they teach you maybe as a clinician that, you know, maybe an experience you didn’t have working with other types of athletes?
Cause they get as a very unique population. It was, it was a very, um, sobering thought to, to realize that the athletes I was working with here in park city, um, Could very well be risking their lives. You know, there are people who have died in the halfpipe. There, there are people who don’t in these sports.
Yep. Okay. And so you have to be very respectful. Uh, if they’re, don’t feel confident that, that you don’t ask them to be in a situation where they don’t feel confident. So in the joke, the joke kind of is, well, I’m, don’t, I’m not feeling this stoked and, and, and it’s so they know they know. So, so it’s like, and you have to respect that and maybe say like, okay, well, we’re going to.
Then let’s work on this. Okay. But we’re not going to work on our hardest tricks, but we’re going to work on this and we’re going to, we’re going to still use the time time. Well, one of the, Mmm, fun, uh, sort of episodes I had, I was working with some rookie, uh, snowboard, halfpipe, female athletes. They were 17, 18 years old and we were doing 14 inch alternating.
Jumps using a box. Okay. And one said, you know, these really one of the athletes looked at me and said, I’m scared of these. And I looked at her and said, you, your sport, isn’t a 22 foot half, but you go off the walls. I see walls of 22 foot, half pipe, and you do backflips. And you do, you do all kinds of tricks and your intimidated by this 14 inch box.
And she said yes, and I was always stunned. I was just stunned at that because, and it really hit home to me that, you know, Context is King, right. You know, and environment matters and your comfort level in your experience, your movement experiences matter. And, and yes, these individuals will we’ll stop on a bridge and do a back flip into the, into the river below and the reservoir below and think nothing of it, but they will be intimidated by maybe doing, um, the spectrum squats in the weight room.
And so you just have to be gentle with how you, you, you introduce things and you make them comfortable and, and then you like it. And then you get to watch them do amazing things in the air. And you just, and you Marvel at how they can overcome, you know, an is athlete who’s at a world cup event. And. Her coach said, okay, in order to try to make the top six, you’re going to do a full, double, full, full for the first time in your life.
And her binding had just broken. They literally duct tape the binding back and she, she went off the jump and she almost landed this, but you know, the reality is she could have really hurt herself. And that that is a sobering thought any, and you just have so much respect for these people. And then when, when they decide to retire, you mean multiple concussions.
If I know someone who’s had five ACL surgeries, five, five, three on one knee and two on the other, you know, multiple foot fractures, bilateral calcaneal fractures. From landing in the flat bottom of the half pipe, that’s a fun rehab, right? Bilateral, bilateral, Achilles tendon ruptures, you know, and you know, and, and who knows how many concussions and, and that’s, that’s a very scary thought that we don’t know what our freestyle athletes are gonna.
Be like in their fifties. Right. It’s and that’s, as we look at football and we’re seeing some of the stuff coming out of bobsled and skeleton, did you see the article in the New York times about the bobsleigh? Oh, there’s a recent article in the New York times about, um, suicides and, and head injury and CTE potentially in bobsled and skeleton sliding sport athletes.
We don’t know what their heads, their brains are going to look like. Right into their forties, fifties, and sixties. And, and, and that really makes you step back and things like, like, why are we doing this? And you know, how safe is this and how long you do this, and when is it time to call it quits? And we got to help support them to be ready to make that transition.
Um, cause you know, it, it just, um, it’s a matter of their loans term, longterm health. And, um, yeah, it, it, you know, it, you can play volleyball and basketball for a long time. And, and I have, those were my sports and I love those sports, but there’s probably not, you’re probably not going to die. Right, right.
You’re not going to have a head injury probably. And you’re not going to risk breaking your neck most days. Yes. And like, you can tear your ACL and those sports, but you’re not going to do it going 90 miles an hour where you’re, you know, you’re binding breaks in half and your head’s hitting the ground and you fracture your pelvis at the same time.
Like yeah. Yeah. Those, and those are real scenarios that people have to come back from. And. And, and you, it just makes you take a pause when you, when you think about that in those terms, and you’ve seen those, those incidences and you are like, okay, we’re gonna, we’re going to do this, but, but I totally understand if you make the decision not to, that’s going to be okay.
That’s going to be, Nope. Nobody’s going to blame you for, um, you know, deciding. To choose your health over, over trying to win another metal. Nobody’s gonna blame me for that. And that’s okay. In my experience with the, with the skins snowboard national team athletes. I really got, I got the chance to really see the benefits of sports psychology and how much a good sports psychologist can, can help an athlete.
And in, in the, the, the importance of the performance team with the dietician, the chef, the, the physical therapist, athletic trainer, Sports psychologist, the education person. Who’s helping them manage their real life during their competition life, and then trying to get them ready for, after that, all of those people working to support these young people and get them, keep them safe and keep them going and in the mint in keeping them confident and looking out for their mental health.
And we’re seeing. A lot of things come out right now in the media about, um, athletes who are incredibly successful and highly skilled. And they’re doing this while having mental health struggles and that’s, that’s, it’s that that’s a really, uh, you know, sobering thing. And, and, and we as is physical health providers, we’re kind of on the front lines of helping identify that sometimes.
And. Yeah. Trying to, to communicate that to the other people in power and say like, Hey, I’m seeing these things we need to, um, we need to intervene here and we need to protect this person. Cause there’s, there’s some, there’s some big challenges going on right here. Yeah. And I think that’s the balance. It’s the same thing.
Like as, as physios that we face. Right? Cause in any kind of like a technical sport or biomechanics or an emphasis, it’s very easy to pathologize things that. Don’t matter. And I think from a performance standpoint and on a clinical standpoint in psychology, it’s like if you’re meddling with an athlete that already, like, that’s not a limiting factor in their performance, it’s kind of like one of us trying to mess with a golf swing or something.
It’s like, if it’s working, do you really want a metal? Unless it’s a problem, but from a clinical I’m like a truly mental health standpoint. If there’s like a pathology that’s irrespective of performance, a hundred percent like that mental health support needs to be available. I’m glad that. Teams are doing it, but it’s always like, and it’s not limited to psychology or physical therapy, but any well-intentioned provider, there’s always like the, you know, are we naively intervening in something that doesn’t need to be intervened with?
And that’s something that I think like, even I struggle with too, you know? Yeah. I know it can be as simple as like, are you becoming dependent on sleep AIDS because of the travel? Like those, those kinds of things, you know, something like, like. If your athlete says, I can’t get enough, sleep on, I’m taking ambient or whatever and all this stuff, but yeah.
And their travel schedule is just so intense and crazy. And they’re going from time zone to time zone back and forth from Europe to United States or in Asia and all these things. And those are real world issues that we, we can help. Outside of, um, of the physical stuff. So yeah, that, as far as like the physical stuff goes, I mean, cause at this, obviously from a confidence standpoint, like there’s a seamless relationship between the physical and the psychological, especially coming off an injury, like you’re not going to be confident going off a half flight.
If you’re where your knee is going to buckle when you land, you know, what are some. Whether it’s for like, with the national team or even like that you use yourself and your own clinics, unlike some physical benchmarks that you think are important, where you could say, okay, I think this person is safe. I know it’s somewhat individualized, but like some just general guidelines of, I think this athlete is safe to return to the snow.
I don’t think that it’s going to be a physical issue that, that limits him or her. So with, with my ski athletes, I really, um, I use, I use the leg. I use Lake circuits a lot, um, cause they kind of traverse all of the single and AA elements, full range of motion, ballistic, you know, basic strength. Um, I, I have come to use, uh, pistol squats and TRX assisted pistol squats, um, to take like for anyone who has a tibial plateau fracture or patellar tendon issue.
We can really sort of look at the integrity of the entire joint through full range of motion, because we know those athletes get what we call in the back seat sometimes. Okay. So we’re, we’re, we’re going down through there. So, so those are, those are a few of them, the things I’m using, some higher rep rear foot elevated single leg squat, um, Potential assessments.
Um, but the, the leg circuits and some of the bowel and what we’d call some bounding, jumped puzzles. Those looking at those, I think are, are my, some of my return to, or readiness to, to train readiness, to compete, um, sort of assessments. I am, I’m not a Luddite. I like technology, but in my own clinic, you know, I don’t.
I’ve used force weights. I don’t have any force plates. Um, I don’t even use any STEM. Um, some of my athletes will buy the power dot things and they’ll use it, you know, themselves. I do, I own one compacts. Um, but I, I kind of, uh, I’ve gotten away from a lot of, um, modalities and stuff and I, and I need to be better at using more objective.
Testing, like I pro I, I need to have like some kind of strain gauge, or I’d like to have some Pascoe plates or I’m doing some type of objective assessment of, of prob post-surgical strength, you know, particularly lower, similar extremity, knee, knee related strength stuff. Um, that’s where, that’s what, uh, my, um, my deficits right now.
Um, but. But the movement stuff. I think I’ve got that down down pretty well. So I would say bounding hopping stuff like circuits, and you’ve got videos of all that stuff. Cause I’ve been watching it. I’m like, this is of fun. I’ve got to try it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I’m trying to, um, put some ideas out there, help people find the practical things that can help round out there and make their assessments more robust.
Um, for whatever sport athlete. Um, I’m real. I think it’s really cool. Like at this point in my career, I’m really a generalist. I I’m supporting professional, uh, iron man triathlete professional baseball pitcher. Who’s been through two Tommy, John surgeries, uh, ski racing athletes, you know, like, uh, ages 14 up to 70.
You know, I feel like I can manage a lot of different people. I don’t have the, in a lot of specific, real in depth, um, management of acute things, but when it comes to return to function and return to high level training, I can pretty much manage just about I can manage most things. And I, I really enjoy, even though I’m not a good skier, I didn’t learn to ski until I was.
My late forties and that’s really, that’s really intimidating. Um, but I respect so much what those athletes do and it’s really, uh, intellectually fun to work with those athletes and help them find their physicality again. And then it’s also fun to work with throwing athletes. And it’s also fun to work with.
The ultimate endurance athlete and help, you know, helping this iron man professionals, Ironman, triathlete, um, learn to do she couldn’t jump rope. She was, she was out high level distance swimmer, uh, as a, as a young athlete and a collegiate athlete. And, um, so we’re trying to manage some thoracic outlet or trying to help her.
Um, she she’s a killer on the bike and kill her in the water, but the run that’s where we got to work on the run. And so we’re working on basic running and mechanics. Okay. Basically to support her ability and her capacity to, you know, you know, cut. A few seconds or a few minutes off of her marathon time, um, in the, in the Ironman world.
And so it’s super fun to be able to be with all of those people and enjoy all of their, um, all of their sport movements and Marvel at what they do. I agree. I think the variation is much more enjoyable and I’m glad I work in a setting where I have that. Like, I don’t think I would be as fulfilled if it was like, just work with one.
Kind of athlete. Um, well, we’re coming up on time here. Where can people learn more about the work that you do and, you know, like find you on social media and that kind of thing? My, I I’m pretty active on Twitter, so you can find me on Twitter at iron Maven and then on Instagram. I am just Tracy over all one word at Instagram.
I do have, uh, uh, an old blog that I’ve been doing since 2006, called a philosophy of strengthen health. Um, you can sort of see my progression through the years and some of my ideas two years there. And, uh, I currently own my own practice in park city. And have a, um, a website for that business, um, which is at www dot dot net.
And then, um, uh, I guess announced it here that that will be changing soon. I’ll be sort of, um, I’ll be shutting down my physical space within the next few months and then transitioning, um, to me more consulting. And then we’ll kind of see what, what happens over the next few months, but I’m very interested in helping.
Uh, young athletic development coaches in whatever setting and then young rehab professionals expand their horizons and, and, and take what they got in their schooling and all of their higher level certifications and give them real world, um, examples of, of what, what you can do and how you can really, you can simplify things to do very complex.
You know, to help heal complex problems and address complex systems, um, that you don’t have to, you can, you want to use technology? To inform what you’re doing, but you don’t want to become dependent on it. Right. And get to, to, uh, um, sort of swayed by it or whatever. But, um, how do you manage in this world?
Because I think you and I probably came up in a time that was a little bit simpler. I feel old when I say that, but you know, before the internet, a little bit before, um, all force plays before velocity based training before all of that, um, You know, and there’s just so much information and so many outlets they’re just bombarded with stuff.
And how do you, how do you sift through what is a useful, and I really admire what you’ve been doing in terms of taking, um, wisdom from non exercise science and physical therapy, uh, people and bringing that into. The profession, because you, you need to be a student of, of learning in a critical thinker, not just a slave to what you learn in school.
Right. And so I really admire what you’re doing with some of your, um, continuing education content about that. And, and I, I would like to contribute to that. I would like to use my experience to help, help clinicians be more confident. And help them and help them design spaces that in environments that are really more, um, practical in that really facilitate moot, like truly movement-based programming versus, uh, diagnosis based or protocol based, um, things.
Cause, cause those are, those are not getting it. Yeah, well, selfishly, I’m looking forward to you coming out with all that stuff so I can, I can consume it. So I’ll have to stay on top of you, so. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time. This was a, this was a lot of fun. Well, you’re welcome. I appreciate the opportunity and, uh, look forward to chatting more over the longterm, and it’s kind of seeing how.
How things play out. Cause it’s a, it’s an interesting time right now and we’re both going through some, some interesting challenges. Um, but still trying to, to keep, uh, a positive outlook and really, and just contribute and, and, and keep good conversation going. Right. I mean, it’s just, you know, you want to.
You want to make things better and you wouldn’t, you want to help people. I mean, we’re in the helping profession, right? So we want to help people, but also help our, our colleagues, uh, uh, learn and do and do better every day. So thanks again. And I appreciate all that you do. Yeah. Thank you. Alright. As a thank you for listening, we’d like to offer a 10% discount on all email@example.com.
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