Summer is no time to relax for Canada’s best winter athletes, who are sweating hard with seven months to go before the Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
We asked medal hopefuls to dish on their summer workout regimes and share their best exercise tips for our readers.
This week the focus is on athlete Josh Dueck.
Josh Dueck is all about pacing himself, but you’d never know from his frenetic schedule.
Since winning a silver in slalom at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Games, the 32-year-old professional freeskier from Vernon, B.C., has continued to compete for Canada, helped found the Live it! Love it! Foundation to introduce disabled youth to outdoor adventures and became the first sit skier to do a backflip – a hair-raising feat that took months of preparation and countless gut checks and ultimately landed him on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
This summer Dueck, who was paralyzed from the waist down
in a 2004 skiing accident, has been working out in Vernon, where you’ll find him in the gym, at the yoga studio, on his handcycle road bike or, just for fun, on his mountain bike or paddle board.
In August, he heads to New Zealand to find some snow.
Focus: The shoulders
“If you look at your centre of balance from an able-bodied perspective, everything happens right around the pelvis. If you imagine the triangle of balance for the average Joe, the base of the triangle would be at your hips, and then it would peak up toward your head or a little lower. For me, or a person who has a spinal cord injury, you flip that triangle upside down. All of my balance and co-ordination comes through my shoulders. That is my new centre of balance.”
How I work it
“My body wasn’t designed to push a wheelchair around. So with that in mind, I respect that there’s a certain lifespan in a person’s shoulders. If I overdo it and blow a shoulder, that could really impede how I get around for the rest of my life. So when I work out in the gym, I do a lot of cable work, a lot of band work and a lot of lighter weight work in order to create a balanced upper body.
“I bet I could bench 200 pounds. I’m sure there’s a lot of power there. But I don’t, because if I’m working on that sheer power – sheer force – there’s the potential that I could really wear that joint out quickly. Anyone’s vulnerable to doing that. If you go to the gym and you start working out with heavy weights and you’re just trying to be as strong, powerful and impressive as you can be, you definitely run the risk of putting something out of alignment or tearing a ligament or muscle, which could have significant long-term impact.”
My best exercise
For me, pushing my wheelchair around has made my chest really strong, and because of that my shoulders want to roll in. So I lie on my stomach and reach my hands above my head at shoulder height, with a pound or two of weight in each hand, and lift them up like Superman eight times. If I do three cycles of that, I’m going to be screaming. It’s going to be so painful. The little muscles are so weak because the big muscles are so strong that the little guy never really had a chance. A lot of people have similar problems from sitting at a computer for long stretches.”
“I’ve been developing this skier’s body over the past seven years and I’ve come to a point where I’m so much better now than I was seven years ago, but I still have a long way to go. Our sport – and life in general – is a game of attrition. And you’ve got to pace it out. I’ve seen a lot of counterparts – both teammates and people outside of the country – that came up quick, but something happened somewhere along the line. Either they had an injury that kept them out of sport or they had a nagging or reccurring injury. And you see them leave the sport. The turtle wins the race every time.”
How I know my shoulders are weak
“When I’m physically not strong enough to keep up with my imagination on the hill. It’s a constant battle. I think it’s important for an athlete to have a really good understanding of what the body is capable of.”
The bottom line
“You don’t need to be in the gym three times a week for 90 minutes each time. That’s insane. When I’m done my competitive career I won’t be training as much, but I’ll be as active. I’ll be on my bike, I’ll be doing yoga, I’ll be doing light band work to keep my shoulders and good posture. It’s the least we can do for our bodies. They take us everywhere and give us an opportunity to live a life. It’s a small return on a big favour.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.