New Year, New Goals (1/12/13)

 
 My nephew Lucas and me at home for Christmas

OK, not really new goals, just picking up from where I left off in 2012, but I do always take time at the beginning of the year to re-evaluate everything that has or hasn’t happened the past year for me as a person and an athlete. Setting goals is an important part of my life, regardless of what you are doing for a profession, goals allow you to track your success and focus on your future.

Despite being in the sport for 15 years now, I can say that 2012 was certainly a year of tremendous changes for me as an athlete. I started out the year in transition of being recovered from my Arnold Chiari syndrome, but not yet being back to my shape as a luge athlete. While I was relieved to be experiencing far less symptoms from my Arnold Chiari, I was carrying around a lot of doubt if I would ever be able to get my body back into the form it needed to be competitive in the sport of luge. Fortunately I was surrounded by a great team. Our team doctor, Eugene Byrne, who is based out of Lake Placid, as well as the entire sports medicine staff were great support in ensuring me that if I kept doing what I was doing, training smart, listening to my body, and pushing it slowly that I would find my way back. I finished up the 2011-12 season third at U.S. National Championships, and very ready to return to Maine, and hang up the sled for the year.

 
 The leaderboard after the first run in Koenigssee

I took a different approach to my off-season training this year. In the past I would consider myself much of a workhorse, I felt my work outs were judged by quantity vs. quality. This spring and summer, I knew balancing my work outs were going to be very important in order to sustain my health through the entire year. I switched up my lifting schedule – in the past I would lift four days a week, every week; this past year I kept myself on three week rotations of four days a week, three days a week, two days a week, and filled the extra days I wasn’t in the gym with swim workouts, core and a lot of balance and stretch work.  Max testing wise I am not as strong as I was heading into the 2010 Olympic season, I would say I am roughly 10% weaker than I was that year, but what I have gained is far less “bad days” with my body, and I find myself focusing much less this winter on how to ensure I am at peak strength for the competition days on the weekend, and find that I can turn my strength on and off when I want (with a proper warm-up of course).

 
Me, Swiss slider Martina Kocher and former U.S. junior slider Vika
Gatka. We met 13 years ago and are still great friends.

It is funny how in sport and life you are constantly evolving as a person and discovering new strengths and different weaknesses. Changing my workouts didn’t weaken my starts at all. I am still consistently in the top three of the women’s field if not the fastest, but it has also given me great gains as a slider, looking back I realize I spent too many years being too muscular and bulky for our sport, I was lacking finesse and smoothness with my body; had I not undergone my surgery almost two years ago I may have never realized that. With this season halfway over, I recognize that my training plan for next year will not require much adjustment, which is always a nice feeling.  I have had my best season to date in the sport, and more importantly I am feeling the best on my sled that I have ever felt. I wrapped up the first half of the season with a U.S. Start Championship win, U.S. National Championship title, a season opener sixth place finish in Igls, Austria, followed up by a 10th place finish in Sigulda, Latvia in the final race before Christmas, and I just opened up the year with another sixth place in Koenigssee, Germany (where I was the closest to the Germans I have ever been time-wise, even on their home track), and followed that up with another sixth place finish in Oberhof, Germany.

2013 surely is starting out as a great year, and I am going to do everything I need to in the gym, on the sled and in recovery to ensure it continues this way. Changes in sport, life, and health happen; but with a positive open mind our bodies are capable of adapting and changing to any circumstances, so if you find yourself in a period of transition don’t fear it, embrace it, be ready to work hard, and be ready to reap the benefits of that hard work. 2012 taught me that change can be a blessing.