Mikaela Shiffrin is…

  • an American World Cup alpine ski racer on the United States Ski Team
  • the reigning Overall World Cup champion and the reigning Olympic and World Champion in Slalom
  • the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history

Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikaela_Shiffrin

Shiffrin has…

  • stood on podiums of international competitions a total of 57 times
  • won 40 World Cup competitions, across all alpine ski disciplines
  • won 29 World Cup slalom competitions
  • won Olympic Gold @2014 Sochi
  • won Gold @World Champs in Slalom in 2013, 2015 and 2017

Currently, Mikaela is ranked in the 2017-2018 season…

  • 1st Overall
  • 1st in Slalom
  • 1st in Giant Slalom
  • 1st in Downhill

Shiffrin spends a lot of time skiing, but based on posted videos, she spends a lot of training time performing drills which on the surface seems to have little to do with skiing… Why?

The non ski based training Shiffrin performs (just in this video)…

  • track starts from blocks (i.e. sprint distance running starts)
  • strength training: squats, lunges, box jumps, stair jumps, pull ups
  • boxing
  • BMX pumptrack riding (on a MTB)
  • Olympic Lifts (i.e. cleans)
  • triple jump drills (i.e. single leg jumping drills)
  • trampoline flips (both in tuck & pike positions)
  • road cycling & uni-cycling
  • running
  • and balance after balance exercise: slack lining, juggling & slack lining simultaneously, juggling while balancing on dumbbells,…

It takes a fair bit of time to ride a uni-cycle. Which means Mikaela had to devote considerable time to learn, time that could have been spent… well… skiing, perhaps doing strength training which is more obviously linked to the sport of alpine skiing.  So why did she?

Yet the typical triathlete doesn’t want to let go of their pull buoy and paddles and learn flip turns, any stroke other than freestyle… why? Because you only see triathletes swim freestyle in triathlons.  Meanwhile, an Olympian learns how to uni-cycle, juggle, and slack line… because its obvious… in alpine skiing you do those all the time! The typical masters swimmer doesn’t want to do stroke drills, kick sets, or breakdown technical aspects of competition skills… but a World Champion trains to become skillful at seemingly random and unconnected disciplines of boxing, trampoline, and the BMX skill of pump track riding. Why?

Why would an athlete at the level of Mikaela Shiffrin devote so much time to training which is not alpine skiing, and in many cases appear to have no connection to alpine skiing?

When it comes to actual time on the slopes, to actual alpine skiing… why would a reigning Olympic gold medalist and World Champ spend time doing simple ski drills, drills that novices are taught in “learn to ski” lessons?  Why is Shiffrin practicing…

  • … traverses with small turns mid hill
  • … snowplow into parallel ski squats
  • … single leg traverses with a cross over uphill ski
  • … single leg turns
  • … simple carving turns with hands on hips, on head, spread eagle?
  • …”keeping speed low and consistent”, “doing lots of drills without going too fast”?

Why is Shiffrin training as if she “needs to learn how to ski”?

Performing at the highest levels is less about physiological superiority and more about technical superiority.
There is only one way to become a true athlete and a consistent peak performer like Shiffrin:


Ask yourself… if my intention in training is to become healthier, if the intention is for sport to add to my life outside of sport, if I am training to achieve performance goals… then is my current coach and their coaching philosophy going to get me there?

Simple question.

Simple answers:

  1. NO… if the training you are receiving from your coach is devoid of drills, or drills are under-weighted.
  2. NO… if the training you are receiving from your coach is heavy on hi intensity interval training (aka HiiT).
  3. NO… if the training you are receiving arrives via video conference, email, or is downloaded from a training website.
  4. NO… if the training you are doing is performed without consistent flow of feedback regarding quality of movement, position, posture, form.
  5. NO… if the training you are doing doesn’t follow a progression ladder towards more complex technique within that sport.

The approach your coach uses may be able to game your physiology and psychology (as in toy with your neural-hormonal system) to force gains, but such gains are fleeting as any time away from the sport will lead to a near immediate reversal of gains, with a severe drop off in performance. Any training which can be undone as fast or faster than it was gained… is not training (its an attempt to force your nervous and endocrine systems into fooling your brain and body to deliver an effort which neither have been properly trained to honestly provide).

Why waste your time with a coach who doesn’t know the difference?

Why waste your money on a coach who doesn’t know the difference?

Why lose your health, get ill, get injured with a coach who doesn’t know the difference?

The intention of training should be to gain skills, abilities and capacity which WILL NOT and DO NOT disappear over time.  For example, if you learn to ride a bike as a child… when will you forget how to ride a bike?  NEVER!  Even if you do not touch a bike for a decade, even two, eventually when you do get on a bike you will be able to ride it within a matter of minutes, maybe even right away. That’s true training.

I learnt how to alpine ski as a child, then I competed in alpine skiing with the Milton Heights Ski Club, and then as a teenager I became a ski instructor. Then I got married, had kids, and didn’t see or touch a pair of skis for over a decade.  When we wanted our kids to learn how to ski, it took me all of 3 runs for my brain to dust off the motor program for alpine skiing and I was able to ski with a level of skill that allowed me to tackle even black diamonds without concern.

True training develops abilities, skills, and capacity which will NEVER disappear.

If you cannot take a break from your swim, cycling, or running training for fear that you are going to “lose everything”… then in truth you are gaining nothing, have gained nothing, and will not gain anything that is significant, meaningful, lasting or rewarding. You cannot gain or lose true training in a matter of hours or days.

Stop wasting your time pretending to train.  Stop wasting your effort and energy sweating, and grunting and sounding like a dying goat [like pro triathlete Lionel Sanders does in training and competition].  Sanders has stated that he is willing to be velcro’ed to a stretcher in order to try and win a race. He may be willing to die in pursuit of athletic achievement… are you? No consistent peak performer, no Olympian, no World Champion ever says anything so stupid. How do I know? Because consistent peak performers don’t want to miss any opportunity to train or compete, they do not want to lose consistency in their schedule, and being laid up in an hospital bed or zipped into a body bag just isn’t congruent with anyone who wants to be a consistent champion.

Don’t fall for the ego trap amongst athletes, don’t let your kids fall for it, and definitely do not fall for the ego pissing contest between coaches willing to sacrifice your health for their own agenda. Its not worth the compromise. Been there, done that, damaged my body to the point of near destruction on several occasions by believing such coaches… so trust me when I say you don’t want the t-shirt. Falling for any of this bull will not serve you in any way except to deliver you illness, injury, disappointment, frustration, eventually leading you to quit sport cause you hate it, and what you’ve become in the process.

Watch Shiffrin in the above videos… there is no anger, no anxiety, no fight, no force, no fear… but, there is excitement, anticipation, joy, grace, and an healthy pursuit of performance by training to develop FLOW at higher and higher degrees of complexity.

Don’t be a Sanders, be a Shiffrin.

Its the difference between healthy and happy, and potentially the difference between finishing an event joy-filled, grateful and healthy, or ending up on an ambulance stretcher, in the med tent, with an IV, in the emergency department of the hospital local to your event, or worse… dead. Think about it.