Head Mogul Coach
Team Buller Riders (TBR)
Australian Development Mogul Team Coach
B. Exercise & Sports Science
I retired mogul skiing in 2009 and begun coaching club level moguls skiing and assisting with some elite coaching. I was at the time also studying exercise science and sport coaching. Over the past 5 years I have been fortunate enough to work fairly closely with the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia Mogul coaches, learning from them and assisting them as well as coaching Team Buller’s mogul performance team and Australian Development Team athletes. I’m not only the technical coach for my moguls skiers but also the acrobatic coach and strength and conditioning coach.
My job involves long hours standing in ski boots as well as long hours shovelling snow on mogul courses and jump sites. After about 3 years in the job I started having some fairly bad back problems which were all soft tissue related as a result of the physical stresses on my body (loaded twisting movement and standing in a flexed knee position for long hours). About 12 months ago two of my most senior male athletes begun having back issues (reasonably common in mogul skiers). I had read about yoga and the benefits of yoga and learned a little about what the practice does for the body’s flexibility and core stability whilst at uni studying exercise science so I decided to have my boys start going to classes. after about two weeks they were already reporting improvements in their backs at training. I begun attending classes as well and noticed improvements also with my own back. about 6 months ago I joined KX yoga in Malvern (Melbourne). I now have an unlimited membership at KX and attend classes there 6 or 7 times a week when I’m home. I now have enough knowledge in the practice that I can practice yoga on my own when I’m on the road overseas which is about 5 months of the year.
8 months ago i would have rated my flexibility far below average and my back pain was probably something that is more common in a 60+ year old who hadn’t looked after their body. Now I can report that I have absolutely zero back problems and would rate my flexibility as far better than average for a male my age. The list of situations where my back would cause me grief was endless (flying long haul flights in economy seats, bending down to do up my ski boots, shovelling, surfing…) Now I don’t have a single back problem doing anything at all. I can shovel for hours, I sleep well on long flights etc.
I also believe that practicing yoga is one of the best ways to still your mind and distract yourself from the stresses of day to day life, especially attending classes at a good studio where the classes are challenging. It is starting to get more and more fun now too as I’m getting the hang of some more difficult asanas like inversions and arm balances. It has become a bit of an addiction, trying to get better and better at it all.
There are a few photo’s that I have put on my Instagram of yoga. I’m a big advocate for anything yoga now. I think it is good for anyone personally but I especially see the benefits of it for elite athletes who put their body under a lot of stress.
There are three reasons why I think yoga is beneficial for athletes:
1. Increasing flexibility and core stability reduces the risk of injury by increasing the range of motion in joints and and increasing the body’s ability to stabilise these joints when loaded. Before I started with yoga, I thought I had a fairly good knowledge of stretching and how to stretch enough of the body etc. Since doing yoga, I look back and see that the stretching I knew was pretty limited. I now have a lot more knowledge in flexibility training and so do my athletes so they’re starting to become a lot more flexible now too. Especially the boys.
2. Yoga trains the muscles in a very different way than what lifting weights does. As yoga uses body weight and trains the body in such unusual and varied positions, muscles which are important in stability of joints are able to be trained. Some of these muscles simply can’t be targeted in training in conventional strength training/gym workout. Increasing flexibility through placing the body in these different positions (asanas) slowly allows you to find these new positions hence enabling you to train them. Allowing your body to create this strength doesn’t just reduce the risk of injury and allow it to perform more efficiently but also may aid the recovery process in the case of injury.
3. Athletes spend a great deal of time training physically. Often these athletes are also students, they are likely to have extremely busy lives and little down time. Athletes can end up placing a lot of pressure on themselves. I have seen elite athletes over stressed as a result of this many times. The meditation side of yoga can be really beneficial for these athletes in enabling them to relax and find some stillness i their minds andreduce stress levels. The flow on effects of this may be endless (reduce chance of injury due to mistakes made as a result of lack of concentration, reduce chance of athlete not coping with stresses of busy schedules etc. etc.) The meditative side of things isn’t easy for everyone. The person must be able to take the time to learn how to use this tool and find stillness but if they are open minded and willing there are huge benefits to it. I find it helps me.
Thank you Hamish for taking the time to write this for us here at Falls Creek Retreats.