How athletes handle pressure | With Half Pipe World Champion

How athletes handle pressure | With Half Pipe World Champion

How Athlete Kyle Smaine, World Half Pipe Champion, handles pressure and stress.

Kyle Smaine joined us on one of our Uthrive Ski Retreats and talked to us about how athletes handle pressure and competing on the world stage (see video below).  So many athletes don’t succeed as they choke on competition day.  This can happen to some of us whether it’s on the ski hill or in the boardroom.  So how do athletes stop this from happening?

If an Athlete can’t handle Pressure they will fail.

Kyle immediately focuses on the internal pressure we put on ourselves.  We control the amount of pressure that is put on us.  It is the internal voice we listen to, not the external voices. Athletes have an amazing ability to zone this out.  Kyle even admits himself that he does not perform well when he is putting a lot of pressure on himself.  He distances himself from the pressures and skis to have fun, then he performs well – so well that he is World Half Pipe Champion.

How you as an athlete can handle pressure

Progressing in a sport is more than improving your physical ability.  You need to work on your mental aspect as well.  Athletes like Kyle Smaine, give us an excellent insight on how to improve using our mental ability.  Focus on why you’re doing something, in Kyle’s case it’s because he loves skiing, not because his sponsor say so!  On the Uthrive Ski Retreats we run our retreats with Pros and World Champions, like Kyle, so they can help you with your mental techniques; over come fear, handle pressure and stress, think positively and improve your confidence.  It’s more than your skiing technique you learn from these athletes.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re standing on top of a mountain, or a half pipe or in front of a room of people but as Kyle says, ask yourself, is everyone putting pressure on me or am I putting it on myself?

Visit here for more information on Uthrive Ski Retreats to ski with World Champions and learn how to think & ski like an athlete, handle pressure and stress.

Only got 10 – 20 minutes to work out? Learn to row

Endlessly we hear “I don’t have time to work out” – then you need to jump on a rowing machine.  If you’re not sweating within 10 minutes then you must be stronger than Olympian Matthew Pinsent!  Rowing uses similar muscles to skiing.  It is essentially squat movement but you’re sitting down.  A misconception is that rowing is all arms.  It’s NOT.  Rowing is 75% legs, the rest is upper body.  If you want to get your legs in shape for a Uthrive ski trip then rowing is an excellent way to achieve this.

To give you an idea you should aim to row 2km in 8 minutes (women)  or 7 minutes (men).   It doesn’t matter what you start at, I just want this to be your goal to aim for.  But first, let’s learn to use the rowing machine properly.  I am yet to see anyone at my gym use the rowing machine correctly.  Not only do I fear for injuries but you are wasting energy and effort if your technique isn’t correct.  By improving your technique you’ll knock seconds and maybe even minutes off your time.  So over to the former President of my rowing club Eton Excelsior, Steve Morle to learn how to row.

Main Focus:

To get the most out of your rowing workout:

  • Focus on your split time (at 1:58 in video).  This is the big number on the screen which tells you how fast you row 500m.  This number should be consistent through out your work out.  If you see this number raising, recenter yourself and dig deep to find the extra energy. As your fitness improves this number will get lower.  To give you an idea when I started rowing my split time was 2:25.  With in a couple months I had it down to 2:18 then I finally got it down to 2:00!!!!
  • Don’t think you need to row fast and get high rpms (2:35 in video).  Even if you are only rowing 20rpm your split time should still be consistent if you were rowing faster.
  • Focus on your technique!!! (3:34 in video) I can’t stress this enough.  You don’t want to injure yourself and your losing seconds off your time – which really count. Especially if you have a competition running with your friends like I do.
  • Straight Back (5:25 in video)
  • Breathe!!!!!
  • Sweat!  (the whole video)
  • Set yourself targets. It’s a mental game as much as a physical one.  If you want to row 2km in 8 minutes then keep track of your improvements and keep you determined. You can also break this up in to 4 sets of 500m and have a 30-60 second rest in between each set.  Before you know it you’ll be able to piece them all together to make 2km.

Learn to row: Rowing exercises.

1. Only have 10-20 minutes to exercise?  Row 2km in 8  minutes (women). Under 7 minutes (men)

2. Looking at your SMPs we are going to do what is called a pyramid.   Row at: 20 SPM for 4 minutes, 22 SPM for 4 minutes 24 SPM for 2 minutes 26 SPM for 1 minute.  Then we are going to do the same in reverse. 24 SPM for 2 minutes, 22 SPM for 4 minutes, 20 SPM for 4 minutes.  Remember to keep your split time (what you row 500m in) consistent through out.

3. Fancy yourself more of a sprinter than an endurance individual?  Row 6 sets of 500m resting for 60 seconds in between sets.  You can set this up on the display so it counts down your rests for you, ask a gym employee to show you how.  Again, try to keep your split time consistent through each set.  You can set yourself a chosen SPM.  You could chose to row slow and controled at 24 SPM or maybe a bit quicker but still controlled at 28 SPM.

Breathe! Sweat! Have fun!  And to give you an idea of how hard you should work – I’ve never been able to stand up right away after a rowing session.  Then you’ll be ready for your Uthrive ski trip and keep up with the Pros xo

Skiing in Chile, The Chimney Couloir at 4,000 meters

Skiing in Chile, The Chimney Couloir at 4,000 meters

As soon as you arrive into the Three Valleys of the Andes one of the first things you notice is a giant couloir, The Chimney, staring right at you. It is hard to ignore and it is hard to fight the desire to go ski it.  The Chimney stands at 4,000 meters and a good hike from the ski resort, La Parva.

I’d only been in Chile for a day and already I had my sights set on The Chimney.  Day two of my trip I woke up early to find all my local friends too hung over to go skiing.  (The benefits of living in the mountains rather than having a limited number of days to go skiing).  My friend, Cami, offered to drive me to La Parva, only a five minute drive down the road where I hoped to meet a friend and go hike the Chimney.

After skiing solo all morning I realised the whole town was too hung over to ski and reality that I may be hiking the Chimney alone started kicking in.  I decided to do the first section of the hike, which would take me up to the main ridge, to scope things out.  It’s a small pitch and it looked like there were a few fresh turns to be had if I skied straight back down.  The turns were so good that I did this short hike twice.  I decided to reward myself with a hot chocolate and mean while find some locals or ski patrollers to ask about the avalanche danger of The Chimney.

I was told the avalanche danger was low and The Chimney was “good right now”.  That was all I needed to hear.  Skis thrown on my backpack I began my hike.  My eagerness and excitement had over shadowed the reality of being out hiking on my own.

For those of you who haven’t been hiking at 4,000+ meters let me explain to you how it feels.  With every breathe you feel as though your lungs are going to collapse inside your ribs. Your throat is bleeding and burning with every inhale.  Every movement you make is a struggle.  Your steps are half what you would normally take.  When you feel as though you’ve achieved a good distance you turn around to discover you’ve only moved 100m.  Not to mention your head races with panic that you can’t breathe.  But knowing all this I wasn’t phased. I was prepared to take my time and move at whatever speed I felt comfortable.  This was not a race.

As soon as I reached the first ridge the wind had really picked up compared to the morning.  I took a quick video and as soon as I turned the camera off a gust of wind came blowing me off my feet and falling on my side. (You can hear how strong the wind is in the video).

I did a quick scan and could see only one large boulder that I could crawl to for shelter.  At one of my events someone asked me “what is the most scared you have ever been?” They were surprised by my answer as it wasn’t a line I had skied or a cliff I jumped off.  It was in 2015 on a ski touring visit to Nevados to Chillan, Chile and the winds were so strong we could not even stand back up.  I had to lay down and watch a friend hiking on the other side of the valley nearly be blown off a knife ridge.  So you can imagine how my nerves kicked in when I was blown off my feet – again!  “Nothing lasts forever” I told myself as I hugged the boulder.  I knew the wind had to die down at some stage so i might as well take a selfie.  The only thing you can do in these situations is wait for the moment to pass. You can’t control the wind and it is wasted energy to panic.  So I entertained myself by seeing how loudly I could sing before I could hear myself over the wind.  It turns out I had to really scream to hear my own voice.

Eventually the wind calmed down to just an aggressive breeze rather than a gale.  I wasn’t sure if I should continue as the ridge I would be walking along has drops of 200ft of it, with a lot of exposed rocks.  But I knew I could turn back at any time so I should just push on.  The walk felt endless.  There was no snow at the top of the ridge this winter so I was walking on rocks in ski boots.  For those of you who don’t ski, ski boots are horrendously awkward to walk in at the best of times never mind trying to negotiate rocks and boulders in them.  The terrain began to turn into a steep rocky slope.  With every step my foot slid down and the rocks underneath me no longer supported me.

After what felt like hours of walking, clambering rocks and being soaked from sweat I began to wonder if I had gone to far.  I was trying to avoid walking on the edge of the mountain so I wouldn’t be blown off but I paid the price for this.  I had missed the entrance to The Chimney.  Damn it! I thought.  What do I do now? Hike back along the ridge in the wind or just give up and walk back the way I came.  I looked at the time. “Oh shit” then looked at the low sun.  I hadn’t registered how late it was.  If I hike back I run the risk of hiking in the dark.  If I hike along the ridge I run the risk of being blown off but if I find the couloir quickly I can be down in about half an hour.

I hadn’t hiked all this way to back out now so I began clambering up the rocks to the cliff edge.  After walking for only 10 minutes there she was! The Chimney!!!  I looked down at the steep narrow couloir and my adrenaline really kicked in.  I could not get my skis on fast enough.  A mix of nerves and excitement flooded my body.  Gopro on – check. Backpack secure – check.  Poles – check. Boots done up – nope. “Damn it Rachel focus” I thought.  I took a few deep breathes with my skis hanging over the edge.  Dropping!!!

The exhilaration you feel as you ski down this couloir is like no other.  Surrounded by sheer granite with snow moving under neath your feet with every turn it makes you forget the hard work you put in to get there.  Soaked in sweat I couldn’t stop grinning the whole way back to town.   Like with every goal we achieve in life we only remember the feeling of achieving it not the hardship it took to get there.  Remember that next time you’re standing at the bottom looking up at your next goal.  It’s all worth it.


A Rewarding Sunset after a fantastic day skiing