Shauna Farnell
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

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September 3, 2012
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A gathering of great minds and bodies

When Vail resident Jamie Stone set out to entice the high-profile lineup of athletes and health professionals to come participate in the inaugural Living at Your Peak convention, she lured them with a subject line of "Wanna come to Vail?"

It worked.

NBC News correspondent and "Today Show" co-host Jenna Wolfe, whom you may have seen jumping off of a building or eating scorpions on one of her adventurous assignments and who doubles as a personal trainer, will serve as emcee at the Sept. 13-15 extravaganza. And it didn't take much arm twisting to get her signed up.

"Vail, of all places. You just say the word Vail and burn calories," Wolfe said. "Really, though, it's a wonderful opportunity to be around physically active people. It's a good opportunity for people to open their eyes and broaden their horizons. There is so much information out there and so many different facets of health - diet, how much you should sleep. ... We're so cognizant of it all, but here it is all opened up with experts who live in each one of these spaces. It's really a think tank for fitness. It's coming at you with all of these therapeutic angles."

Organizers and presenters envision Living at Your Peak becoming a globally recognized gathering for health and wellness, appealing to fitness professionals worldwide. Considering the who's-who of fitness and health experts on tap for this first year, it's well on its way.

The most recognizable personality in the mix is iconic tennis star Martina Navratilova, who is 2012 Living at Your Peak's keynote speaker and no stranger to uplifting feats. In her tennis career that spanned four decades, the Czech native won 18 Grand Slam singles and 41 doubles titles, the most recent of which came at the 2006 U.S. Open, just before Navratilova's 50th birthday.

"That was a pretty good one," Navratilova said during a phone interview from New York, where she was attending the 2012 U.S. Open last week. "Records are hard to break. I always wanted to be the youngest person winning something like that. Being the oldest wasn't the goal when I was playing. I just wanted to play as well as I possibly could. I finally stopped when I realized, 'I can't get any better.' I was still improving in my 40s, but it wasn't the level I played in my 30s. I really had my share and my records for tennis, so I knew it was downhill and time to stop."

Grand Slam tennis victories aside, Navratilova has done anything but stopped or gone downhill. Traveling the world coaching, speaking and commentating, Navratilova has authored several books. The most recent, "Shape Your Self," delivers the same message of great fitness and health that is the cornerstone of Living at Your Peak. However, from seeking asylum in the United States from Communist Czechoslovakia in the 1970s to becoming one of the first openly gay international athletes in the 1980s to battling breast cancer in 2010, her life has not been without its struggles. But she has managed to transcend them. Having spent the summer playing tennis and softball, biking and enjoying the outdoors down the road in her hometown of Aspen, she plans to regale the Vail audience with detailed anecdotes of her life's finest and most challenging moments and hopes to inspire people to take hold of their own lives and rise.

"It's really about living at your peak most of your life, whatever years you have left. Regardless of age, it's about getting the most out of your life. You don't have to be a world-class athlete to be fit. Whatever level and age you're at, it's possible," she said, adding that the smallest of changes can make a huge difference.

"All I want to pass along is just a small, incremental idea that helps people in moving forward, doing and making a small change in their lifestyle," she said.

Changing one's lifestyle is a different animal with the audience expected at Living at Your Peak, most of whom are already living at a fitness level higher than that of most of the world, certainly than most of America.

"I'm excited about the concept of peak fitness," said Dr. James Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at Colorado University, who will be conducting interactive presentations on nutrition. "I spend so much time talking to people who are overweight, it's exciting to talk to people who are already at a high level of fitness. It starts with being physically active. But if you're physically active, your body needs a different kind of fuel. If you're an athlete, you're eating all day. You have a lot of leeway. You can have some fun in your diet. I want people to think differently about preventing chronic disease versus wellness. It's the presence of something right. It's thinking about how you can make yourself as well as possible, the concept of accumulating wellness, the same way people accumulate wealth."

In her pursuit of wellness, internationally top-ranked former marathoner Uta Pippig, who was the first woman to win the Boston Marathon three consecutive times, literally hit the ground running. Much like her foundation, Take the Magic Step, Pippig aims to encourage people to dare themselves to move forward, stepping into change and running with it to new success.

"Living at your peak can mean so many things to different people," she said. "But for me, it means sharing the joy and the journey I've had to better fitness. Living at your peak means getting back to all things you love. I explore the desire to change one step at a time - sharing a combination of things I was fortunate to live through."

The German-born runner who also won the Berlin Marathon three times, including the monumental event in 1990 after the wall fell, will share the story of her "run to freedom" and also conduct a beginner running class.

"It will be mind, body and soul," she said. "We will discuss the running technique, some cardiovascular improvement and providing tools. I'm looking forward to learning from the other presenters. It's going to be fun, uplifting and controversial. There will be different points of views but a lot of agreement. Hopefully, we fine tune our vision of living at our peak."

Stone, who masterminded the concept and entire program of Living at Your Peak, is emphatic about how the event is far from being an assembly of talking heads. In addition to Pippig's running class, attendees will have the opportunity to take a two-wheel spin with pro cyclist Freddie Rodriguez; take a vigorous hike with local endurance coach Ellen Miller, the only American woman to summit Mount Everest from all approaches; or mountain bike up Vail with champion triathlete Jossiah Middaugh. Wolfe also is conducting a boot-camp class that she promises will have even the fittest athletes feeling it.

"I want an element of pain," Wolfe said, laughing. "I want people to remember my name. I want everybody to hurt. If someone walks away with a body part that's not hurting, we need to revisit that."

The interactive nature of the weekend also spreads to meditation and sleep studies and includes a very exclusive live surgery conducted by world-renowned Steadman Clinic Director of Shoulder Surgery Dr. Peter Millett.

Millett said that the nature of his patient's injury is "top secret" but one that is very common among and of high interest to active individuals. While Navratilova and a small group will get the opportunity to watch close up, looking over the doctor's shoulder, the entire operation will be broadcast live through tiny cameras for the audience.

"I think what's going to be interesting to people is how much we can do through minimally invasive surgery, how well we can see inside the body through tiny incisions and how much we can repair," Millet said. "These types of injuries are frequently career ending, but now we can get people back to very high levels of functioning. It takes time and commitment on the part of the patient having the surgery, but there is a lot of science that goes behind the methods we use. In addition, we'll talk about post-injury recovery and prevention. I'm excited for it. I think Living at your Peak has the potential to become one of the internationally recognized meetings on health and wellness."


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The VailDaily Updated Sep 3, 2012 07:41PM Published Sep 3, 2012 07:37PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.