Preseason conditioning with a side of shred at the Minturn Fitness Center
The Minturn Fitness Center is a state of the art facility with equipment and expertise that caters specifically to elite snowsports athletes.
But any Joe off the street can get access to this equipment and expertise after paying the nominal entry fee at the door. Locals get a discount.
The place is located in Minturn near the rummage sale building, and its logo looks slightly like a rip off of ESPN’s logo, which subliminally suggests to those driving by that sporting activity is underway inside. Every time I go to nearby Maloit Park I think about how cool it is to have such a high tech exercise facility located out in the Cross Creek Basin, away from the core commercial areas of the county.
The Minturn Fitness Center recently hired a new assistant strength coach, Jimmy Pritchard, who writes the “Make It Count” column for the Vail Daily, along with Ryan Richards (who is this week’s author).
I have been enjoying Richard and Pritchard’s exercise and lifestyle advice and recently received an invite from Pritchard to head down to the Minturn Fitness Center and explore their preseason conditioning routine, as many locals are indeed thinking about the upcoming ski season now that we’re nearing the end of August.
We went through Pritchard’s routine, delving into some great advice he had given in last week’s column about how the effectiveness of the classic stretch-and-hold routine before a workout has been invalidated by science. The warmup which was instead suggested by Pritchard, (he calls it a dynamic warmup) took place outside, which I really enjoyed. The facility also has a medicine ball wall behind it for those who want to do medicine ball exercises outside; these were also recommended by Pritchard as a way of not only getting the core ready for the upcoming season, but firing up the central nervous system before getting into the more intense workout that would follow inside.
Pritchard had a lot of things to show me when we got inside. Once I saw it, though, all I really cared about from that point forward was a machine called the ReACT Functional Eccentric Trainer.
It’s like a combination of an Indo Board and an elliptical machine, and as a lifelong lover of all board sports, I was hooked. It’s a board, which you stand on, that moves. What more is there to say?
More and more these days I’m seeing the term “shredding” being loosely applied to all activities that take place on a board, and a run on the ReACT can definitely be called a shred.
I got on the machine and I didn’t want to get off. It’s designed to feel like you’re heading through an intense whoops section of a supercross course, only on a board and in slow motion. I could feel my quads getting stronger with every whoop. Prichard told me the record time on the machine is 10 minutes. I don’t think I lasted one minute before breaking form. I was hooked.
SQUAT? PROBABLY NOT
My version of getting in shape for snowboarding is to do more skateboarding. Come fall I’ll start doing more downhill runs through the neighborhoods and on Vail Pass. But that Vail Pass run is tricky. It’s hands down the best run in the county — I think all longboarders would agree — because it’s long and flowing, with a good pitch, and you don’t have to worry about cars.
But by the end, my quads are burning. Every time I do the run I think to myself that I’d like to get stronger so I can hold my form longer and not risk the ugly crash that could come with a break in form. And every time I think about how to get in better shape for the run, I think about doing squats in a gym. Then I think “well I’m probably not going to do that,” so I go back to, simply, doing the run more.
On Monday, I did the Vail Pass longboarding run during the eclipse. It was a great run, but my legs were shot, and by the end my KOTA-brand longboard — recognizable for its curved camber design — was actually bouncing me up and down because my leg was shaking so bad against the curve of that camber.
“Oh no, I’ve got the downhill yips and they’re going to buck me right off the board,” I thought. In carving off some speed, (KOTAs are great for carving) I had to cross the center line of the rec path a few times, which I hate to do. I thought about how much more fun the run would be if I didn’t have to carve off speed, if I could just get strong enough to prevent my leg from shaking.
And for once, instead of my thoughts jumping to squats in a gym, I had an image of myself on the ReACT at the Minturn Fitness Center, and I broke into an uncontrollable smile, chuckling a bit at the thought of how much fun I had on it after receiving the invite from Prichard.
Finally, I might be able to shred my way to better fitness.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.