Candy, cookies and cupcakes…not quite the clean eats you’d expect to find in most Olympic gold medalists’ kitchens. Then again, Kaitlyn Farrington isn’t your typical pro athlete. She’ll dance while awaiting her fate in the leader’s box, and do the worm in the White House without reservation (here’s the evidence).
While the 24-year-old snowboarder’s lightning-fast ascent to the podium was as mesmerizing as her signature halfpipe tricks, the hard work was a slow build. Raised on a cattle farm in Sun Valley, Idaho, Farrington started skiing at age three, racing at age five, and snowboarding by high school, at which point her parents had to sell their cows to foot the expenses.
But the sacrifice was worth it. Facing not one, but three Olympic gold medalists in the halfpipe finals in Sochi this past year, the underdog pulled out all the stops, landing a place at the top of the podium. “Just to be able to say that I was an Olympian was amazing,” she says, “and now, to be able to say that I’m an Olympic gold medalist is even more awesome.”
Before heading to the Dew Tour Mountain Championships (December 11-14), where she’ll ride in her first competition since the slushy conditions in Russia, Farrington stopped by DailyBurn to share her tips on fitness (get outside), nutrition (don’t stress), and success (be fearless). Plus, learn her five favorite exercises to get ready for the slopes — no gym necessary.
Where did you do most your training leading up to the Sochi Games?
I spent about two months down in New Zealand last summer to really focus on my training and get my stuff together. Then I spent all of December and January in Colorado competing and just trying to qualify for the team. That was the biggest thing for me — making the team, since there were eight of us who were all top competitors.
When you’re in season, what’s your training schedule like?
In season, I try to be on snow about six days a week. When I’m on snow I don’t really get in the gym at all, it’s just too much and gets me too tired for the next day — snowboarding wears me out enough. It varies, but four hours is pretty standard, depending on the day.
When you do have an off day, how do you cross train?
I try to skateboard — I suck at it though! And I like to do outdoors activities. I go bike riding and hiking a lot in Utah. I do a lot of swimming, too. I used to be a swimmer as a kid, so I love swimming laps.
So you’re NOT a gym rat.
No, definitely not a gym rat. When I was on the U.S. Snowboarding team, I went to the gym probably five days a week for four years. So I got over it quickly! But I do fit in workouts when I feel like I haven’t been doing enough. Or if my legs are feeling a little weak, I’ll know I need to get back in the gym to get them stronger before the season starts.
Are there any types of fitness activities you especially dread?
Biking uphill. It’s my least favorite thing! I’ve even been that person who’s gotten off my bike and thrown it to the side of the road like, “I’m not doing this. I’m not going any further!”
How much has strength, endurance and overall fitness played into your success as an athlete?
It’s very important to be strong — especially when you fall. When you go down hard it’s easier to come back up if your muscles are prepared for it. You don’t get injured as easily if you’re strong, so you have to be on top of your fitness.
As a top competitor, despite the constant pressure, you always seem to bring a level of fun and levity to the sport. What’s your secret?
One hundred percent fun! I try to make that the focus because when I’m not having fun snowboarding I don’t do as well. It feels more like a job. So I like to keep it light just because it reminds me why I started doing this in the first place, and why I love it so much.
What’s going through your head when you’re competing?
I try to think of it as just another practice round so I don’t psych myself out. I’ll sometimes imagine a couple other people in the halfpipe, and get in the mindset that it’s just another practice run, no big deal.
And yet…it’s the Olympic stage, and happens once every four years!
Yeah, at the Olympics it was crazy because I had to go through all three rounds. I did the qualifiers, semi-finals and finals, and I think it helped me in the end. For the semi-finals I rode the pipe all day and experienced all the snow conditions. I had a lot more practice than the other girls because I rode so much that day.
How do you get yourself in the zone before each run?
Last season I listened to the same song, “Give Me the Beat,” by Ghostland Observatory, every time I was dropping in for a halfpipe run, in every contest I rode in that year. And then before that, it was Shakira’s “She Wolf,” the Spanish version. Don’t ask me why that version!
What’s your hardest trick right now?
Probably the switch back 7. I learned it last summer in New Zealand. It’s just a very unnatural way for people spin. And another is the backside 1080. Last year I didn’t get a chance to do it because it was just so stressful with the Olympics and all that stuff … I’m the first girl to have ever landed one of those, so I’m hoping to bring that back this year for other contests.
Five wrist surgeries in three years, and this is the first season you haven’t had a cast on your wrist. Explain.
It’s true. Three years ago I dislocated all of my wrist bones, tore a bunch ligaments and had five screws put in and a couple pins, too. I was fine to compete through the whole season with a cast on, but on a run in Park City, I fell and threw the bad wrist up trying to be really careful, and ended up breaking the other one in the process. I woke up from surgery double casted and was like that for about a month. Then the following year, right before the X Games, I fell wearing a wrist guard on my right wrist, which was meant to protect it. Because it didn’t support my thumb, I broke and dislocated it. I flew back from Canada, had two pins put in my thumb, got casted up, and then went back to X Games practice the next evening.
You’re fearless — that’s for sure. But does the risk of getting injured or putting yourself in danger ever get to you?
I try not to think about it. It’s a dangerous sport and you’re bound to get injured at some point. I’ve had three knee surgeries as well when I was younger — two were snowboard-related. But I think it just comes with the sport.
What’s your approach to nutrition?
Well…I kind of just eat whatever I want. I’m a smoothie person in the morning, and then other than that, I love potato chips and candy.
So that’s the key to success?
Then the question about your favorite cheat meal doesn’t really apply…
Yeah my favorite cheat meals are…everything? Candy, sweets. One of my friends loves baking so there’s always bound to be cookies or something around.
Any chance your eating habits will change anytime soon?
I wouldn’t go that far, but I do love juicing. When I was in New Zealand, my coach got me into it and when I got back I got a juicer. My favorite combination is beets, celery, carrots and ginger — I’ll make a big batch so it’ll last me a couple days.
So what’s your next big goal?
I’m trying to focus on doing a little bit of slopestyle. Everybody knows me as a halfpipe jock, so I’m trying to show people that I’m an all-around rider. Hopefully I’ll be doing some powder trips and backcountry trips as well. I want to try a bit of everything.
Is it too soon to ask if you’re thinking about 2018?
I’m definitely thinking about it, and I’d like to hopefully see if I can go for slope and pipe if I make the team again. I think it’s definitely going to be really hard. Since I’ve gone to the Olympics for pipe, it would be pretty cool if could make it for slope as well.
Is it crazy to think that snowboarding is just as much a women’s sport as it is a men’s sport these days?
For sure, especially because there are some girls coming up that I know are going to just kick some ass. I’ve seen them through the years, and it’s like, “Oh great, here we go again!” I have to keep working at it. But it’s awesome because you see that the sport is improving and there are so many more kids getting into it. It makes you want to get better and keep improving every day.
Kaitlyn Farrington’s Olympic Strength Workout
Start improving your strength, conditioning and balance with these five core-stabilizing moves. They may seem simple enough, but they’re surprisingly challenging, Farrington says. Perform them as a circuit, completing exercises one through five for 60 seconds each, followed by 60 seconds of rest. Repeat for a total of three rounds.
1. Pistol Squat
Begin with the arms extended out in front of you and balance on your right foot with the left leg extended straight, as close to parallel to the floor as possible (a). Next, squat down as far as you can, keeping the back straight and the left leg off the ground (b). Pressing into the right heel, raise back up to standing. Repeat for 30 seconds and switch to the other leg (c).
2. Hamstring Curl
Start on your back, left knee bent with your foot on the ground. Extend the right leg straight, placing your right heel on top of an exercise ball. Engaging your glutes and core, pushing through your left heel, lift your butt from the ground, so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. This will be your starting position (a). Keeping your hips up high and square to the ceiling, pushing through your right heel, pull the exercise ball in toward your butt and pause (b). Extend the leg back out to the starting position (c). Repeat for 30 seconds before switching leg.
3. Medicine Ball Slam
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent and raise medicine ball overhead, arms fully extended (a). In one explosive movement, generating power from your core and legs, slam the ball down to the floor, about a foot in front of you as hard as you can (b). Let the arms follow through past your outer thighs. Retrieve the ball and repeat for 60 seconds (c).
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4. Russian Twist
Start seated on a mat with knees bent and feet off the ground, leaning slightly backwards for balance. Hold a medicine ball (or dumbbell) in front of your chest (a). With the spine neutral and core engaged, twist your upper body and move the medicine ball to the right side of your body (b). Pause for a second, then move past center twisting your upper body and medicine ball to the left side of your body (c). Continue back and forth for 60 seconds maintaining solid balance and control.
Start in push-up position and lower onto your forearms, planting them firmly on the ground (a). Keeping your neck neutral and body straight in-line from head to toe (no sagging or bending at the hips), engage the muscles in your glutes and core. Hold for 60 seconds, maintaining proper form (b).