Flipping for his core
This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Dec. 9 One Day One Game issue. Subscribe today!
The Mag: What was your body like growing up?
Simon Dumont: I was always short, but I was pretty strong. And I had super-strong legs. I have a really strong dad, and my mom's super-athletic, so I got good genes. I found the gym relatively young, largely because I knew if I wanted to do this for a long time, I needed to utilize the gym.
In the past two years, my entire body composition has changed, largely because of injuries. I've had a lot of injures in the past, but I'd never had surgery until I tore my ACL. Normally, it was "deal with the pain" or cast it up or take two weeks off, so I had never focused that hard on getting super-strong in recovery. But when you have surgery and are laid up for six to nine months, you really have to focus on getting in the best shape of your life. I couldn't ski, so my job was to get as strong as I could and do that to 110 percent. Now I'm by far in the best shape of my life.
How did you get started skiing?
My mom got me into it when I was about 3 years old. She just threw me into a harness, and I started skiing. Before that, I was a gymnast. My mom thought I was going to go to the Olympics for gymnastics. I was winning tri-state and regionals, but it got a little overwhelming, so I turned to skiing. I did moguls for about a year, but coaches would get mad at me if I wanted to hit jumps or slide rails, so that wasn't for me. When I was 13, I went to Mammoth for my brother's snowboard nationals, and I was skiing in the park hitting some of the biggest jumps I'd ever seen. Some folks saw me, and I got invited to an X Games qualifier. I ended up qualifying, and I've been doing it ever since.
What body parts are most essential for skiing?
I would say legs, core and glutes. All of that is crucial. People ask if I lift upper body, but I hardly ever do. It's not crucial to skiing, except for falling. I don't fall on my legs. So if you're strong on top, hopefully when you fall it won't hurt quite as badly.
Simon Dumont in Photos
Simon Dumont has been a competitive freeskier for more than 12 years. He first competed in the X Games at age 14, in 2002. Since then, he's won nine X Games medals in Big Air and SuperPipe.
What do you do to train?
Monday is usually chest, back and legs, and I do half an hour to an hour of cardio. I like the bike because I get a lot of quad and hamstring strength without a lot of impact.
Tuesday will be similar: cardio, core and maybe shoulders.
Wednesday is a long cardio day, like an hour on the bike, or I'll go bike outside for 30-50 miles. I don't really ever do arms, but I'll do it with others if they want. Maybe I'll throw in some biceps or triceps.
Thursday is back, chest, legs and cardio.
Friday is another cardio day, plus core. And my core is usually an hour to an hour and a half, not just 20 minutes or so.
For core workouts, I do hanging straight-leg lifts, dragonflies (lie on a bench and lift the whole body), planks, weighted planks, rollouts with a barbell, and stuff with pulleys and the stability ball. I do a lot of stabilizing work, instead of just a bunch of crunches. I want to prevent rotation, especially with having a bad back. I want to stabilize my core.
I could go in the gym and be a meathead and just get huge, but I want to be as strong as I can while also as fast as I can. I want to be the best athlete I can be, so I don't want any one part stronger than the other. And this isn't just to be athletic and compete at a high level -- it's to be functional for the rest of my life.
What do you do for body maintenance?
We are lucky enough with the ski team to work with physical therapists, which is super-crucial coming back from injury. But you have to make sure you're with the right one -- sometimes they hurt me or don't really do a good job for me, so you have to find a good one with good communication.
Another big part of my maintenance is learning how to use all the mechanics in a proper way. For instance, if you're doing squats, making sure your knees are over your toes. Things like that to prevent injuries in the future.
One more thing: The road bike has been saving me since my knee injury. I'm not a runner -- I'm short and have had back injuries. But with the road bike, I can get strength in my quads and hamstrings, I can get cardio to keep my weight down and keep me light, and it's great to get my body warmed up. At my age, to get your body warmed up every day feels great. If I don't bike, I feel 35 years old, but if I get my body going, I feel young, I feel good.
What do you tell yourself when you feel you can't train anymore?
That's the soreness factor for me. If I don't do something, my legs and back get sore. Getting to the gym is usually the worst part, but I overpower that because I know I'm going to feel so much better after -- not just physiologically but also mentally. That's another big reason I did work out while I was injured; I couldn't do much else, but I could at least go to the gym to release some endorphins.
And then the Olympics. That's obviously the big goal, but you can't be thinking about that all the time. You need weekly goals so you can achieve something on a regular basis. You need smaller goals to be psyched and have that escalating excitement and motivation.
How has your training evolved over your career?
I'm more educated now. I understand the body better. When you have injuries, you learn how the body actually works. There's so much more to it than just going in and lifting. There's a lot more science. Now I have it down to the exact amount of breaks between exercises.
How important is your diet to your physique?
I eat in relation to what I'm going to do. I like to eat all day, just munch, with a big meal after the gym because it'll be a four- or five-hour session. But if I'm out biking, I eat more. If I'm going to travel, I'll eat less -- maybe some nuts or a salad -- because I'm not expending energy. I think of it as fuel, like for a car. If you're running at a high-performance level, you need high-performance fuel.
But at the same time, I have cheat days. I won't say I can't have something. If I want it, I'm going to eat it. But If I eat something carb-loaded or sugar-heavy, maybe I'll go for a walk or go do something to feel a little better. When I eat something my body isn't used to, I can feel the difference.
I eat very high in protein at all times because that's what makes you feel full. I eat double meat a lot. Greek yogurt in the morning is a big one for me because it's really high in protein and probiotics. If you get a vanilla, it's kind of sweet, so it feels like a dessert, and I'll add in peanut butter or granola or fruit and a little chocolate milk. Stir that up, and it feels like a dessert, but it's also full of protein and good stuff.
What is your must-have training food?
Chicken. I eat lots and lots of chicken. A lot of people are into supplements, but the only supplement I might do is whey protein after a workout. Most of the time I just go with chicken after a workout. Or sushi. That's high protein and lean, too. And I love steak, but I can tell that it's a little harder for my body to process than chicken or fish.
What do teammates, friends and family say about your muscles?
I feel like everybody looks for secrets. How'd you do that? What's your secret? … I work really hard. I go to the gym and work hard, and then I want to leave, but I stay another hour and work even harder. My whole day revolves around being healthy, being in shape, feeling good, and hopefully performing at the highest level. I know what I need to eat and when I need to eat it, and that's the biggest thing.
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your body?
My least favorite is how damn injury-prone it's been the past two years. My core is probably my favorite because it relieves the pain in my back. I have to avoid hyperextension, arching my back or sitting for too long. My hamstrings get tight, and I'll have pain in my back. That's that maintenance part again.
What about your body would surprise readers?
That I'm not that tall. I'm 5-6.
What do you want readers to know about your body?
If you are going to lift and you are serious, figure out why you want to do it, so you have inspiration when you don't want to go. Don't think about it as a diet or regimen -- it's a lifestyle. If this is how you want to live for the rest of your life, and you want to be healthy, and you want to be different, this is your lifestyle. I don't diet, I don't deprive myself, but this is my choice and how I prefer to live.
And make goals, but make them attainable. Sure, you have an end goal, but you need baby steps to get there -- maybe every week or every three weeks -- because you don't want to get discouraged.