He didn't talk about it much, but Bobby Brown was in rough physical shape last spring. The pounding his body had taken while hitting jumps and rails for six months straight left his lower back and knees in constant pain. He eventually had to take time off to reduce the burden -- a rarity for Brown, who is known to train six to eight hours a day, seven days a week.
"Everything was hurting so badly," Brown recalled. "I was stressed about the rest of the season because I was worried how bad it would hurt."
Fast forward to the current season. In mid-March, Brown won Slopestyle gold at Winter X Games Tignes, which followed his Big Air gold medal at Winter X Aspen in January. After Tignes, he spent two weeks filming with Poor Boyz Productions in Europe. His body, he said, "feels great."
So what's the difference between now and last spring? It actually began last summer, when Brown signed up to work with renowned NFL trainer Loren Landow, director of performance enhancement at the Steadman Hawkins Denver Clinic and personal trainer for a certain ex-Bronco named Tim Tebow. Landow, who has trained 17 NFL All-Pros as well as Olympic moguls skier (and NFL return man) Jeremy Bloom, turned Brown's physical ailments into strengths.
"It's definitely been a game changer for me," Brown said. "I could practice longer; every contest, I wasn't worried about if I was going to be too tired or too sore."
The road to better health wasn't simple, nor did it start on a high note. When Landow first put Brown through a physical assessment, he found "glaring weaknesses" that he believed were tied to a lack of core strength, which in turn influenced Brown's knees and back (which Brown had badly injured in the spring of 2010, an accident that also left him with a fractured pelvis).
"I knew that with Bobby's skillset and abilities, if we could take away these weak links, boy, he could really magnify his skillset," Landow said. "And in the back of his mind he wouldn't have to worry about landing wrong and hurting his back or knees. I was confident if we took away those weaknesses he could go out and ski uninhibited. Ultimately, whereas early on the core was his weakest link, we made it his strongest asset."
Brown worked on a lot of "static positions" to build core strength, Landow said, before moving on to plyometrics and other activities that simulated his skiing. "I had to make sure that Bobby could tolerate stresses from the back once he hit the landing and goes into his ground reaction forces."
Brown spent most of the fall driving down to Denver, where he keeps an apartment, to train with Landow, then driving back up to his winter base of Breckenridge to train on snow. He'd never worked seriously with a trainer, but Landow's program -- which was set up by his agent, Jaimeson Keegan, and funded by Red Bull, his sponsor -- made him a believer.
"This is a sport, you know, it's not like we're just going out and chucking ourselves off jumps. It's way more calculated than everyone thinks," Brown said. "And if you want to have a long career, this is what people are doing. And you can tell. Tanner Hall, Jon Olsson, Pep Fujas, Shaun White, Torstein Horgmo -- you look at all the biggest names in these sports, and every one of them is on a pretty serious regimen. That's why they're where they are. I'm only 20, so I'm still relatively young, and I really want to make sure my career goes as long as possible."