Always in training

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Emily Cook has qualified to three Olympic teams and been a member of the U.S. ski team for 16 years.

I was asked recently whether I think I am a master of the sport of aerials. I thought hard about the 16 years I have spent on the U.S. ski team, the three Olympic Games I have qualified for and the 20-plus years of training I have put in to be the best athlete I can be.

But my response was still no -- I think I am far from mastery. This, though, is why I love what I do.

There is always more to learn, and that’s what gets me out of bed and to training every morning. There is no definition for the number of hours needed to get the point where we have arrived, but I think that once we feel that way, it’s probably time to find a new game, goal or adventure.

Scott Hallenberg

When there's no snow, aerial skiers train into a pool in Park City, Utah.

My teammates and I recently completed a six-month block of training. We spent immense time in the gym running, cycling, lifting weights and doing core strength and plyometrics drills -- striving to be the strongest, most dynamic athletes we can be.

During this time, we also bounced on the trampoline to learn new skills and performed our jumps into a pool, rather than landing on snow. This is where we make our biggest improvements, learn new tricks, safely crash jumps and make the adjustments necessary for dramatic improvements in competition. In essence, this is where we practice mastery, and make the mistakes necessary to move forward.

The schedule was intense. One Sunday, our team started at the jumps at 9 a.m. and got home from the gym at 9 p.m. In between, we completed two jumping sessions, a sport psychology meeting, video review and both a cardio and lifting workout. I warmed up three times and cooled down three times, ate three meals and spent plenty of time discussing what was needed to improve mentally and physically.

This is what it looks like to train for the Olympic Games, and to me this is what the journey toward mastery entails.

Every morning I record daily objectives and goals in my training log. I discuss the plan with my coach, warm up and then walk over 100 stairs to the top of the ramps.

Scott Hallenberg

Some of Emily Cook's training days this past summer lasted 12 hours, but it's what she feels was needed to prepare for the upcoming season.

Sometimes, when I look down the inrun, I feel anxiety about a new jump, how the weather will affect my speed on the ramp or a new variation of a skill, but I know I have done the preparation to be where I am. I take a deep breath, calm my nerves and drop in.

Often we make mistakes, and sometimes we crash. But each time I falter or succeed, I get up, walk to my coach and discuss what I need to do to make the next jump better and make the necessary adjustments. At the end of the day, the second half of the training log is written. What goals were accomplished? What do I need to do tomorrow? Where can I improve?

Throughout the summer, there were days that were amazing, while others left me exhausted and a bit unsure. At times, the pool dropped below 45 degrees, colder than our cold tub recovery sessions, and snow fell on our “summer training.” These days were harder than others, but what I knew was that, regardless of my level of motivation or confidence on that day, I would be at the jumps again the next morning.

This is what I expect of myself, and it is something I have trained those around me to believe and support as well. We will inevitably encounter roadblocks on our individual journeys, but each day we can take the next step toward reaching for our own version of mastery.

This week, ice covers the pool, but not quite enough snow covers our winter jump site, so we train inside the USSA Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah. We continue to work our skills on the trampolines and our bodies in the gym and devise the best plan to prepare for the upcoming Olympic season.

I am so excited for this last push toward Sochi, and with just under 100 days left before the Olympics, I know that the long summer days of training have left me completely ready for the season ahead.

Now it’s just a matter of getting enough snow to get going!