While gravity has a lot to do with speed in alpine ski racing, constant, rapid-fire bursts of energy are required too. And Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin knows how to get those quick-twitch muscles firing better than just about anyone else in the world.
Shiffrin, who turned 22 on Monday, just landed her third straight world championship slalom gold medal and won the silver medal in giant slalom. This season, she also clinched her first ever World Cup victory in super-combined. She is all but assured of the World Cup overall title, making it the most successful season in her already decorated career.
How has Shiffrin been so dominant in slalom -- and now, increasingly, the other alpine disciplines as well? The answer might be on the track. This past year, she has added a ton of sprint workouts to her conditioning regimen, and she thinks it's brought her skiing to the next level.
The move: Sprint intervals
How to do it: I sprint 200 meters every 60 seconds for an hour. I focus on sprint technique -- working to make sure my arms are coordinated with my foot strides so that I use all my momentum and get the most powerful steps possible.
And I also focus on my start -- an extremely explosive movement requiring a lot more precision and discipline than you might imagine. Again, a lot of it has to do with the arm movement coordinating with actually exploding off the starting blocks, so I can get to my first stride quicker. The first, second and third steps are as important as the actual start for getting that momentum built quickly. The best sprinters are able to explode with each step, not just from the blocks.
When I do it: I do three sprint workouts per week. I don't always do intervals -- sometimes the workout is just 20 minutes of technique work and drills as a warm-up for one of my strength sessions.
Why I do it: Both sprinting and skiing are very explosive and require a lot of discipline. Both sports have a huge technique component, and you need to be extremely strong and powerful while still being agile and quick.
Why it's so killer: A single race run only lasts about 60 seconds, but in those 60 seconds, you need to be prepared with strength, coordination, power, balance and aggression; and that is the same with sprinting, so it's a great way to cross-train for ski racing.