PART 1: DENNY MORRISON TRAINS TO WIN
By Carol Crenna
If you find it hard to get outside in winter to exercise, here, in this TWO-PART blog, three of Canada’s top Olympians that challenge themselves in feats beyond what most of us think possible will help push you out the door.
You can appreciate the training commitment. But what you can learn from these elite athletes?
BC’s Denny Morrison and Quebec’s Charles and Francois Hamelin, who all won gold in the 2010 Olympic Games, have a competitive spirit to reach their personal goals, and don’t feel that giving up is an option.
But they are human, too, and sometimes find it tough to get out and train. They offer tips and personal advice. Here in PART I is an interview with Denny Morrison.
Olympic speedskater Denny Morrison, 27, is the reigning world champion in the 1,500 metres, current World Cup leader in the 1,000 metres, and a top speedskating contender for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Originally from Fort St. John, he is now living in Calgary, AB, and in Richmond, BC.
Although Morrison recently broke his leg while cross-country skiing on holiday – you can’t blame him for wanting to have winter fun on something other than ice – he will start training again in March.
CAROL: You started skating when you were three years old?
DENNY MORRISON: My mother encouraged me to be independent and to get out and do sports, and she wasn’t overly afraid that I would fall and get hurt. And at three, I was too young for hockey and my parents didn’t want me in figure skating.
CAROL: You are committed to being fit.
DENNY MORRISON: Fitness comes with work. The hardest part of getting in shape is getting into the routine. Even for me, at the beginning of the season, training hurts and my muscles stiffen quickly. It takes two weeks for me to get into a routine.
It’s important to work through the first few workouts until your body becomes more tolerant; then you’ll find exercise much more enjoyable. Once I get used to it, I don’t even mind training outside in the rain.
Sometimes, when I’d rather be watching TV or socializing with friends, instead I’ll train. I train twice per day, which includes indoor and outdoor strength and cardio workouts, and conditioning on the ice.
DENNY MORRISON: I don’t feel that most people need a personal trainer. Just ask for a suitable program at your gym to make sure you have proper technique.
Don’t just focus on your strengths; if you only practice what feels comfortable, you can only go so far. If you focus on weaknesses, you have lots of room for improvement so can become exponentially better.
CAROL: Does the work intimidate you?
DENNY MORRISON: I could be afraid of the amount of work needed to achieve my goals and back down. But the more I’m challenged, the more I feel excited to show myself what I’m capable of.
When I push myself beyond set limits, it gives me confidence to know that eventually I may reach a level that can win.
Consistency, more than ability or workout intensity, is the difference between achieving your goal and letting it fall by the wayside. Hit or miss workouts don’t work.
And if you don’t show up for a workout with a partner or trainer, it’s you that you’re disrespecting.
CAROL: You say that core workouts are most important?
DENNY MORRISON: I do yoga with weights and elastics that focus on very specific stabilizer muscles from my chest to abdomen and back. I strengthen “quick-twitch” muscles with these, and work on unstable surfaces for balance. I also do squats and bench presses for upper and lower body strength.
CAROL: You and your brother Jay, who’s also on the national speed skating team, train long hours together.
DENNY MORRISON: When preparing for an important event, we train full-time – six days per week – which is why I bought a condo so close to Richmond’s Olympic Oval skating rink, an amazing facility to train at. We see the Oval from our living room windows which keeps us motivated, but can sometimes make it seem like it takes up too much of our lives.
We also bought a five-bedroom bungalow in Calgary, where we train much of the year.
DENNY MORRISON: Outside, my training group practices lunges and running up hills. In a group, everyone has different high or low energy days, so we can, and often do, push each other.
I also mountain bike, even during Calgary’s winters. You can mountain bike in almost any weather as long as you dress properly.
CAROL: What about your diet?
DENNY MORRISON: For me, exercise, over diet, is the key to weight maintenance. I eat 4,000 to 5,000 calories per day, which I burn off during training.
I eat a balanced diet of vegetables, protein and carbs, but also get cravings for sugar or a burger once in a while.
CAROL: Do you cook your meals?
DENNY MORRISON: Jay does 75 per cent of the cooking.
CAROL: What do you do to relax?
DENNY MORRISON: Lay on my favourite sofa! I spent as much money on gas shopping for the right one as I did on the sofa itself. Even though I’m six feet one inches tall, and my brother is six feet three, we can stretch out while lying on it.
CAROL: You once said that if exercising is new, you might find that what should be an easy workout becomes a chore after 5 to 10 minutes, until your body gets used to it.
You advised to keep working at it, and also don’t impatiently push yourself, which could cause injuries.
DENNY MORRISON: Learning to be patient with my body is difficult after an injury and during rehab. But the only thing that predetermines your level of success is your level of effort.
If you don’t give up, and put the time in, you will get better. I relate that motto to all parts of life.
Parts of this original article by Carol Crenna were featured in VISTA Magazine and Canada Wide Media’s BC Home Magazine.