When she was just 18 years old, Kelly Clark captured Half-Pipe Gold at the 2002 Olympics. Twelve years, four Olympiads, and countless contests later, Clark's trophy case holds three Olympic medals, six Winter X Games Golds, an ESPY and a boatload of other major event victory hardware.
Now 31 years old, Clark competes against athletes like she was at the start of her career—wunderkinds, teenagers and riders in their early 20s. But she says, "The last four years have been the most successful of my career," and she credits a recent dedication to training for helping her combat aging and remain at an elite level.
After earning a medal in the 2010 Olympics, Clark approached U.S. National Team trainers, who told her she had untapped potential. "So I said 'all right, I'll give you four years," she says. The trainers placed her on an intense strength, conditioning, agility and mobility program, and it paid dividends.
"Snowboarding is such a technical sport, little mistakes—which you're more likely to make when you're tired—can really go a long way," Clark says. "Those have pretty much disappeared for me. When I land wrong or make a bad mistake, I'm now strong enough to stay on my feet and avoid crashing."
Clark also credits the program for a dramatic reduction in injuries. Her last four years have been virtually injury-free. She says, "Before I started weight training, my hips would get strained, my ribs would get dislocated, I had shoulder pain, knee pain, and my SI joint [sacroiliac joint, where the spine meets the hips] would constantly get knocked out of place. Now those injuries are a thing of the past."
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Clark's strength and resilience helped her rebound from a nasty spill, which would have knocked most riders out of commission. Clark shook it off and went on to capture the bronze medal.
"My coach said, 'I'm glad you're as strong as you are, because not many people would be able to get up from that.'" Clark says. "When I take those big crashes, I can get up. That's the biggest difference."
With her tough training regimen serving as a fountain of youth, Clark is considering making her fifth Olympic appearance. She says, "I never dreamt I could go to four, so I'm already outside my expectations. Going to another Olympics definitely isn't out of the question."
Kelly Clark's Training Tips
Take the Stairs
When traveling, Clark runs the stairs at her hotel to stay in shape. She says, "I do a bunch of different variations—two feet per stair, every other stair, One-Foot Hops."
Foam Roll to Recover
"Foam rolling helps keep my muscles lactic acid-free and reduces tightness. Every athlete should have a foam roller," Clark says.
Think Big, Aim High
Clark stays motivated because she knows training leads to success. She says, "I love this quote: 'Vision gives pain a purpose.' It's easy to train when you know why you're doing it."
Clark's Core Strength Move
A successful snowboarder needs a strong core, and Clark does core work four days per week. About BOSU Ball Squats, one of her favorite exercises, she says, "[They] require a lot of core stability, and you're getting that balance work that's so important for snowboarding while also working out your quads."
BOSU Ball Squats
With the flat side down, step onto the BOSU and place your feet shoulder-width apart. When you feel balanced, execute a standard squat, using only your body weight or holding dumbbells.
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