At 24, professional snowboarder Elena Hight is already a two-time Olympian and in training for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Raised near the mountains in California, she began hitting the slopes as a child and competed in her first Olympics at age 16. Hight, now a full-time boarder, is also passionate about surfing and cooking. Here, she discusses how she stays in shape mentally and physically.
How did you learn to snowboard and develop it as a passion?
I was born in Hawaii, and my family relocated to the mountains in Lake Tahoe when I was 6 years old. My dad was a surfer his whole life, and the first thing he did when we relocated was teach my whole family to snowboard, and I just took to the sport real quickly, and it took off from there. I started doing amateur events at our local mountains at 7 years old, and I competed in my first professional event at 13.
What kind of workouts do you need to do to be in the right shape for snowboarding?
My training regimen goes in a year-round cycle. In the winter, I spend around three hours a day on the mountain and about an hour in the afternoon either doing yoga or at the gym doing some light strength training, keeping up with my core and upper-body training. I do a lot of dynamic core exercises. I use stability balls, do a lot of kind of side planks and side rotation exercises that involve your hip flexors and deeper abdominal muscles, because that really helps with spinning when I'm in the air. As far as leg stuff goes, I do a lot of split squats, lateral squats and jumping activities to help with my reaction time.
In the spring and summer, I spend some time strength training at the gym, but I also do a lot of surfing, mountain biking and hiking as my conditioning. In the fall, I really spend a lot of time in the gym, focusing mostly on strength training, specifically plyometric training, to get in shape before the season starts.
You also love to surf. Does that give you good cardio exercise?
Surfing is one of my favorite activities to do other than snowboarding. It's great cross-training, because it's a very similar board sport. Just being on a board and the balance that it takes to surf is a huge exercise that crosses over with snowboarding, and just the general feeling of riding a transition. A wave is a transition similar to the halfpipe — smaller, but it's definitely a fun transition to do when it's not wintertime.
You're passionate about cooking. How did that come about, and how do you make sure that you're cooking healthful meals that will give you enough fuel for your active lifestyle?
I started cooking when I was about 16 or 17. I was inspired by so many places that I had been traveling for snowboarding, all these amazing foods I had in these amazing countries, so I started experimenting in the kitchen. It's something that makes me feel like I'm home when I'm on the road, and it's a nice getaway from the snowboarding. I focus on clean eating and try to always choose organic, local foods when I can.
I eat a lot of produce. I base my meals around fresh produce and lean meats and that sort of thing. I also don't eat any gluten or dairy. And I love to cook Thai food — stir fries, curries, that sort of thing.
How do you stay mentally focused and prepared?
The mental side of snowboarding is a huge part of it. I do a lot of meditating, and yoga is something that I use for my body and my mind to be centered and calm. I meditate on a daily basis — almost every morning and every evening. It's something that I recently got into; I've been into yoga for a while, and the meditating thing is kind of the next step. I feel like it helps me a lot in my snowboarding, just being able to keep a clear mind and stay calm even when I get in nervous situations before a contest.