Men think they know everything about exercise, and we all know where that can lead: bad backs, concussions, and rusty knees. It’s time to take a few tips from women, like these seven athletes who balance toughness, grace, strength, and fun to create a powerful combination that endures.
Find Your Own Way
26, big-mountain skier
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As a junior ski racer, Collinson had a coach and a sports psychologist, and she put off college by a year to focus entirely on training. Then, at 18, she missed out on making the U.S. Ski Team. “I took it as a sign,” says Collinson, who lives in Salt Lake City. So she switched to freeskiing and diversified her approach, experimenting with a vegetarian diet, practicing visualization, and cross-training on a mountain bike. All that trial and error worked—she won the Free Skiing World Tour in 2010 and 2011, and was named Freeskier magazine’s 2015 skier of the year. Collinson now thinks of her sport as play rather than work. “That’s been the biggest change for me in performing at the next level,” she says. “I do better when I’m having fun.”
29, ultrarunner and ski mountaineer
Women and men both reach their physical peak in their late twenties. But Forsberg wants to run until she’s 80. To that end, if she has a workout scheduled and isn’t feeling it, she’ll go do something else. “I have a professional mind for training, but I try to keep the happiness,” says the Swede, who makes her home in Mandalen, Norway. Even though she’s won gold medals in the Skyrunner World Series and the ultrarunning World Championships, maintaining her passion always comes before competing. “I don’t want to ever lose the joy that I have for running,” she says.
Don’t Get Comfortable
32, obstacle racer and ultrarunner
Boone, an attorney in San Jose, California, has won almost everything there is to win on the obstacle-racing circuit, including World’s Toughest Mudder and the Spartan Race World Championships. Which is why she recently turned to ultramarathons. “I had to find the next big challenge to keep things fresh and motivating,” she says. Boone now runs trails before work. But it might soon be time for yet another new endeavor. She outran everyone—men and women—at a recent race and placed second in the super-competitive Sean O’Brien 100K.
Mix It Up
43, skier and mountaineer
“Alpinism is unpredictable and draws on all aspects of your body and mind,” says O’Neill, who summited both Everest and Lhotse within 24 hours in 2012 and has pioneered dozens of first ski descents on mountains around the world. So her training regimen can’t be too regimented. The Telluride, Colorado, resident keeps fit by mountain biking, trail running, ski mountaineering, and doing yoga. To learn to adapt in the mountains, O’Neill constantly adds things to her repertoire that she isn’t experienced in, like triathlons and ultramarathons. “I find it more intriguing and fun,” she says. “I also think it’s better for overall fitness.”
Shiraishi scales walls better than almost anyone in the world. She’s the youngest person to send a V13 boulder problem and the first woman ever to climb a 5.15. But it’s her singular focus that sets her apart. Unlike most athletes in her sport, she doesn’t do any strength training or flexibility work. She just climbs—a lot. For the past nine years she’s spent four hours almost every day honing her technique. “You can get sick of climbing even if you love it,” says Shiraishi, who lives in Manhattan. “But I guess it’s like marriage. It can be tough, but you stick with it because you love it.”
Hard workouts break your body down. But so do the physical and mental demands of spending nine months a year ping-ponging between international events. Which is why Moore, who’s from Honolulu, makes sure to block out some downtime. “When I try to train too hard too fast, I get sick,” she says. “Time off to rest and do yoga is fundamental in keeping me injury-free.” The mental breaks help her come back stronger—she’s won three of the past five WSL Women’s World Tour titles.
48, mountain biker
Rusch says her experience as a mountain-bike coach in her hometown of Ketchum, Idaho, has taught her that women tend to be more cerebral in the way they train. “We want to learn how to do things before muscling through,” she says. That kind of scrupulousness can make for better form and more confidence. In other words, it’s OK to slow down sometimes. Also: it’s never too late to take up a new sport. Rusch, four-time winner of the Leadville 100 and a seven-time world champion, didn’t start mountain biking until she was 38.