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    • Spring
      • Eating Wild in Japan

        Eating Wild in Japan

        Winifred Bird's latest book is an introduction to the world of sansai (mountain vegetables) and foraging in Japan.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkaido

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Northern Tohoku’s Top 5 Spring Hikes

        Chase the cherry blossoms north and enjoy five of Tohoku’s best hikes this spring.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor Activities in Japan

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.

        Haga Farm Spring Glamping in Tochigi

        Haga Farm and Glamping in Tochigi opened in August 2020, and it has quickly become a popular escape for Tokyoites.
    • Summer
      • Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Climbing Mt. Fuji Outdoor Japan

        Peaking in 2021: Climbing Mt. Fuji

        Thinking of climbing Mt. Fuji this summer? We talk to Mt. Fuji guides on best practices for scaling Japan's highest mountain.

        Japan Camping Guide

        Check out our picks all the way from Hokkaido to the Okinawa Islands and then plot your perfect Japan camping adventure.
        Japan's Digital Nomads Van Life in Japan

        Japan’s Digital Nomads

        Adventure couple Ruth Aisling and Bappa Shota explores Japan by van.
        Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endangered Wildcats

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
    • Autumn
      • Pow Bar Founder Megumi Scott

        Beyond the Brand: Pow Bar

        An interview with Megumi Scott, the founder of Niseko brand Pow Bar.
        Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
    • Winter
      • Early Bird 2021-22 Japan Ski

        Early Bird Ski Deals for 2021-2022

        Don't miss out on these early bird season pass and lift package deals for Japan's ski resorts.

        Pacific Solo

        Preacher-tu...
    • Near Tokyo
    • Near Kyoto
    • All Regions
    • Article Map
    • Ocean and Beach
      • Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Snorkeling, Surfing and Sustainability in Koch...

        Enjoy the clear waters of Kochi by snorkeling and surfing while staying at a refurbished hotel committed to sustainability.
        Outdoor Japan Shimoda

        Blue Waves and Black Ships in Shimoda

        Shimoda may be famous for its white sandy beaches and surfing, but it also played a major role in shaping the Japan we know today.
    • River and Lake
      • Iriomote Yamaneko Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote’s Endanger...

        Iriomote Island, one of Japan's last untouched wild places, is home to the endangered yamaneko wildcat.
        Iriomote Outdoor Japan

        Iriomote Activity Guide

        A guide to Iriomote's outdoors, hiking, diving, cultural experiences and accommodation.
        Niseko flying Hokkaido

        Bird’s Eye View of Hokkai...

        Get a bird's eye view of Hokkaido with Ben Kerr, a Niseko-based pilot.

        Spring Escapes: Outdoor A...

        Check out these spring escapes this season and enjoy outdoor activities throughout Japan.
        video

        Shikoku Road Trip: Kochi ...

        Mountainous forests and coastal towns dominate most of the prefecture, where visitors will find enterprising locals and nature guides working to revitalize their communities. Shikoku’s winding roads are best explored by car.
    • Mountain and Land
    • Sky
    • Snow and Ice
      • Matagi Akita Tohoku Sustainable Living

        Tracking Akita’s Matagi Hunters

        Akita in the northern Tohoku region is home to the Matagi, hunters who follow an ancient and sustainable way of hunting, foraging and life.
        Early Bird 2021-22 Japan Ski

        Early Bird Ski Deals for 2021-2022

        Don't miss out on these early bird season pass and lift package deals for Japan's ski resorts.
    • Travel
      • Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Matagi Akita Tohoku Sustainable Living

        Tracking Akita’s Matagi Hunters

        Akita in the northern Tohoku region is home to the Matagi, hunters who follow an ancient and sustainable way of hunting, foraging and life.
        Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Snorkeling, Surfing and Sustainability in Koch...

        Enjoy the clear waters of Kochi by snorkeling and surfing while staying at a refurbished hotel committed to sustainability.
    • Food and Drinks
      • Churamura Okinawa Sea Turtle Marine Conservation

        Churamura: Footprints in the Sand

        Churamura, an NPO in Okinawa, work to conserve marine life and protect endangered sea turtles in Japan's southernmost prefecture.
        Kawazu

        Fall in Love with Kawazu

        Enjoy waterfall hikes and hot springs, beautiful beaches and delicious seafood in Kawazu on the western coast of Izu Peninsula.
        Matagi Akita Tohoku Sustainable Living

        Tracking Akita’s Matagi Hunters

        Akita in the northern Tohoku region is home to the Matagi, hunters who follow an ancient and sustainable way of hunting, foraging and life.
        Washi Papermaking Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Following the Paper Trail in Kochi

        Discover the traditional art of washi papermaking in Kochi with artist Rogier Uitenboogaart.
        Kaiyu Kochi Shikoku Outdoor Japan

        Snorkeling, Surfing and Sustainability in Koch...

        Enjoy the clear waters of Kochi by snorkeling and surfing while staying at a refurbished hotel committed to sustainability.
    • Races and Events
      • Yuji Hirayama Urban Base Camp

        Yuji Hirayama’s Urban Base Camp Opens in Shinj...

        One of Japan's top rock climbers Yuji Hirayama has opened Urban Base Camp, a new bouldering gym in the heart of Tokyo.
        Photo by Noriteru Ino

        2021 Summer Music Festivals in Japan

        Camp and listen to great music in the outdoors at these summer music festivals across Japan.
        Summer Events Fireworks Festivals in Japan

        2021 Fireworks Festivals in Japan

        Enjoy these fireworks festivals held throughout Japan this summer and autumn.
        Summer Festivals in Japan

        2021 Summer Festivals in Japan

        Enjoy these traditional matsuri festivals throughout Japan this summer.

Stretching Your Limits

Going for Broke

All medals are not made equal; some change lives. It was February, 2006, at the Torino Winter Olympics. The bad weather and pressure of The Games kept the giant slalom favorites from pushing their times. Then, in a flash, they were ambushed by a young American named Julia Mancuso. She ascended the winner’s podium, tiara affixed, in a true “Cinderella story.”

I first met Julia in 2005 in Hawaii when the cute, 21-year-old quietly entered the gym and made her way through her workout regimen without making much noise. The youngster’s arms and legs were long, and her body well proportioned, reminding me of my idol, the Italian skier Deborah Compagnoni who took home three straight Olympic gold medals in the giant slalom.

I was only able to break into the top 20 in the world during my career, so I always had a great interest in seeing what the top ranked skiers had that I didn’t.

Since I had turned to Pilates to improve my performance and functional recovery, I knew spending time with Julia would do the same for her and offer me some great first-hand research. Thus, I made the decision to tour with Julia throughout her 2008 season in Europe.

Although Julia is known for her audacious performances on the slopes, off the hill she was rather shy and quiet, so it took quite some time for me to learn all the details surrounding her injury and its seriousness.

In the spring of 2005, Julia underwent hip surgery for an injury much more uncommon than the typical knee surgeries most skiers endure and then come back to compete. Athletes deal with the pain, practice and continue to compete, which usually leads to bigger problems.

For Julia the problems began in 2009 when she started to experience lower back pain right before the season opened. The results were devastating. From mid-January the painful days came and competitions found her at the finish line in tears. A staff member who had worked the line for years told me, “This was first time I saw her cry.”

Even with her seemingly limitless power to overcome and remain positive, it was too much for her to bear. Sponsors and those around her began to think the glory of the Olympic gold had weakened her, and the cold stares reflected their ever-decreasing expectations. Her world ranking plummeted, and she faced a difficult summer in the year before the Whistler Olympics.

The season ended in March, and in May I met up with Julia in Hawaii. She had just finished her physical fitness testing at the U.S. ski team’s training center in Utah, and the assessment was her worst in years. The trainers and coaches had all wanted to confirm the numbers and prepared themselves for the disappointment, but still all were discouraged by the results.

With only 10 weeks until the next ski camp, Julia had a limited amount of time to regain both her health and her strength. In order to prove at the August/September camp that she still had the goods, she would first require a healthy and stronger body.

Julia’s Weekly Workout Program
Bicycling:
Every day
Water Activities: Every day
Therapy and Treatment: 5 days
Pilates: 3 days
Gym Workouts: 3 days
Beach Sand Training: 1 day

Last year Julia spent her summer climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and working the Summer Olympics for a TV station. However, this year she stayed in Hawaii. Her coach and trainers flew in to advise her on her workout schedule, and I worked along side her during the beach and gym training sessions.

Our muscles became more relaxed as the blood was pumping, and we noted that, in addition to gaining strength, we were burning fat. Additionally, I noted how Julia’s presence and her level of concentration were rubbing off on me.

Compared to the whirlwind of last summer, this trip to Hawaii may have included more quiet time for Julia, but like a lion in wait, she was setting her stance and focusing her glare on her prey, the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whether the effort was “too late” or “just in time,” no one knows. You can only concentrate on the here and now. Will the dramatic 2006 gold medal continue to haunt her, or push her to race down the hill faster than the other contenders? It’s been 12 years since I competed in the 1998 Nagano Olympics and, although I won’t be there as an athlete this time, I’ll be just as focused on bringing home our team a medal.

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