|ESPN.com: Athlete's Life||[Print without images]|
|Julia Clukey aims to get the most out of her ice time in the winter.|
Julia Clukey describes luge as "sledding on a giant, frozen waterslide that is a mile long." With one major exception: "I have a lot more control with my sled than a typical plastic one."
Clukey, who is 28, also has a lot of control over her sled even when she's not flying down a giant, frozen waterslide.
"I spent a lot of time after the Vancouver Games testing my sled, making small changes so it would run and feel the way I wanted it to," said Clukey, who finished 17th at those Games. As she looks toward Sochi, she continues to do the majority of her sled work herself.
"If I want to make a major change or my steels have been damaged -- sometimes sand or tiny rocks make their way onto the track -- then a coach will help," she said.
But the sled is just a slice of what leads to success in luge. Here are a few more pieces of what she hopes will be a golden puzzle:
During the summer, I train four hours a day, six days a week. A typical day is bike/warm-up/stretch for 45 minutes; lift weights for two hours; core/balance workout for 45 minutes; and a 30-minute cool down. I also take a spinning class once a week and love to ride my road bike for a cardio workout. In the winter, ice time is most important. When I'm not competing, I slide twice a day and modify my strength and core training.
The starting motion is all upper body -- arms, shoulder, core and back -- and the sliding portion is all about the core. My favorite strength move is the bench press because it works a large group of muscles, and it can be tweaked in a bunch of ways, including normal grip, closed grip, doing it on the floor, bench, or decline bench. Switching it up changes the way I work my muscles, which gives me a great strength base.
The start is super important, as it's the only time you are directly accelerating yourself. It's also the easiest part of luge for which to train; start times have a direct correlation to the amount of time you spent training in the offseason. Early in my career, I noticed the German women and team had the fastest starts. I spent a lot of time analyzing their technique and developed a training program for myself based on my observations.
Before each training and race run, I visualize what my perfect run will look like. They don't always come out perfect in reality, but it helps to focus my mind on the task at hand. I spent this summer in my home state of Maine, removed from the sport of luge and in 90-degree weather, and often caught myself doing a visualization run from a track somewhere in the world. I thought about the Sochi track a lot.
I put together a strong training program for this summer and really pushed myself in my weaker areas. I had a great summer, and stayed healthy the entire time, so I'm in a great place. Knowing I'm prepared for the season makes life pretty stress-free at the moment. Now it's just a matter of putting my focus and energy going as fast as I can, and not worrying about what I can't control.