Interview With Beth Ann ChamberlainPrint
Beth Ann, most people are unfamiliar with the biathlon and the rigorous training regimen involved. Can you describe your sport for us?
I would be happy to. Biathlon is a Winter Olympic sport consisting of Nordic skiing and rifle marksmanship. All races are done in the skating technique while carrying your rifle on your back. We shoot at .22 rifle at 50 meters. We start by skiing a loop between two and four kilometers, depending on the race format, then come into the range and shoot five shots at the targets. For every missed target you have to ski a 150 meter penalty loop or have a minute time penalty added on to your overall time, depending on the race format. We shoot in the prone and standing position and have either two or four shooting stages in a race.
So, while the biathlon is known as a winter sport, you train year-round, is that correct?
Besides a couple of weeks off in the beginning of April, training goes year round. My training schedule is set up in blocks that are each about four weeks long. Every block builds on one another and has a specific focus. I build a base of easy training at the beginning of the season which supports more intense training and racing as the year progresses.
You are training hard to qualify for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Can you give us some idea of what it is like to prepare for an event . . . for example, what your routine is like the month and weeks leading up to a big qualifying event?
My training going into a big race series is similar to that of training the rest of year. I cut back on hours a little, making sure I am well rested going into the races. I spend a lot of time dry firing, standing in position with my unloaded rifle indoors working on my position and my hold on the target. I also work on mentally preparing myself to race by doing visualization and relaxation exercises. This help with both my skiing and shooting. Staying relaxed is a key factor in one’s success in biathlon and also one of the toughest parts!
Obviously your training regimen is quite rigorous even when you aren’t competing. Can you give us an idea of what your normal daily workout is like?
Most days I have two training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. My training hours are divided up into different training levels, based on my heart rate. I do a certain amount of training at each level throughout a week. My shooting workouts are divided up into slow fire drill and “combo” training. Slow fire is just working on my shooting procedure and precision drills, while “combo” training is shooting with an elevated heart rate.
So, you combine aerobic activity with intense body strengthening exercises. Do you work with a trainer or a coach?
I work closely with my coach. In addition to helping me put together a training plan for the year, he works one on one with me to help improve my skiing technique and my shooting. Together we monitor my progress throughout the year, making sure the training plan is working for me.
I’m sure that aside from the strength and aerobic conditioning benefits you receive from your workouts, you recognize the importance of overall body health as a way to keep free of injury. Have you suffered many sports-related injuries?
I have been very lucky to not have suffered from any major sports-related injuries. I have seen many athletes work very hard only to be prematurely defeated by injuries. Witnessing these instances has kept me motivated to do everything I can in injury prevention.
For all the muscles in your body to work as a smooth, efficient and coordinated unit must demand an enormous amount of energy and some recovery time. You must experience the effects of lactic acid buildup in your muscles. What do you do to alleviate muscle pain and soreness?
Being active in my recovery methods is important to help keep my muscles healthy and feeling good. This involves refueling properly following training sessions, stretching, spending time off my feet between big workouts and listening to my body. Professional massage and self massage help me alleviate pain and soreness. I also found wading into a cold lake, river or sitting in ice bath helps my legs and hips recover more quickly.
You are a licensed massage therapist. Yet, many massage therapists I know neglect that area of their own health! Do you take advantage of massage therapy as part of your own training regimen?
Of course!!! I think massage therapy is one of the best activities people can do for their mind, body and overall health. As an athlete, taking care of my body is part of my job. I can’t think of a better injury preventative measure, recovery method or mental health activity then massage. I also believe strongly in practicing what I preach!
What other disciplines and self-care strategies do you use in order to keep your body in top form?
Eating well, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and stretching are all areas I work hard to stay on top of. Taking note of how my body is feeling and responding accordingly helps me to stay ahead of most injuries and sickness.
Since you mentioned how important it is to keep your body injury-free, I’m curious: do you incorporate physical therapy into your regimen?
As I mentioned earlier I put a lot of time and effort into injury prevention, which I believe to be a part of physical therapy. I have a throughout strength routine I practice all year round to prevent any muscle imbalances and injuries. I use heat to help loosen up tight sore spots and ice to bring inflammation down and reduce pain.
What tools do you find most helpful in maintaining good physical health as well as in achieving maximum athletic potential?
Maintaining good health is done by listening to your body and responding to where it hurts. The Original Backnobber II is my favorite tool for taking care of my stiff, sore spots through my hips, back and legs. When I am in a pinch and can’t get to a massage therapist myself, I do the next best thing by loosening and relaxing my own legs with The Original Orbit Massager. I also use foam rollers to break up any additional adhesions throughout my body.
Tell us how these tools benefit you. Are they generally easy to use?
These tools help me help myself. Any time I am in need I can use any of these tools to flush out lactate, break down trigger point and help me to feel better so I can perform my very best. I think they are very easy to use, as long as you are listening to your body. I know and recognize where I am sore or hurt and simply put these tools to use on those areas! It’s as simple as can be!
Are the tools you use provided by your physical therapist, or have you acquired them yourself? I have found that sometimes even professionals are unfamiliar with some of the best tools out there!
I have actually found most of these products myself. As a massage therapist I am always looking for products my clients can use at home to help them feel better anytime they need. As an athlete I am looking for the same thing for myself, helping me make the most of all the training I do to perform my best. I would agree that many professionals are unfamiliar with many great tools we can all benefit from. I think my role as an athlete motivated me to look more closely into these tools and has paid off tremendously.
Do you recommend these tools to your clients and others?
I use these products and have found them to help me alleviate pain, recover quicker and feel better. I have good reason to believe that others would have the same great results. I am excited to share these products and their benefits with anyone who will listen. So to more directly answer your question, yes, I do recommend these tools to my clients, other athletes and friends.
Clearly, relaxation is important as well. Do you do relaxation exercises such as yoga or other techniques or disciplines?
Yoga has become one of my favorite recovery activities. I am a big fan of the slower paced Yin Yoga. I also try and practice a number of relaxation exercises in the morning, before going to be and when preparing for a race. Relaxed, focused breathing, mimicking what I might do while coming in the range and while shooting is something I work on. This helps my body develop an automatic relaxation response while I am shooting.
And in your spare time?? You must have some “down time!”
Any spare time I have I love to spend with my husband David and the rest of my family and friends! Gardening is a growing pleasure for me, and I can’t pass up at episode of the Sopranos.
You currently live in northern Maine and are closely associated with and sponsored by the Maine Winter Sports Center. Can you tell us a little bit about your work and your association with this group?
Maine Winter Sports Center is a non-profit organization committed to “Re-establishing skiing as a life style in Maine”. Through this organization thousands of kids and adults are given the opportunity to get outdoors and learn how to ski, snowshoe, hike, bike, run and let loose in the outdoors. MWSC runs a number of programs geared towards every age and ability, helping all become more active and live healthier lives. I am a part of the elite athlete program. MWSC provides me with coaching, world class training facilities and additional support for a racing career. Through my role as a MWSC athlete, I act as a role model to kids and adults throughout the state of Maine. I visit schools talking to kids about the importance of active, healthy living. More importantly, I do my best to help inspire other to get outside and play!
Aside from the time involved, I assume it takes a lot of money to train for the Olympics. Must you spend some of your time seeking sponsorship?
There is so much involved in an athlete making their way onto an Olympic Team. There is a team behind every Olympic athlete, helping make dreams come true. Sponsorships are a crucial part of this team, helping shape that athlete to their very best form. As an athlete committed to making my first Olympic team, I have dedicated a good amount of time seeking sponsors. I am looking for sponsors that share my enthusiasm in the Olympic movement and like me, would like to become a part of it.
BethAnn, it has been a pleasure talking with you. I wish you all the best in your Olympic endeavors!