Four years ago, the U.S. Nordic combined team forgot their (mostly undistinguished) history and kicked serious ass, hauling in a total of seven medals at the 2010 Winter Games and making Americans aware of this sport in which ski jump scores determine starting positions in cross-country skiing races. (Crazy, right?)
And leading the charge was New York native Billy Demong, who became the first Yank to win a Nordic event when he claimed gold in the 10 km large hill. As Demong prepped for his fifth Olympics, we caught up with him to ask about the training regimen that propelled him to glory in Vancouver… and may just do so again in Sochi.
If you really want to achieve your goal, you’ve got to be persistent.
What’s your fitness routine like now?
I think part of what made me good going into 2010 was getting more self confident, and more confident in my training as well. I did a lot of tweaking of my training programs and made it really fun. I did a lot of road cycling races, a lot of crazy adventures, and I still try to do that, but it’s definitely changed in that I have a son, I have a wife, I have a lot more obligations, a lot less time. So being efficient is really important.
Can you give an example?
Like this morning, I was on the Today show. I taught Matt Lauer how to roller-ski, it was so funny. And then I literally did my interval workout on roller-skis in Central Park. And it’s the same thing at home. I get up, I feed the dog, I’m out the door, I train for four hours and then I’ve got to get my son Liam at noon from daycare. And I think within that structure, I’ve become a better athlete in terms of how much I enjoy my training, and then how much I’m able to accomplish in a day.
Not that many people do ski jumping and cross-country skiing, but what can the average person learn from these disciplines?
It’s all about patience and persistence. Rule number one in endurance sports is, big trees grow slowly. And that means if you want to run faster, bike faster, whatever, you have to build a broad base of your pyramid. When I go out and run, most of my miles are eight- or nine-minute miles. And that has a couple of purposes. It builds cardiac efficiency and it increases muscular endurance. If you go do a six-minute mile, you don’t get the benefit anymore. You build your engine bigger, the base of the pyramid is really wide and then you start going up in levels, and then you start tweaking it. Today, I guarantee you I can run a 4:50 mile, no problem.
Let’s do it right now! I believe you, by the way…
All I’m saying is, you have to actually do the slow miles to be able to do the faster miles. And you have to keep at it and have persistence with day-to-day training. Like, The weather sucks, I don’t want to train today, I just got off work, but I’ve got an hour. Go train. If you really want to achieve your goal, you’ve got to be persistent.
So this is your fifth Olympics. Is it the last one?
I mean, I love what I do. I love training and I also love competition. Even when I retire, I can already tell you ten events I’ll be doing next year. I’m going to run the Chicago Marathon. I’m gonna race the Leadville 100 on the mountain bike. I’m gonna do a couple of the ski marathons in Europe. Bucket list items. I don’t see slowing down anytime soon. But honestly, I’m also ready for a change.
What are you most looking forward to in Sochi?
I’m looking forward to being done with my last race and putting my feet up with my wife and son. They’re going to be there, he will be a little over 3. He’s funny, too. Everybody says that about their kids, but my kid’s really got a sense of humor…