‘Bat Boy’ to Bronze Medalist & Snowboarder Alex Deibold Answers 9 Questions
Alex Deibold won a bronze medal in snowboardcross at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. We spoke to Alex last month about his introduction to the sport, his fascinating journey to the medal podium four years ago, and how he incorporates WHOOP into his training. Unfortunately, Alex fell just shy of making the U.S. team for PyeongChang.
When did you first get into snowboarding?
“Growing up, skiing and snowboarding were always a big part of what my family did. We used to drive from Connecticut to Vermont every weekend with my aunts, uncles and cousins. I started skiing at age 2 and snowboarding at age 4–right about when it began getting some mainstream attention and popularity. I sort of came into it on my own though. My parents never pushed me into sports, I was always pretty self driven. I saw snowboarding and asked my mom if I could try it, so she got me a snowboard for Christmas.”
At what point did you start really taking it seriously?
“When I was 8 years old, there was an event at my local mountain that I asked to sign up for. That was my very first competition. I won my first event and caught the bug. From then on, I competed more and more consistently as I got older. When I was in high school, I was recruited to go to a ski academy in Stratton, VT. My sophomore year, my family picked up shop and moved to Vermont full time. Soon after that, I began competing professionally in half-pipe and slopestyle. As a high school senior in 2004, I was named to the inaugural US snowboard team. That was when I realized there was potential for me to actually make a career out of it. I started traveling and competing more internationally, and here I am today.”
Your Olympic story is pretty amazing, tell us about that.
“I raced boardercross [snowboard cross], which was introduced to the Olympics in 2006. I was only 19 years old then, and I wasn’t really in the mix for the run up to those games. But by 2010, I’d had a handful of years of international experience from World Cup, World Championships and X Games and I knew I could contend. Unfortunately, I came up just a bit short of making the team.
However, I got an opportunity to go to the 2010 Vancouver games as a staff member. I was a wax technician for my team, which is sort of the equivalent of a bat boy in baseball or a caddie in golf. I prepped all of my teammates equipment. It was really challenging when I was there, watching all my teammates competing for this life-long dream that I’d always wanted. But at the same time, I got to see what the Olympics were like from behind the scenes, it was a super important experience. Not only did it motivate me big time to train ever harder over the course of the next 4 years, I learned a ton about what it’s like to compete at the games.
In 2014, I managed to make the Olympic team and was fortunate enough to bring home a medal. I think a lot of that was due to the insight I gained in 2010.”
How did you find out about WHOOP?
“It was last summer, one of my teammates brought it to the attention of my coach. He took a good look and thought it’d be a great training tool. My coach and I are huge data nerds. We’re very much into all the latest tracking devices and I’ve always been really committed to fitness and training. WHOOP provided another way to try and gain an advantage by looking into our metrics.”
What do you like best about it?
“WHOOP is extremely useful for fine tuning my training regimens. It really helps me when I’m working with my strength coach to plan appropriately if I have a race coming up. One of the first things I noticed over the course of the summer was how my Recovery would dip dramatically after a few continuous days of hard training:
I’ve gotten much better at not overextending myself in the run up to an event or an important on-snow training block. WHOOP allows us to tailor my workouts and taper appropriately, so that I can be firing on all cylinders when it matters most.”
What kind of training do you do?
“The cool part about boardercross is that it uses so many different systems. Even though our races are only about a minute long, you still need a really high aerobic capacity. It’s an incredibly high anaerobic workout–our heart rates get upwards of 180, 190, close to 200–but you also have to be able to do 4 or 5 runs in a short period of time to make a finals, so endurance comes into play when you repeat those efforts over and over again.
Power is also extremely important. When we’re in the gym, we’re doing very well-rounded training. We have something called a power block, which is a lot of Olympic lifting. We also do power endurance stuff similar to what people consider CrossFit. I think of it as ‘high-intensity intervals.’ We do lots of low-intensity long-term endurance stuff too. We call that ‘A1,’ things like riding a bike for anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. It’s really varied.”
Are you tapering and cutting back your training this month?
[Editor’s note: We spoke to Alex on Thursday, January 11]
“The taper term doesn’t apply to us in the same way that it does for a marathon runner or a speed skater. There’s not enough time left to put in a major effort to make big gains, but you also want to do as much work as possible to maintain where you’re at. I’ve been home for the last couple weeks, getting a pretty hard training block in right now to do a little midseason tuneup. We’re about to fly to Europe for the last Olympic qualifying World Cup event, then we come home for a week before the team travels to Korea.
At this point in the season, it’s really all about maintenance. Right now I’m doing 2-3 days a week in the gym, and on snow 3-4 days a week if the weather cooperates. Basically just all the little work, making sure all systems are good to go.”
How do you handle all that travel?
“I’ve been fortunate to travel quite a bit over the course of my career, so I’m quite familiar with jet lag and how it can wreak havoc. That’s another thing I love about WHOOP, not only being able to track how my Recovery fluctuates through heavy training loads, but also what flying to South America or Europe does to it. I’m a big fan of sleep aids on the plane, I take melatonin when I travel across time zones to try and adjust my body clock as soon as possible.
Do you have a tip for best fighting j****et lag?
Whenever I arrive overseas I always like to get a light workout in the day I arrive. Whether it’s a 30-minute run, or some light core yoga, anything to just get a little bit of a sweat on and get my system awake and going. Sometimes we travel to places where we don’t have access to a gym, and then maybe it’s taking a long walk or a hike in the mountains to shake out the jet lag. I mention that because it’s applicable to everybody. It’s not hard to do and it makes such a huge impact in terms of adjusting your body to the right time zone as quickly as possible.”