Passion- You have to love what you do. If you do not have passion and love for the sport, you will only get so far. Loving what you do will make the good days a ton of fun, but it will also help you get through the tough days.
Professional athletes have to perform at the highest levels. While not all of us will share Professional athletes’ athletic skills, we can learn insights from their workout routines about how we can improve our own exercise regimens. In this interview series, we are talking to professional athletes from all sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, Soccer, Olympics, Golf, Tennis, etc.) about the workout routines that they use to help them achieve top-level performance. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Winter Vinecki — 2022 Olympian (#15th) and JuicePlus+ Ambassador.
An Olympic Athlete from Michigan, Winter started competing at a young age. She ran her first 5K when she was just 5 years old, her first 10K when she was 8 years old and a 10-miler at age 10. Winter achieved two World Records before she turned 15: firstly, the youngest person to run a marathon on seven continents, and secondly, for being the first daughter-mother duo to do so as her mom joined her on her quest. She went on to become the Ironkids National Champion for 2010 & 2011 and spent three years as the official ambassador of the sport. Winter was first named in the US Ski Team in 2016 after winning the North American Tour. She is now going on her sixth year on the US Ski Team and has garnered results such as the gold medal at the 2021 Moscow World Cup. After Beijing 2022, she also became the first “Winter” to compete in the Winter Olympics!
The Juice Plus+ Company is a highly successful health and wellness company operating in more than 20 countries today with a mission to inspire healthy living around the world. The company’s fruit, vegetable and berry capsules are supported by more than 40 independent clinical studies conducted by researchers at leading hospitals and universities. The study results have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals making Juice Plus+ capsules the most researched brand name nutritional product of its kind in the world. Juice Plus+ provides consumers with a simple and convenient way that helps bridge the gap between what they should eat, and what they actually do eat, with added nutrition from a wide variety of plant-based and wholefood-based ingredients.
Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and the story of how you became a professional athlete?
I have been an athlete since I was a little girl. Growing up with three brothers, I loved being competitive and trying new things so I did all kinds of different sports, from ballet, to soccer to taekwondo. I really took a liking to running and triathlons though after my mom and uncle introduced me to the sport. I did my first 5k and triathlon at just 6 years old and spent most of my summers racing against the adults (as there were few kids races where I grew up in Northern Michigan). While I spent my summers swimming, biking and running, I spent my winters alpine ski racing. My grandpa is one of the oldest ski instructors in the U.S. and put me on skis practically as soon as I could walk. I loved flying down the runs as fast as I could at my home mountain, Boyne Mountain. As I got older, I progressed to competing in triathlons and ski races all across the U.S., even becoming a two-time triathlon national champion.
While at a Women’s Sports Foundation Event in New York City in 2011 as the recipient of the Annika Inspiration Award, I met Emily Cook. Emily was an Olympic aerial skier and after seeing my athletic abilities, invited me to go to Park City, Utah to try her sport. That next summer, I did my first backflips into the pool off the water ramps and fell in love with the sport after just one week. I sold my alpine skis and moved to Park City that year to pursue aerial skiing and do my first backflips on snow! Now, I have been a member of the U.S. Ski Team for over 6 years and competed around the world in aerials, medaling in World Cups along the way. Most recently, I became the first “Winter” to compete in the Winter Olympics after competing in Beijing in 2022.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
One of the most interesting stories from my career would probably be from competing in Moscow, Russia several years ago. The site that we were competing on was right in the city and since there are no mountains in the middle of the city, they made the entire aerial skiing venue out of scaffolding! In order to get to the top of our in-run for our jumps, we had to take a small, rickety looking elevator up several stories, then walk across a small, metal platform around the corner to the slope, which had been prepared by hoisting snow up onto the metal structure. To make matters more interesting, the site was not built to the dimensions of a normal aerial site so there was an extra long “table”, the flat part before the jump, requiring us to adjust how fast we came into the jump and the timing of our positions. In the end, the biggest takeaway I learned from this event was the importance of being adaptable. We had to be open to making changes very quickly while still staying focused and confident, which was not easy on this vastly different site!
You are a successful athlete. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Being coachable — The willingness to accept feedback and implement that feedback to improve has been vital to my success. In aerial skiing, a highly technical, skill specific sport, I have to be able to make tiny little changes, like the position of my fingers in the air. My performance is judged on a bunch of small details making up a jump so I need to be okay with people telling me how I can do it better. When I started aerial skiing, I could ski but I had no acrocratic experience. Many people come into the sport from gymnastics or trampoline but I had none of that. As a result, I also had to be extremely coachable from the start to be able to even learn how to do all the different flips and twists.
2. Self-discipline — I have had to make a lot of sacrifices to be at the level I am at in aerial skiing. I moved away from home at just 13 years old, didn’t get to go to normal school, missed out on holidays with my family and more. While I had coaches who helped me get to where I am, I have had to have the self discipline to put the effort into training every day. This means doing what I need to be doing when the coaches are there, but also putting in the extra work when noone is watching. It means doing things even when I might not feel like it. It would have been easy to skip a set of lifts on days I was tired without anyone knowing, but I would know. That accountability towards myself and discipline to stay true to my goals is what has helped me succeed.
3. Positivity — I have a pretty good ability to take each moment as it comes and find aspects to be grateful for. If I am having a tough day of training, I take a moment to appreciate the landscape around me. If the weather is horrible, I focus on enjoying the company of my teammates. This does not mean I am always happy and positive. In times where, for instance, I have gotten injured, I certainly was not outwardly positive in the moment. Positivity to me though is about having an optimistic outlook towards the future and taking on tough situations as a challenge rather than a threat. It is what has given me the resilient, perseverance and grit to pursue my sport for so many years.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your sports career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
The most interesting mistake I have made in my sports career happened in August of 2017. I was training in the pool, which is how we train all summer for aerial skiing, and trying a new trick called a full double full for the first time. This trick requires you to do one full twist in the first flip and two full twists in the second flip. While in the air, I got confused as to where I was and just before landing in the pool, went to lift my hand to stop my spin. When I hit the pool, my fist was in front of my face. The impact of the water drove my fist through my face, knocking me out and fracturing the entire right side of my face. (So yes, I literally punched myself in the face) I had to get two titanium plates surgically put in to repair these fractures but was able to start jumping again just 3 weeks later. Looking back, I probably was not as ready as I could have been to perform this trick but decided to try it anyway when coaches asked me to. From this, I learned to trust my instincts more as an athlete, to better distinguish between when I am just nervous to do something new versus being unprepared to do something new. When I went to do this same trick four years later (successfully this time), I did a significant amount of work on our trampolines and bungee system to be better prepared. I also communicated with my coach to make sure we were both on the same page when the time came to do it.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?
I am in the process of publishing my first book! Winter’s Rise is coming out in the fall of 2022! I accomplished a lot from a very young age, from holding the world record as the youngest person to run a marathon on all seven continents to now having the honor of representing our country in the Olympics. I felt it was important to tell my story- not just the parts that made flashy headlines but the pain and obstacles I’ve had to overcome along the way. In doing so, I hope to empower the next generation with the tools necessary to accomplish their goals and personal greatness, not just in athletics but in all walks of life!
Can you share with our readers a few of the workout and nutrition routines that you use to help you perform at peak levels?
Some of my favorite workouts are circuits, where you can work the entire body and keep the heart rate up. I also really enjoy doing workouts that have a couple main lifts followed by some supersets of exercises, (pairing two exercises together). At the end of most workouts, I enjoy doing a little core circuit to finish! I just pick a bunch of different core exercises and do them for 5–10 minutes. Recovery is also key to peak performance so I do a bunch of different things to ensure my body can train day after day, from foam rolling and stretching, to hyperbaric chambers and cryotherapy.
Juice Plus+ products have been a part of my daily routine for over a decade. The Essentials Capsules and Juice Plus+ shakes have traveled all around the world with me. Just as I don’t change my gear when I travel internationally for competitions, I don’t want to change my nutrition. This is not always feasible though, especially when food options are limited (in places like Kazakhstan and China, for instance) but my Juice Plus+ allows me to at least have my nutritional base with me no matter where I am. While I am away, my Tower Garden flourishes at home so that I have fresh produce to eat when I return. (It also serves as a nice piece of art and light in my house, which I absolutely love!)
What do you do to prevent injuries during your workouts or during your competitions?
Making sure my body and mind are ready to go is crucial to preventing injuries. In training and competitions, this means getting good sleep the night before, being properly fueled throughout the day and doing a proper warmup to get my body ready for the impact of my jumps. In my workouts, I focus on strengthening every part of my body so that I am reducing the risk of injury. For example, doing hamstring and quad exercises helps protect my knees, upper body strength and mobility work helps protect my shoulders and core exercises help protect my back.
What type of workout regime has helped you to rehabilitate from injury?
Doing specific, targeted exercises to help strengthen the injured body part is the first step in getting back from injury. For instance, after my ACL reconstruction in 2018, I worked on getting mobility and strength back in that surgical leg. In the meantime, I still worked on overall fitness throughout the rest of my body. Once I could do two leg exercises again, the focus was on getting both legs even. Taking the time to ensure my surgical leg was strong again was vital because being asymmetrical can cause you to overcompensate with the other leg, potentially then putting that knee at risk. In the end, being consistent and patient with my program helped me come back.
Do you practice mindfulness or meditation as part of your overall training routine? Can you explain what you do?
Mindfulness and mediation are a big part of my training routine. In aerial skiing, I have to constantly overcome nerves and fear to perform multiple flips and twists on my skis. With the entire jump only lasting a few seconds, there is no room for doubt and hesitation. Thus, being in the right headspace is crucial as I am coming into the jumps. At the top of the in-run, as I prepare for a jump, I do a lot of imagery, visualizing in my head the jump I am about to perform. At the same time, I do a lot of deep breathing, focusing on my breath, to calm myself so that I can be focused on the jump ahead of me. Outside of jumping, I practice meditation and imagery before bed so that I can learn to better address any emotions and feelings that come up during training and competitions.
Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A Professional Athlete?”
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Race for a cause. Through my foundation, Team Winter, I have helped raise over a half million dollars for prostate cancer research and awareness. While I am incredibly proud of the impact this money has had on helping find a cure for prostate cancer, I am equally proud of the impact Team Winter has had on people by posing the challenge to others of “Who Do You Race For?”. I race for my dad. Someone else might have a mom with breast cancer, a grandparent with Alzheimer’s or a friend with a mental illness. It does not matter what cause you race for, just race for something. By race, I do not mean you have to go out and run. While this started out as my motto in the running and triathlon world, I continue to use this in all aspects of my life, like in my skiing. It is so much more meaningful when you accomplish great things to know you helped someone along the way. As an athlete especially, you have the perfect platform to find a cause that is dear to you and make a difference. By doing so, you can turn passion into purpose.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.