“Peel yourself out of bed, just go to the gym and the payoff is enormous when you finish each workout.”
How & Why Strength Training is Necessary For Survival In The Mountains
Recently I sat down and met with Jackson native Greg Epstein for a Q & A to discuss the importance of strength training and how it truly saved his life.
JF: When did you start training with Crystal?
GE: Fall 2010. I had been doing some personal training in 2005/2006 and worked at the Jackson Athletic Club with Crystal and attended her Ski Fitness classes at the Rec Center. I liked what she had been doing, she really had it dialed out with a great program.
JF: Why did you start training at Wright Training?
GE: I love the mental toughness that the gym teaches – I love the mental push that you get into a grind and as hard as it might be you just keep telling yourself keep moving despite how much weight and how fast you are moving. There are others in there to push you to your limits and test you.
I know your next question, why is this applicable or why is mental toughness necessary? So, I’ll let Greg answer this one!
Going on a hike and getting done is one thing, but what happens if you have an emergency, what if you get hurt or a friend gets hurt? You need to be mentally tough and fit enough to deal with a potential emergency. No mind that you can accomplish the task at hand, it’s dealing with the “what if’s” and how to mentally and physically be fit for that.
JF: This is an important statement and it really made me think and reflect on why I do what I do. Jackson is not like other places and training is so much more than the aesthetics or the ability to finish a task at hand, it is also about being safe and prepared to handle what mother nature throws your way at any given moment and in the gym we purposely program particular workouts to be grueling and mentally difficult to finish for a reason, you need to learn to push through and complete these tasks and if you struggle doing that in a controlled environment how will you react outside when the weather changes on the flip of a coin or an emergency presents itself?
GE: “If you think about getting in an avalanche and you are looking for your friend and you are 50 yards below your friend and you have to go back up hill, can you all of a sudden hike back up hill to get to that person, pull your shovel out and keep fricken digging”
JF: How did it help in your outdoor activities?
GE: Gave me total body strength & durability. I had good endurance and hiked a lot, but strength training gave me more it gave me rounded body strength, durability and balance.
From 2010 Greg was consistently training twice a week year around with Wright Training.
JF: When was your avalanche accident?
GE: March 9, 2014.
I was backcountry skiing when I was caught in an avalanche and sustained an open book pelvis fracture, shattered lower right leg, tore abdominal muscles and had internal bleeding.
I was crushed, but within a week of the accident I was calling Crystal about what I could do. There was a physical therapist coming to my house 2 times a week for 5 weeks and they just did basic exercises and range of motion. Mostly pelvic floor exercises, standing up, band work, the most basic exercises you could think of.
That was my starting point and Crystal supplied me with a list of upper body exercises that I did with little hand weights. I would sit on a yoga ball to rotate hips and pelvis to loosen up. I was doing every little bit I could for both my physical and mental state. Every little thing I could do served as a motivation to heal, get better, and again be the strongest version of myself I could be.
At this point Greg had been training year around for almost 5 years and he attributes his core strength and all around total body strength to his survival and how this strength protects your most vital and necessary body parts. Greg refers to his core as his “Armor” in reference to MMA fighters who are solid in their build, but they train to get there, it doesn’t just happen, they work to get to where they are and that build has far more purpose than just looks. My first step to recovery was already being strong prior to his incident.
Everything in Greg’s week is dedicated to staying healthy, and that takes a lot of pieces of the puzzle. For Greg it is more than just strength training, it is pilates, stretching, mobility, and corrective exercises.
So, I know what you are wondering next, what steps did Greg take on his journey to recovery and now what is his day to day routine to stay healthy.
Greg’s Outline to Recovery:
June/July 2014: Greg was able to start attending Physical Therapy treatment at Excel Physical Therapy twice a week in conjunction with seeing Chiropractor Josie Wittner twice a week for body work. (Already up to 4 appointments a week)
Summer/Fall 2014: Greg found Core Pilates of Jackson and started attending 2x a week, which he still maintains! This is an important point, Greg did not only find these practices and begin the practice to get him through that point in his healing process, he realized that continuing these practices were essential to full body balance, stability and strength to be the best you can be physically and mentally.
“Pilates was that bridge to find imbalances that was low impact and I was able to work through and even out those imbalances while gaining flexibility.”
Greg utilized every type of training and rehabilitative service Jackson has to offer. From small private group training with Trevor Hiatt to Restorative Yoga classes with Francine Bartlett and everything in between. From summer 2014 through the fall Greg did a lot of TRX at Core Changes with Carey & at Medicine Wheel Wellness, “TRX offers way less impact” Greg stated. Which for him was important through initial phases of recovery. With multiple surgeries it was also important to stay as limber as possible. Greg attended a few of my mobility classes at Medicine Wheel Wellness that fall and also spent time with Ryan Sears for Active Isolated Stretching Sessions. He complimented all of the strength and movement practices with cycling at Revolution Indoor cycling.
Everything Greg did it all with relentless consistency. He listened to his body and backed off when he needed rest or restorative treatments and pushed himself when he could. Greg understood that he had a lot of healing to do and that it was a process with a lot of moving pieces.
December 2014: Greg was back to the gym. This was a big moment for him because everything he had done up until this point had finally led him back to the gym. He was mobile enough to be there and for him that was a huge milestone both mentally and physically.
“I am a firm believer that there is a process of progression to heal yourself.”
Back in the gym he started out with 30 minute private sessions with owner and Coach Crystal Wright. These were comprised of short strength sessions and 10 minute stamina hits and worked his way back up to a full 60 minute class.
Greg still continues to attend Wright Training 2 time a week along with 2 sessions a week at Core Pilates.
JF: How has training At Wright Training following your accident helped you in everyday life?
GE: Mentally it’s something I look forward to. Its an outlet that I emotionally and physically look forward to, a place where you see some friends and you are doing something good for yourself – my body chemistry needs it – I think everyone’s body chemistry needs it.
JF: Why do you think it is beneficial to strength train in a community like Jackson?
GE: Everything you do in Jackson you want to excel at it and having that bit of extra strength makes it more comfortable and being strong and balanced helps prevent injuries unless mother nature kicks your ass. Peel yourself out of bed, just go to the gym and the payoff is enormous when you finish each workout. You need to commit to it, once you let it slide you will continue to let it slide. Consistency, its all consistency especially going to a place like Crystals gym once you get over that consistent 2 week hump you won’t be sore etc. if you come randomly then you will continue to be recovering and sore and you will never reap the benefits of the workouts and it will never pay off.
Strength gains can be lost in as little as 2 weeks of detraining, consistency as Greg stated is key in maintaining your gains and being as prepared as you can be for those “what ifs?”.
JF: What is your advice to the community on strength training for mountain adventures when it comes to safety and survival?
GE: Be consistent in your workout routine whatever it is be consistent. Programming doesn’t have to be consistent, but showing up and training needs to be consistent – you don’t have to do everything in one year. There will be certain years to do the things you want to do and there will be certain years you need to just say no and find a mentor if you are serious about doing things in the mountains.
To sum it up, Greg understands what it takes to complete the entire circle of health and fitness. It is more than just cardio or just lifting. It’s strength, stamina, mobility, yoga, pilates, corrective exercises, body weight training, and knowledge. Learning to trust and build more confidence in your body can lead to endless possibilities and even save your life.
- Coach Jen Farrugia, ATC, LAT, CSCS, MSAT
For more information or if you are looking to attend a class we offer FREE 30 Minute Orientations to meet with you, understand your goals, and coordinate the best plan moving forward. Contact us at Wrighttrain@gmail.com or follow us on IG: @wrighttraining