Olympic snowboarder Alex Pullin talks training, recovery and his favourite snowboarding runs.
Growing up in the foothills of Victoria’s high country, Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin was skiing at three and on a snowboard at eight. His parents, who own and run a ski/snowboard shop in Mansfield, immersed him in the world of snow sports and by 14 he was competing on the international circuit.
Taking a break from the board, Chumpy tells us what he loves about his sport, what’s running through his head before a race and just what is so addictive about snowboarding.
What attracted you to the sport?
Snowboarding in the beginning was always about fun, riding with friends and searching for new runs and terrain. SBX (Snowboard Cross) is the best way to size up all of my snowboard skills. It’s racing, with no judging involved, and high speeds throughout a different course in every competition. I love figuring out the line and how best to ride every track, and it pushes my snowboard skills.
For those who’ve never tried it, what is it about snowboarding that hooks so many people?
It’s all about the travel, seeing new places and riding new mountains. You can get so much enjoyment out of just cruising around the mountains, it just feels natural to me.
What are the physical demands of your sport?
It’s a very diverse fitness required for SBX. Every event runs over 3-4 days. One run through a standard track is very explosive and lasts around one to one and a half minutes. I usually do around eight runs at a contest per day, with limited amount of recovery time.
What training is involved in competing at the highest level?
Our training is a combination of strength, explosive, agility, long distance and altitude, and on top of that is our on-snow training. It’s 11 months a year on, with one month off after each competition season. Working with my trainer, John Marsden through the OWIA (Olympic Winter Institute of Australia) program, he keeps it varied and fun. We often do two sessions a day, one specific gym session, as well as cardio. To keep it interesting, cross over sports like mountain biking are really good. Plus, I fit surfing in most mornings and afternoons.
Favourite snowboarding run in the world?
Tough question, I would have to say my favourite track that I have ever ridden was in Stoneham, Canada, at this year’s World Champs.
Favourite run in Australia?
Going split boarding out to the backcountry and finding something fun!
What do you do to psych yourself into a run when you’re at the top?
With the energy running through my body on race day, I usually focus on just trying to channel it all towards my riding. It’s a mixture of nerves, expectations and fear. Putting all my energy into getting out of the gate fast to set up the heat well usually helps me to focus and use that as a positive.
How important are your sponsors and the people who support you?
It’s huge. To have support from all the great companies I work with really does make a difference. I get a lot of enjoyment from really being involved with each one of them and it just becomes part of it.
What items of apparel cant you live without?
In winter I live in my 2XU compression tights and thermals. It’s just comfy to kick around in inside our accommodation, plus it increases my recovery.
A lot of recreational skiers/boarders get pretty sore after their first run of the season. Do you have any advice on ways to deal with this?
A good amount of exercise prior to a ski trip is key. Single leg squats are always good. Plus comfy boots and compression tights can make a difference to how you feel at the bottom of every run.