Although he competes in a winter sport, skeleton racer Eric Neilson trains his hardest during the warmer months of the year.
Neilson says that because the members of the national skeleton team are so busy competing, they generally do not have much opportunity to train during the winter.
“Our summer training is a lot harder than the competitive season,” Neilson says. “We have a four-hour long training session every day.”
Neilson’s summer fitness regime includes a high-speed workout on a treadmill, outdoor stair running, weight lifting and mixed martial arts training. He says for skeleton athletes, summer is the “base-level” for the competitive season.
“Once the season is done, we really try to prepare ourselves all summer for the upcoming six months of winter that we will be competing in,” he says.
During the off-season, Neilson also works full time as a letter carrier for Canada Post. He says that it can be “tough to balance” his employment, athletic and personal commitments.
“I don’t think that you can ever balance it out so that it’s perfect,” Neilson says. “Sometimes, for example, training takes a little bit of a hit because you are tired from working all day.”
“But it’s just something that you have to do because, just like everybody else, you have bills to pay and rent or mortgage payments to make,” Neilson says. “Somehow you have to make it all work out.”
Neilson says that his employer has been supportive of his athletic pursuits.
“They let me do what I need to do,” he adds.
Like many other national team athletes, Neilson is constantly seeking sponsorship to help cover the costs associated with his sport.
“It’s getting better for athletes to find sponsorship, but it’s still very difficult,” he says.
Neilson, who grew up in Kelowna, became involved in skeleton racing seven years ago. His competitive season will start in October when he will attempt to win a spot on the Canadian team for the World Cup circuit. With eight athletes vying for three spots, Neilson will have his work cut out for him.
“That’s my main focus for now,” Neilson says. “I have to make the team.”
The qualifying races to determine who will represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi will be held a few months later. Neilson, who did not qualify for the 2010 Olympics, is hoping that it will be a different story this year.