Chiropractor appointments, massage sessions, physical therapy, yoga, you name it and Biathlon Canada ‘Eh!’ team member Brendan Green has probably tried it. After suffering from a herniated disc in his lower back five years ago, undergoing surgery, a re-herniation, and a second surgery, post-surgical treatments had almost become part of Green’s training plan.
However, the past few winters tested his pain tolerance too far and by the end of last season, Green decided to give both his treatments, and his back, a rest.
“I was at a bit of a crossroads trying to figure out what to do,” Green, who turned 30 last week, said on the phone from Canmore, Alberta. “So come springtime, I took some time off and gave [my back] time to recover.”
When Green rejoined Biathlon Canada for training this summer, keeping his back feeling better remained part of the plan. But returning to treatments was not the way Green wanted to go. Instead, deriving inspiration from other athletes and social media, he made a slight change to a another training component: his core.
“I mean, you see [the Norwegian guys] on Instagram and it’s like, holy cow, half that stuff I could probably not even do one rep of,” Green said. “So that got me thinking, if I could really, really strengthen the core, maybe I could strengthen the back.”
Green began incorporating two extra core circuits a week, each 20-minutes long, relying heavily on physio ball work that targets ski specific motions.
“My core is exhausted after, but that’s what I want to achieve with this,” Green wrote in an email. “And this summer has actually been one of my better summers in terms of training and not getting sidelined with nerve pain or back problems.”
Along with more fine-tuned concentration on his core, another novel nuance to Green’s summer training included traveling to the Snow Farm for Biathlon Canada’s first summer training camp in New Zealand.
“This year, the team decided that one of the goals would be spending more time on snow for the training season,” Green said of the team’s three-week camp in August. “New Zealand is a beautiful country, but also an ideal training set up as well. … [At the Snow Farm] you can eat breakfast and walk out your door and you’re on snow.”
Earlier in the offseason, Green also attended his men’s team’s second-annual “ManCamp” in Jasper, Alberta. Green explained that for the past two years, the men’s and women’s national biathlon teams have split training camps in the summer, with the men spending a week in Jasper and the women traveling to Kelowna, British Columbia, for a weeklong “Wine Camp.”
“I was at a bit of a crossroads trying to figure out what to do … Come springtime, I took some time off and gave [my back] time to recover… and this summer has actually been one of my better summers in terms of training and not getting sidelined with nerve pain or back problems.” — Brendan Green, Biathlon Canada A (technically, ‘Eh!’) team member
“Two years ago at World Champs, Nathan [Smith] had a podium, so he had a little more input than normal into some of the early season training camps and Nathan really wanted to go to Jasper, so we thought we’d give it a try,” Green explained. “There’s no shooting range [there], so we leave our rifles at home and we just focus on volume training. There’s lots of good rollerskiing there and it’s fun. Jasper is a good way to start the season.”
Currently competing at Biathlon Canada’s World Cup team-selection trial races at Frozen Thunder in Canmore this week (he is already prequalified for the World Cup), Green is excited about the quickly approaching race season and the prospect of more podiums for his team.
Last season at 2016 World Championships, he anchored his men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay team to bronze for Canada’s first medal in a team event at a major world championships. On Oct. 28 at Frozen Thunder, Green beat out American Matt Gelso in North America’s first unofficial on-snow race of the season: the 12 k freestyle interval start.
“In the past, the big names have been a little more solidly consistent — [France’s Martin] Fourcade, [Norway’s Ole Einar] Bjørndalen — but now it seems to be changing up a little more,” he said. “I feel like there’s a lot more podium possibilities or potentials on the horizon. You have to have a good day obviously, but I think it’s within reach.”
We asked Green to give our ’17 Questions for 2017′ a go. Here are his responses:
1. Biggest change in your life in the last five or so months since the ski season ended?
My longtime teammate Scott Perras retired at the end of last season. He was a machine and I used to do almost all of my training with him. It was definitely a change not having him around when I started training again this spring.
2. Biggest change in your training?
I’ve taken a different approach to my core strength training, but otherwise no significant changes, just sticking to the plan while trying to put in high quality hours.
3. Major areas of improvement you’ve seen so far?
It’s so difficult to say until race season rolls around. I think I’ve put in good work but we will find out for sure in just a few weeks!
4. Whom you’ve been working closest with this offseason (coaches or training partners)?
This season the Men’s and Women’s team split off into more separate training groups, so the men’s team has been working closer together as a whole.
5. Best trip in the last five months (and why)?
This summer the team did a training camp in New Zealand. It was a fun change of venue for us and New Zealand has a lot to offer. It’s a beautiful country.
6. Favorite cross-training?
I bought a new mountain bike in the spring which has been fun. There is lots of great riding around Canmore.
7. Favorite non-athletic activity or pastime this summer?
A friend gave me some sourdough starter this spring and since then I’ve been making a few loaves of bread a week. I’m also always trying to up my espresso-making game.
8. Song that was your jam this summer?
I’ve really been digging Trevor Hall lately.
9. All-time favorite race moment?
There have been a couple, but winning bronze at last years World Championships was amazing.
10. First thing you pack in your bag when you leave for Europe?
Ear plugs. Can’t sleep without them!
11. Venue/event you’re most excited to visit this season?
Our World Cup in Antholz, Italy, is always my my favourite stop on tour, but I think the World Championships in Hochfillzen, Austria, will also be exciting.
12. Who will win the men’s and women’s World Cup titles this year?
Martin Fourcade and Kaisa Makarainen
13. Biggest sacrifice you feel you’ve made choosing this career path?
I live a long ways from where I grew up, so for me definitely time spent with family. And education.
14. If you could change one thing about your sport, what would it be?
15. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
16. In 5 years, I’ll be ____?
Hopefully still able to call Canmore home.
17. In 50 years, I’ll be ____?
In 50 years I’ll be 80, so in all likelihood there is a pretty good chance I’ll be dead?
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.