Meet seven Colorado athletes whose superhuman training programs and otherworldly self-control over their diets allow them to push their bodies to extremes—all for a shot at being the very best.

August 2013

Gretchen Bleiler
Professional Snowboarder
Age: 32
Height: 5 feet 5 inches
Weight: 125 pounds
Average weekly training hours in season: 40
Hometown in Colorado: Aspen/Snowmass

In many ways, Gretchen Bleiler has grown up alongside her sport. When she turned pro more than a decade ago—after falling in love with snowboarding at age 11—the newfangled halfpipe was just 18 feet tall and 400 feet long. Today, the terrain-park staple is a towering 22 feet high and stretches to 550 feet. What once was a relaxing weekend pastime now requires a gymnast’s build, year-round access to snow, and a radical workout regimen. ◗ When the Olympic silver medalist and four-time Winter X Games gold medalist isn’t chasing powder around the globe, she hits the gym hard with her trainer four to five days a week using weights, exercise bands, and medicine balls to strengthen her shoulders, core, and lower body, as well as to improve her balance. A halfpipe rider’s most important asset is her core. “Every trick you throw off the lip is initiated from there,” Bleiler says. Her trainer runs her through multidimensional exercises (a plank exercise on a slide board, for example) that work her entire body so she can execute those huge Crippler 540s. ◗ Bleiler has, in the past, maintained a strict diet: For one five-month period, that meant no gluten, dairy, caffeine, or alcohol. Although the limited menu made her body feel great, it restricted a lot of everyday treats, like a chocolate-chip cookie. She’s since found a less-limiting compromise, focusing on getting in three servings of veggies and two of fruit daily. It’s a middle ground that allows her to stay healthy, eat more normally, and still enjoy her favorite post-medal-ceremony meal: a cheeseburger.