Q & A with Ben Lustgarten

Ben Lustgarten stopped by Skirack from some Q & A to discuss nutrition, training, and the best pieces of information and knowledge he has gained from the experienced people in his life.

1. Feeding the beast - what do you eat and why, and what supplements do you take and why?

I do not follow an incredibly specific diet or eating program. I do try and eat very healthy, and do all the basics that you are told - eating fruits and vegetables, avoiding highly processed foods and high fructose corn syrup and artificial additives, eating whole grains and lean meat. I try and eat fish once a week or so, and meat at dinner for proper protein and iron. I eat oatmeal with some greek yogurt, nuts, fruit, and maple syrup with organic green tea every morning. I also try and eat not until I'm incredibly full anymore like I used to in the summer and fall. I do let myself have a cheat day every few weeks or so and splurge on a Dominos pizza or something like that - everything in moderation of course. I try and eat fruit and salad with lunch and dinner just to make sure I'm getting the nutrients I need and it also fills me up so I don't crush too many carbs which I can definitely do with ease.

I take Hammer Nutrition fuels and supplements to increase my sports performance and overall health. I take daily supplements that Hammer makes, such as Premium Insurance Caps, Mito Caps, Essential Magnesium, Enduromega, Endurolytes, Mito Caps, etc. These supplements just fill in gaps in the modern diet, make sure I don't become deficient, and increase the efficiency of my muscles.

I take sports specific supplements both before and after racing, such as Fully Charged, Race Caps Supreme, Endurolytes Extreme, and Xobaline. I really like Hammer Nutrition because it is a company that only uses all natural ingredients, no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or simple sugars. Their fuels are very simple and have all 5 essential electrolytes. I find that their fuels (HEED, Perpetuem, Gel, etc) keep my energy very consistent and I feel great almost all the time. I also enjoy learning how to use the fuels and really dial it in for racing. I use Hammer because I believe it is a better sports nutrition company with better all-natural ingredients than other companies. I use their products and feel a difference, and therefore I believe that Hammer makes me a better athlete.

2. What is the full picture of what your weight and gym training looks like as a professional skier?

The biggest difference in training between college skiing and pro is the weight lifting I think. I started doing so much more strength training as a professional skier and I think it has made an enormous difference in my speed and endurance. Cross country skiing is such a power sport to hold good technique. We do a lot of general compound strength training in the spring and summer: squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press, and some olympic lifts like cleans.

We also do specific skiing strength such as pull ups, dips, etc. I really like doing single leg and arm exercises with bench press, overhead press, single leg squats and deadlifts, etc. because it helps balance the body in case there are imbalances. We also do a lot of connective core exercises with the red cord, ab roll outs - things like that that involve not just the abs, but hip flexors and lats and connecting them all in one movement.

I feel a huge difference in my skiing with all of the strength training we do. My technique is much longer and I can push my skis to get more glide with every stroke or kick. We do strength 3 times a week in the summer and mix it up with general, max, and endurance strength blocks throughout the year.

3. Learning from others - the best pieces of info and knowledge you've gained from the experienced people you've worked with?

Over the past 10 or so years of ski racing career I have learned so many tricks and lessons not only from the demanding sport of cross country skiing, but from training, listening, following, and asking other ski competitors, mentors, coaches, and friends. I learned how to ski when I was younger from my mom and dad, who taught my brother and I how to cross country and alpine ski. I remember my dad patiently teaching my brother and I how to kick and glide basic fish scale skis on the Burlington Country Club golf course when we were in elementary school. We skied just for fun at the local areas, including Catamount and Bolton Valley.

I started cross country ski racing as a freshman in high school. I learned how to skate ski from my coach Karen, and also my friends and teammates Ramsey, Andrew, and Chris. They were patient and supportive as they informed my brother and I the most simple technique details of skate skiing, such as balance and pushing off of each leg hopefully onto the other ski.

My coaches at the summer training group of Mansfield Nordic Club really helped inspire me to push myself and taught me what "real" cross country ski training is. The workouts we did were much harder than I was used to. Jurgen Uhl, Anders Folleras, Noah Brautigam, Eli Enman, among others all taught me so much about training longer, harder, and doing workouts that I couldn't even imagine doing myself. Some of these workouts were just really long double pole workouts, running up mountains when they said we would "go hiking", hard core workouts, and explosive spenst bounding workouts that would make me sore for a week!

One of the most influential forces in my early ski career was Jake Hollenbach, local sports legend and pro bike racer. He taught me so much about the elite racing level in cross country skiing. He drove me to my first Eastern Cup in Rumford, ME my senior year in high school. He taught me about sports nutrition, eating the right foods right after training and stretching after hard workouts. Jake inspired me to train hard and be focused, but more importantly, to have fun, relax, and enjoy training and racing. With a calm and relaxed attitude, I found that I could do my best. He was and still is an enormous role model for me and who I aspire to be as an athlete.

Moving on to Middlebury after high school, other  influential forces are Andrew Gardner and Patty Ross, in addition to all of my teammates, who taught me self confidence and to believe in myself. Andrew Gardner told me a phrase that helps me simplify the mentality of racing, "You got this." I tell myself that all the time before and during hard workouts and races. That positive self talk created an increase in self confidence and helps me tremendously with feeling good about what I have done and what I can do in ski racing. Patty Ross also instilled a lot of confidence in me. When I got sick or injured or extra tired she would always recommend me to rest, which I think is so smart. Many athletes want to train so much and so hard and push through fatigue because they want to be stronger. However it is so important to listen to your body, and when you are tired it is crucial to rest. Patty Ross helped me learn how to truly listen to my body, and rest when I need to rest, and trust my hard work and training that I did for so long. Taking a week off in the winter will not make you slow when you train hard for the summer and fall, and to trust yourself to make the smart decision to rest.

Many of these inspirational figures in my life have created a lot of change in my mentality towards training and racing and myself. I also learned so many important tips about training, recovery, and racing throughout the years just from spending time around more experienced athletes, asking questions to older athletes, and watching what the pros do. Small details matter just as much as larger life changing lessons that you remember in life. Some of these details include: eating immediately after training, changing your shirt right after training, stretching and rolling to recover, listening to your body, taking necessary time off between seasons, and training in your zones without worrying about others around you.

About Ben Lustgarten:

Ben Lustgarten is a cross country ski racer for the Craftsbury Green Racing Project and an Olympic hopeful. He is also a Skirack sponsored athlete.