With the recently completed Olympics thrusting the likes of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt into our sporting stream of consciousness, many wonder how certain athletes can so thoroughly dominate their sports and competitors.
Is it genetics? Is it science? Is it coaching? Is it training? Or is it doping?
Casting aside the dopers they don't dominate, they cheat and lie to win it's usually a combination of the first four.
But long before Phelps and Bolt heck, long before Carl Lewis there was Eric Heiden.
Heiden wasn't the first dominating Olympic athlete. But he was without doubt one of the best.
In 1980, a young kid from Wisconsin arrived in Lake Placid and won everything there was to win in his sport. His five gold medals stunned the world, and the accomplishment is often overlooked as an Olympic standard of excellence after all, the Miracle on Ice stole a lot of the thunder that year.
Yet, Heiden, who now lives and works in Utah as an orthopedic surgeon at TOSH, is nonetheless a living Olympic legacy.
What made his feat so impressive and hard to duplicate is that he won everything he could possibly win in his sport.
He won gold in the 500-meter sprint race. He won gold in the 1,500-meter race and he won gold in the 10,000-meter race. Whether it was an all-out sprint or a long, grinding endurance race, Heiden was untouchable in 1980. He set world records in the 1,000-, 1,500-, 3,000- and 10,000-meter races multiple times during his short yet prolific speedskating career.
And when he decided to hang up his skates, he changed gears by hopping aboard a bicycle, where he became the U.S. national champion and raced in the 1986 Tour de France as a founding member of the old 7-Eleven cycling team.
In short, Heiden is one of the greatest athletes the United States has ever produced. And now he wants to share some of what made him successful with you.
While he can't help you out with genetics, he can help you with science and training.
A 1991 graduate of the Stanford University Medical School, Heiden has teamed with Dr. Massimo Testa to write "Faster Better Stronger" a guide to fitness and training for athletes of all abilities, including those wishing nothing more than to lose a little weight and become a little more active.
Testa, an Italian doctor with nearly 30 years experience working with professional cyclists ranging from Heiden to Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, is recognized around the world as one of the foremost experts in high-level training.
Together, Heiden and Testa have toned down their expertise so the average person can benefit from their knowledge and experience.
"With straight talk, no gimmicks and a unique insight into exercise and health," the book proclaims, "Heiden and Testa have created a modern fitness program for those who want to learn the scientific truth about staying in excellent health."
With testimonials from Apolo Anton Ohno, Dave Zabriskie, Chad Hedrick and even John McEnroe, "Faster Better Stronger' certainly has its share of celebrity endorsers. But the book was written with people like you and me in mind.
"We will give you step-by-step instructions on how to make the most of your body through exercise physically, mentally, biomechanically and nutritionally," the authors write in the book's introduction.
Heiden, a man blessed with the genetics and mental makeup to be the best in the world at his sport, has learned through experience and through classroom settings how to transform a weekend-warrior athlete into a lean, mean workout machine.
Heiden's expertise comes not only from hours of training, but also from hours of training in ways different than his competitors did. While most cycling teams in Europe were logging massive amounts of miles in the saddle, Testa joined the 7-Eleven team and introduced science to the training equation shifting the focus from shear volume to training in intervals with high-intensity work breaking up the endurance.
The results came quickly for the young American cycling team, and stage wins at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France followed.
Through proper nutrition, proper training schedules and proper biomechanic assessments, "Faster Better Stronger' may be as good a nuts-and-bolts manual for athletes as you can hope for. Finding better people to glean that information from than Heiden and Testa might be as big a challenge as you can sign up for. After all, USA Speedskating and USA Cycling are frequent clients.
Most of us will never compete in the Olympics. And we'll never ride in the Tour de France. But we might feel the urge to climb over the Mirror Lake Highway or run a marathon one weekend, and being properly trained is the best way to approach such a goal.Having the likes of Heiden and Testa on hand or on the bookshelf might be the best way to start that training.
'Faster, Better, Stronger' book signing
Who: Eric Heiden, M.D., Massimo Testa, M.D. and Bob Roll
When: Today, 6-7:30 p.m.
Where: Contender Bicycles, 875 E. 900 South
Info: 801-364-0344 or contenderbicycles.com.