Is There a Secret Scientific Method to Win at Winter X Games?

With the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado upon us, action sports and its proclivity as an early adopter to technology takes precedence in various ways, even drones hovering above it all. Whether it’s analytics or the plethora of hi-tech equipment, there’s an increasing visibility of these extreme sports athletes being receptive to new breakthroughs. Living and performing on the edge and its relative mindset has translated to unique approaches placed on their bodies as well.

Back in 2010, Olympic alpine skiing champion Lindsey Vonn claimed that trying a different training regimen saved her life while on the course. Her reflex skills significantly improved by dedicating herself to agility-based technical disciplines, like for the giant slalom, where there’s a vertical drop between 250 and 400 meters, 33 and 45 directional changes, and speeds well over 25 MPH. At one event, in particular, she fell down while going 70 MPH, then somehow managed to get up instantly and finished the run.

Previously, Vonn has been nowhere near as sharp in these accuracy and reactionary-driven obstacles as her preferred downhill. Working out her core, cycling, and lifting weights have been staples in her fitness program, but it wasn’t until she included agility ladders, cone drills, and hurdles up to the knee that propelled her to able to succeed in the aforementioned giant slalom. Just being able to complete the event and making an in-course maneuver to do so, Vonn believed, was an accomplishment in it by itself. Finishing seventh-place during a Swiss event at the time marked improvement she had not experienced in two seasons prior.

“I never would have been able to do that,” said Vonn, if it wasn’t for the reflex-intensive training she did then.

In last year’s Sochi Olympics, though, another scientific exercise called the MELT Method debuted for the first time, which intends to help physical issues such as aching joints, chronic pain, and low energy. Jamie Anderson, a four-time champion at the X Games and Olympic gold medalist for slopestyle snowboarding, was introduced to it from her sister, Corrie Anderson, who’s a manual therapist. The former didn’t utilized this new technique for any specific ailments, rather, as a part of her self-care program to maintain her body working and be pain free.

For Corrie Anderson, she’s always been involved in the fitness industry and continuously study the anatomy; the latter to examine and analyze the ways in which the body is supposed to move and function. After becoming well-versed in the conditioning component, she was interested in resolving some plantar fasciitis. Trying to find a cure for this problem is where she met Sue Hitzmann, the original creator of this regimen. Anderson mentions to SportTechie that it worked “like a magic trick” for her plantar fasciitis, insofar as to then compel her to learn neuromuscular therapy, rolfing, and other techniques shortly thereafter.

MELT is an acronym for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique, which serves as a self-treatment system that manipulates and rehydrates the connective tissue. This very connective tissue stems as a three-dimensional, filled with fluid support ecosystem that’s around the nerves, bones, organs, and muscles. When there’s wear and tear of the body, likely as a person gets older, dehydration circumvents this network. Consecutive movements, like running, can create compression and stress out the fascia. Torpid actions, too, can pose the same effect to occur.

Besides these facts, Anderson informs that they are in the process of conducting a study with the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to test the MELT in a sundry of quantifiable scenarios. This will be a year-long initiative to demonstrate the benefits of self-caring by practicing the MELT Method, both short-term and long-term. Up to this point, the Fascia Research Society has been the most notable faction in support of these scientific findings, where hundreds of thousands of people outside this group, too, have personally implemented the MELT for their respective daily routines.

Action sports athletes, meanwhile, have the gamut of therapists that treat them, including those that have massages, kinesiology, neuromuscular therapy, and chiropractic care, among anything else.

“All of these are great treatment techniques, but the MELT method gives them the power to treat themselves, rehydrate their connective tissue, rebalance the nervous system, and feel many of the same positive effects of a therapist, anywhere they may be,” says Anderson.

Considering that aches and pains are a part of what extreme athletes–just like that of any sport–endure on a daily basis and desire to be in optimal shape, they tend to be more motivated to incorporate the MELT each day since they can feel the difference over time. This method aids these aches and pains, neurological changes, and some have said that they can deal with their “nerves” better, typically transpiring at the top of a given course–a potential common thread to what Vonn went through–as a byproduct of it.

Still, the step by step process of the techniques an athlete experiences within this program largely varies, not a standardized protocol fits all.

“That’s a tough one, because all athletes have different patterns depending on their sport and, of course, injuries they’ve sustained, so they are all doing different things. It also varies based on the timing–before versus after an event. They will all be doing lots of rebalancing techniques as well as the MELT Method foot treatment,” Anderson explains.

“Snowboarders, especially, can have a lot of rotational patterns of imbalance from the stance of the board and the impact from landing. For Jamie, a perfect ‘before event’ MELT map typically includes a foot treatment, a 3D breath breakdown, 3D breathing on the roller, some rehydrating for the lower limbs, and neck rehydrate and release,” continued Anderson.

The personalization of the MELT Method for athletes across different sports, thus, derives from evaluating posture and patterns exclusive to the individual. That way, techniques are modified to best serve them, even though this exercise can be applied for anyone in any sport. Over time, changes will take place as they go through the MELT more often, feeling the body drift as an initial sign to correct the connective tissue system.

There are rollers and balls that are essential for this program. Anderson claims there isn’t another roller like it available–Hyperice’s VYPER product begs to differ, and much more technologically advanced and design-wise–being soft and measuring five inches in diameter, with most rollers an inch greater and firmer. The roller can be placed under a user’s spine, motioned forward and back, then performing a pelvis tilt and tuck. The diaphragm is an area of emphasis, where breathing techniques can be executed. The calves and thighs, too, in order to gently rub away soft areas and get fluid moving within the fascia.

Anderson is currently at the X Games to treat as many athletes as possible. She will be offering workshops to those that are not completely aware of the MELT Method. After a single session, she believes these action sports athletes will be want to self-serve themselves with the MELT going forward. Drinking plenty of water to sustain hydration is extremely important, especially to perform their stunts and to get the most out of the MELT.

“It is the only self-treatment technique to directly improve the integrity and hydration of the connective tissue system–the system that is most abundant in our bodies and is responsible for stabilizing and supporting us in everything we do. It improves so many aspects of one’s life: sleep, digestion, posture, flexibility, mobility, range of motion, and, of course, the daily effects of movement,” exclaims Anderson as to why X Games athletes should use the MELT, not only for a competitive edge, but to keep an active, healthy lifestyle beyond their professional careers as elite athletes.

Winter extreme sports athletes have to go to extreme measures to enhance their sport in arguably its biggest stage, the Winter X Games. The MELT Method enables them to take action into their own hands for distinct techniques to better balance their respective bodies–in spite of the lack of robust scientific studies that support it. A New York Times’ best-selling book to boot, the boundaries to win exceed no matter the circumstance.