Youthful Fire Like many, I do not like seeing my age go up year after year, but I refuse to let it define me. I live my life based on how I feel physically and mentally. I always felt lucky to be physically active for most of my life and, now at 49, I realize it was more than luck. Because when I slowed down, I had to find a way to come back.
I have been skiing since the age of 2. I was on the US National Ski Team and a member of the 1992 Olympic Team in Albertville, France. After I left the national team, I shifted gears and made a name for myself as a professional freeskier, which involved a lot of risk.
At the Glamis Sand Dunes, CA. I was training to drive in the Dunes for an all-women’s offroad rally called the Rebelle Rally. (2019)
During my ski racing years, it was easy to train because I loved sports, working out, and being adventurous. I didn’t realize it at first, but sports not only gave me physical strength but mental empowerment. This empowerment helped push me to be brave and comfortable with taking chances.
I remember thinking to myself, “Once I am done with ski racing, I will never stop working out, especially lifting weights.” Therefore, after I retired, I surprised myself when my workouts started to feel more like an obligation than a desire. No longer having the incentive to be a top athlete, my motivation eventually dropped off. Not having something to strive for really zapped my energy to push myself.
Biking in Incline Village, NV with Devin and Aksel. (2019)
Then I got pregnant. I decided it was time to take it easy and not stress about staying in shape. After all, I was about to get big regardless! My strategy was to kick it into high gear after I had the baby in order to lose the baby weight.
Much to my chagrin, after I had my son, I couldn’t motivate to get back on a workout routine. Two years later, I had my second son—and still no motivation.
I wouldn’t say I did absolutely nothing for 5 years, but it was drastically less. Then one day a friend asked me to go on a hike. I used to be the one who led the charge and could carry a conversation the whole time without getting winded. This was no longer the case! A thought hit me, “I do not want my kids to see this Wendy! My kids need to grow up with the real me.”
A family ski day at home in Crested Butte, CO. Me, Devin, Aksel, Woody. (2019)
I realized my motivation didn’t need to come from wanting to be an Olympian. The motivation I needed, to get back to exercising and being adventurous, were my two boys. I wanted them to experience the person I thought I once was. It was also important to me to be a good role model. I wanted them to witness, firsthand, who I am. Not hearing about who I used to be. In the past tense, as if I no longer existed. I started getting back into shape. I became diligent once again, and my mental empowerment kicked back in and I started to feel confident about me again.
Raising Young Men
Long ago, before I had my two boys, a man made a comment to me that struck a chord. After having my boys, I would remember it. One day I was on my mountain bike climbing a hill and passed a group of men. As I was passing, one of them said, “It must be because your bike is light.” I turned to him and said, “It’s not about the bike; it’s about the legs.” I couldn’t believe this guy had to make a comment to try to make himself feel better because a woman was passing him. I didn’t want my boys to grow up thinking women couldn’t be just as smart or physically strong as men. Nor did I want them to grow up feeling like they had to make themselves feel better by making derogatory comments to women to help their self-esteem.
Photos taken years ago for a locals promotion in Crested Butte.
When the boys and I played games, or they challenged me to something, they would ask me to take it easy on them. Around when they were 6 or 7, I stopped letting them win and decided they had to earn it. It was rough on them at first, but I kept reminding them that there may be a day when they beat me, and when they do, they’ll know it’s legit. The smile and satisfaction on their faces when they outdo me is equally rewarding for them—and me.
Now, when I get the opportunity to ski with clients around the world or during one of my speaking engagements, I come across women (and men), who tell me they used to be more adventurous and daring, but since having kids they’re timid and afraid.
Portrait taken during the COVID pandemic. Photographer Alison White took photos of locals for our Heritage Museum. (2020)
My interests, now, are about empowering individuals. To help them find themselves again. I know I’m not the athlete I was in my 20s, but I’m one of those people who wants to lead by example. If my kids see me working hard and pushing through my own personal comfort zone, then I hope it inspires them. I believe my kids respect me for this, and it’s an added bonus to be able to spend more time with them as we try to stay healthy together.
During one of my gym workouts, I was pushing myself hard, and someone asked me what I was training for. I said, “I’m training for life.” I don’t care how old you are: it’s never too late to start living by how you want to feel and not by a number. Life with COVID is now making a lot of us face our fitness and health deficiencies. More than ever, it’s time to take health seriously and to find the motivator to help you feel young and spirited.
Wendy Fisher competed in the Olympics and X Games and was one of the top big-mountain skiers in her era. She now enjoys passing on her passion of travel and adventure to her two boys. She skis with clients around the world and speaks to groups about Fear. Follow her on Instagram @wendyfisher or visitfishski.com.
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