How the Collegiates Fuel: Spotlight on Vivian Hett

This week we are excited to share a new How the Collegiates Fuel– but with a special twist! We interviewed senior Vivian Hett of Northern Michigan, who not only runs cross country, but also is top nordic skier in the NCAA. We asked Vivian about her viewpoints while competing in two different yet very similar endurance sports.Vivian Hett

  1. Who are you?  Vivian Hett, age 21. I attend Northern Michigan University and I nordic ski, and run cross country & outdoor track & field.
  2. Short description of running/skiing experience: I began running and skiing in seventh grade. All throughout high school, I competed in cross country running, nordic skiing, and track & field. I received an athletic scholarship for cross country running and skiing at Northern Michigan University and am now a senior. My greatest achievement in running is probably qualifying for DII cross-country nationals for the past three years. My greatest achievement in skiing is a toss-up between qualifying to ski for the United States at Junior Worlds in 2015 and 2016 and racing to an All-American finish at the NCAA Skiing Championships last year.vivian hett
  3. Tells us a little bit about your training. I hear you also are a Nordic Skier? Yes, skiing! I train year round for both cross country running and skiing. Last year, I logged 640 hours of combined training. Training each year usually begins May 1st. Summer hours are filled with distance training and threshold level intervals as well as some speed training. The fall includes racing in cross country as well as simultaneous training for skiing. In the winter, I primarily train and race for skiing. In the springtime I usually take 2-3 weeks completely off, however this year I will be competing in outdoor track & field (YAY!!). Training modes throughout the year include running, roller skiing (similar to rollerblading but with poles – used in the summer and fall months without snow), bounding (similar to running up a steep grade however it mimics a ski technique – typically done with intervals), strength, and mountain biking.
  4. How do you balance the demands of nordic skiing and running? The demands of nordic skiing and running are very similar. Both sports are physically grueling, require long training hours, and involve injury preventive care such as strength, flexibility, and stretching (which I could work on a bit). To be a competitive endurance athlete and withstand these demands, you need a strong mental attitude. I balance these demands by continuing to find the joy and happiness with each training session. Also, my teammates make the sport 100x better so the demands don’t seem as strenuous.
  5. The desire to be thin and look a certain way is very prevalent in distance running. Is any of this seen in the nordic skiing world? Sometimes, yes; however most of the time, no. In nordic skiing, strength is a big indicator of speed and ability. A skier must be strong to be competitive. So in this case, there is no extreme desire for skiers to be thin. However I have heard some stories where nordic skiers wish to be thin either because they think it will make them fast or because they desire to look more thin. Most of the time, these skiers do not make it very far in skiing simply because you need to be strong in this sport.
  6. Why is strength so important for a nordic skier? Strength is important for nordic skiing because of the physical demands in the sport. Essentially, nordic skiing involves gliding on a groomed ski trail against friction. The stronger you are, the better your body will be able to work against friction and propel yourself in a forward direction (yay physics). Also, to have a certified ski race course, it needs long (sometimes steep) uphills and downhills. To get up those hills (which can be anywhere from 1-3 minutes long), strength is key. Because we use poles while nordic skiing, upper body  and core strength help you ski up the hills faster. In addition to the uphills, there are plenty of downhills. With extra strength, a skier can utilize their bodies to propel them down the hills faster on their skis.
  7. Many runners believe they need to cut calories to run faster times. Do you believe that you need to be “thin to win”? I do not believe in cutting calories to run faster times. I believe in eating healthy foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals and have lower amounts of sugar. If you are eating healthy, I do not think you should purposefully attempt to eat less food or less calories.
  8. Have you ever struggled with negative body image? If so, how did it affect your athletic performance? For me, I have never really struggled with a negative body image. And this is not because I am thin; I am 5 foot 9 and weigh 140 lbs. I am not small by any means and am usually towering over other runners in a cross country race. At meets, I have sometimes had thoughts about me being larger than other runners however I turn this negative thought into a positive one by knowing that I am stronger than those other runners. Just because I am not as thin as them, does not mean I am slower than them. With healthy eating (and not cutting out the foods you enjoy) and proper training, I believe you body size is not very influential to your running success.Vivian Hett
  9. What is your your favorite pre-workout snack? Meal? I have a fairly strong stomach so I am usually able to eat whatever I desire before a workout. However, I do avoid apples before workouts because they are so acidic as well as coffee because it gives me the runs every once in awhile. Most team practices are in the early afternoons so for lunch I will typically eat two scrambled eggs, cooked kale with peppers and tomatoes, and a bagel with peanut butter & jam.
  10. How do your refuel after an easy day? Hard day? Immediately after a workout, I eat a granola bar or banana and drink electrolytes. Refueling after a hard workout is especially important within 30 minutes. After a hard workout, I like to eat a granola bar with extra protein while after an easy workout, I am more likely to eat a banana. One of the best things I like to cook for dinner after a hard workout (and after I have refueled with a granola bar and water/electrolytes) is steak. The red meat goes a long way with paired with iron-rich kale on the side or a sweet potato. It makes me feel refreshed and refueled post-workout.
  11. When it comes to running/skiing and nutrition, do you believe they go hand in hand?I do believe nutrition is an important aspect for being healthy in an endurance sport. I also believe that you should not deprive yourself of sweet indulgences every once in awhile. Balancing healthy fruits and vegetables, meat, and sweets is the success I have found so far.
  12. What are five staple foods in your diet? Eggs (two a day), muesli (with yogurt or milk and a banana/strawberries), apples (usually at least one a day), sweet potatoes, and steak (usually once or twice a week)
  13. Do you have any healthy food hacks? I love kale. Cooking kale in a touch of oil over the stove top and adding fresh red and orange peppers as well as tomatoes is probably one of the healthiest things I really enjoy eating.
  14. What is your favorite pre-race meal the night before?  My favorite pre-race meal is a simple spaghetti and meatballs. Like I mentioned earlier, I have a fairly tough stomach so I could probably eat anything before a race but I like to stick to pasta to keep everything regulated.
  15. Ultimate post-race meal or treat? A big juicy burger (with bacon) or a donut.
  16. Any last words of wisdom? Body size is not the most important thing one should care about in cross country running. For me, I have found that strength, proper training, a well-balanced diet, and mental toughness is the magic combination for success in endurance sports.Vivian Hett
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Author: Johanna

Runner, photographer, breakfast lover and mountain hiker. Passionate about nutrition and inspiring others.

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