Fierce and Fit in the Foothills

Is it the altitude? Or the 300 days of sunshine? Maybe it’s something in the water. It’s likely an all-of-the-above combo. In fact, Colorado consistently ranks within the top 10 healthiest states year after year. It should come as no surprise that in Sports Illustrated’s Fittest 50, five—count them, five—of the top 20 fittest female athletes in the nation call the Centennial state home.

#20 Lindsey Vonn, Ski Racer – Vail, CO
#19 Sasha DiGiulian, Competitive Rock Climber – Boulder, CO
#18 Mikaela Shiffrin, Ski Racer – Eagle/Vail, CO
#12 Courtney Dauwalter, Ultra Trail Runner – Golden, CO
#9 Emma Coburn, Track and Field – Boulder, CO

We caught up with the two amazing and inspiring athletes from Boulder.

Emma Coburn

Competing against the elite athletes of the world requires track and field runners to adopt training as a lifestyle and turn their bodies into fitness machines. Early in life, Emma Coburn adopted that mentality, bringing her notoriety at the 2012 Olympic Games as the youngest runner to compete—she was 21.

Five years later, her dedication paid off when she became the first American woman to win a gold medal (or any medal) at the IAAF World Athletics Championship 3,000-meter steeplechase. Her time, 9 minutes, 2.58 seconds, beat the world championship record at the time and surpassed her own personal best by five seconds.

Coburn on why training in the Foothills is so awesome: “Training in Boulder is amazing because we have access to great trails and dirt roads, we have great weather with blue skies and sunshine, and we have great people. The culture in Boulder is so supportive of endurance sports. People want to be outside; people value health and exercise and adventure. It’s a really special place.”

Emma Coburn by the Numbers

3,000-meter steeplechase time in London in 2017

Times she’s been a U.S. National Champion
(three while attending CU)

2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals Track and Field Championships 2,000-meter steeplechase time while she was in high school in Crested Butte

Amount her Elk Run 5K raised in its first two years to benefit Living Journeys, a Gunnison Valley nonprofit providing support, education and awareness to people and their loved
ones living with cancer.

Emma Coburn (photo by Aric Van Halen)

Sasha DiGiulian

In 2012, Sasha DiGiulian became the first North American female to ascend a 5.14d route (the next level being a 5.15a) in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Translation: That’s extremely high on the difficulty scale. Currently, a 5.15b is accepted as the most difficult climb there is.

DiGiulian explains that training as a climber requires the development of a strong sport-specific base. For that reason, she lists frequency as one of her top training tips.

“I encourage climbers to get to the gym or climb outside three to five times a week,” she says. She suggests shorter sessions, one to three hours per session a few times a week, rather than long, all-day workouts. “Rest is really important,” says DiGiulian. She encourages new and up-and-coming climbers not to overdo it.

Although DiGiulian maintains a rigorous training schedule, especially in the months when she heads outdoors to take advantage of longer days, she still allows her body the time it needs to recuperate.

“Big days outside can be 15+ hour days, but after a big day, I normally take a rest day,” she says.

It’s that mentality that’s allowed DiGiulian to accumulate 30 First Female Ascents worldwide. And she is currently the undefeated Pan-American Champion, a title she’s held since 2004.

DiGiulian on why training in the Foothills is so awesome: “The outdoors are unavoidable, and I love the community in Colorado. There are so many avid outdoors people, it’s easy to find climbing/hiking/training partners. Exercising outside is a big part of many people in Colorado’s average day.”

Sasha DiGiulian by the Numbers

6,000 feet
Highest vertical distance she’s ascended during one climb
(The North Face of the Eiger)

Hours she trains weekly indoors

Instagram followers

Age when she did her first climb

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