Although real snow-skiing in Florida is not a realistic option, Windermere resident Nathan Johnson has found a knack for the indoor SkiErg machine.
In the back of the Johnson household in Windermere, Nathan Johnson is snow-skiing himself almost to the point of exhaustion.
With each pull of the grips, the 12-year-old descends down before exploding up and off his toes, and with each motion, his arms and body tire.
Although snow isn’t really a thing that happens in Florida, the SkiErg machine that sits within the small weight room has become a workout of choice for Nathan. It also is a means of breaking records — of which he owns several.
“At the start I’m just thinking, ‘Just get to the next 100 (meters),’” Nathan said. “Then around 200, myself personally, I start to speed up a little bit and change — instead of getting to the next 100, to get to the next 50 so I continue to get faster toward the end so I can lower the amount of time I finish.”
That’s the kind of approach that he takes for every challenge he has undertaken the last three years, and it’s helped lead him to holding the world record in the 30-minute and four-minute races, as well as American records in the 2K, 5K and 6K in his age group (12 and under). It also helped him to his most recent championship win in the Concept2 SkiErg World Sprints championship for his age group.
COMPETITION AND EXERCISE
Leading up to this 1,000-meter race, Nathan took on the same kind of incremental work — starting with 100-meter sprints, then increased to 200 and 500, before going up to a couple of 1,000-meter sessions.
During race week — which this year took place from Nov. 12 to 15 — more than 1,000 people from 34 countries competed across the race’s varying age groups, and participants had the chance to participate as many times as they wanted. Originally, Nathan was going to go for it on the first and last days, but he forgot the opening day, and because of schoolwork, he had to wait until the fourth and final day to run it.
On that fourth day, Nathan took to the weight room in the back and proceeded to ski away — keeping his eye on the small monitor in front of him — while music by the Jonas Brothers blasted in the background.
“I had my pace skier set, so I don’t look at the time normally; I just look at beating the other person, because in my mind, I’m just trying to beat the other person — I’m not trying to beat a specific time,” he said. “I knew that I was in front of it, so I just knew once I was done that I had beaten it.”
By the time all was said and done, Nathan had finished with a time of 4:15.7 — claiming the top spot on the international race.
For his parents — Thomas and Gina Johnson — watching Nathan Johnson grow through this new, unique sport has been a fun journey.
A few years back, Thomas Johnson bought the SkiErg machine as a means of staying in shape, and Nathan picked it up after watching his dad. There was also motivation in that if Nathan put in time on the machine, he’d get some extra Xbox time in, Thomas Johnson said.
Although he could have given the bare effort to get in that extra video-game time, Nathan found himself on the machine constantly. For his father, watching his son put in time — and find success — is its own reward.
“There’s some times where it’s funny, because he’s giving it his all, and he is just collapsed on the floor — which I think he did after the sprints — which shows you’ve given it your effort to the max,” Thomas Johnson said. “While at the time I’m sure he is hating life, I hope he finds it gratifying that he has accomplished his goal. … So that’s sort of fun to see, as well — not just the physical development, but the mental side of it.”
Although Nathan never expected to keep this up for so long, the Windermere Prep middle-schooler — who also plays a half-dozen sports at the school — isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon; he still has a few records to shatter.
“I know I want to break my four-minute (time) again — just to make it harder for anyone who wants to try to take it — and I think I want to get the 5,000-meter world; I have the American record, but I don’t have the world,” Nathan said. “I think I can get the 1,000-meter world, too.”