Ernie St. Germaine grew up Alpine skiing, but learned to cross-country ski quickly—in about 20 minutes the Saturday before his first American Birkebeiner (“Birkie”) race in 1973, when he was 25. Since then, he hasn’t missed a single one. He’s the only person to have skied all 47 of them so far (two have been canceled due to lack of snow.) “Over the years, I have grown to love the sport, and it has motivated me to remain active year-round,” he says. “I believe it has saved my life by keeping me fit and better able to survive diabetes.” Here’s what he says helps keep him strong.
Best advice he received
Spend time on technique. “I often ski as much as five kilometers focusing completely on technique. It’s like skiing in slow motion,” he says. What you might no longer be able to have in power with age, you can compensate for somewhat with technique and efficiency.
How your mind affects your body
“As a native person, an Ojibwe Indian from the Lac du Flambeau Tribe in northern Wisconsin, I followed the teachings of my elders of our medicine lodge called Midewiwin. The foremost purpose of Midewiwin is to live a long, healthy, positive life. Positive and healthy lives help us reach lofty goals.”
How to meet a challenge
“I have never won an award. I can only say I have never quit. I never quit. I’ve always had elders as my mentors. I have seen them survive in spite of extreme circumstances and come through from their challenges strengthened. I would never, ever want to let my heroes down by quitting.”
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