Glenwood Springs wellness coach helped two current Olympic snowboard athletes reach their peak
There’s more to becoming a top-level snowboarder than perfecting the various flips and spins in the halfpipe or having the speed and agility to stay ahead of the field in boardercross.
They’ll be the first to tell you a lot of important stuff has to happen off the snow for them and other athletes to stay healthy, in top condition and to avoid injury or rebound faster when injuries do happen.
They learned from former Telluride- and now Glenwood Springs-based health and wellness coach Jason Kannon.
Kannon himself was a World Cup snowboarder across multiple disciplines during the early days of the sport in the 1990s, progressing into big mountain boarding competitions and wrapping up on the pro circuit.
Serious injuries ultimately sidelined him, though.
“That’s very pertinent to how and why I’m a successful coach now, is because I suffered immensely and really kind of beat the hell out of myself,” Kannon said. “In fact, I really shouldn’t be a functioning adult right now.”
His own rehabilitation was helped along through the discovery of holistic practices he learned through the Chek Institute starting in about 2007, using a system developed by Paul Chek focused on corrective exercise and healthy lifestyle management.
Kannon revolves his coaching around what he calls the “Six Pillars of Wellness” — functional fitness, meditative arts, holistic habits, healing diet, functional medicine/biohacks and mind power.
Some might call it the Zen side of sports, but it’s more than that, Kannon said.
“A key piece of the Chek system is matching the intensity of coaching the exercises with the individual’s energy reserves and hormonal integrity,” Kannon said.
“If somebody has an energetic imbalance, you can’t just do more push-ups to correct that, right? A lot of kids these days have stressed physiologies, so it’s important to also learn the meditative arts and movement practices that don’t stress your body, but give you adequate exercise.”
Kannon’s coaching focuses not only on proper diet, nutritional support, a healthy lifestyle and conditioning, but the mind-body practices of Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Kung Fu.
Those practices — which Kannon used from his early days training as a competitive snowboarder — involve intentional movements that build core strength, stabilize the spine and enhance flexibility.
Those are among the cornerstones to being a good athlete, Kannon said.
“I would be doing them a disservice if I did not teach them those older systems of exercise and breathing, which in turn stabilizes the mind and makes for better focus,” he said.
During his 16 years in Telluride, Kannon worked with about 600 clients coaching health and wellness, as well as performance coaching with many of the up-and-coming athletes there.
Among them were both Hagen and his younger brother Harry Kearney. Hagen is now in his second Olympics, having finished 13th in boardercross at the PyeongChang Games in 2018.
Harry Kearney hasn’t been to the Olympics but became one of the youngest professional snowboarders, at age 17, to win the legendary Mt. Baker Banked Slalom in Washington state. Kannon himself is a three-time winner at Mt. Baker, and he coached Lucas Foster to a win there in the young amateur division in 2016.
Kannon still maintains a coaching relationship with Foster, who is in his first Olympics this year competing in the snowboard halfpipe alongside the likes of Shaun White, Chase Josey and Taylor Gold.
Foster is unique in the discipline because Telluride doesn’t have a halfpipe, so a lot of Kannon’s focus with him was around building integrity, courage and character to help him get where he is today.
“You have to develop that first and then the individual can push themselves to that goal,” Kannon said. “Lucas absolutely got himself where he is today because he had a solid foundation. I didn’t put him on the U.S. team, he did that.”
Foster has been calling Kannon regularly while in China, seeking advice to help him cope with the sometimes stressful environment that comes with Olympic competition, and especially this year with the pandemic protocols.
It was the same with Harry Kearney on Mt. Baker or Hagan Kearney in boardercross, who Kannon credits for building that foundation of mind and body wellness first, then letting their talents take them to the next level.
Kannon, who’s now 53, continues to compete himself, including recent trips to the Mt. Baker event, which was postponed this year to 2023. He also snowboards and skis recreationally at Sunlight and Aspen.
Through his business, Kannon Coaching (KannonCoaching.com), he is also looking to build a new clientele in Glenwood Springs after having recently relocated back to the town where he grew up.
Kannon is writing a book around the Six Pillars and hopes to have that published soon.
He also plans to begin teaching Tai Chi classes for adults and youth starting in March at The Yoga Collective in Glenwood Springs. Class descriptions and more information at YogaGlenwood.com.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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