Experiencing KADE with Dave Littman

Kinesthetic Awareness of the Dynamic Edge, or KADE (pronounced kah-day) is similar to being  in the zone, or to be in a flow state.   KADE can be applied across any activity or sport, but when Dave originally coined this concept, he was applying it to his love of, and devotion to skiing.  

Similar to a surfer’s quest for the perfect wave, this began as the search for the perfect turn.   No skidding, total efficiency.   Edge to edge.   This perfect turn is only defined by you, you know it when you feel it – when it is just….perfect.   Recognizing how cool it is be in that moment – that is KADE.

The more you talk to Dave, the more you learn about his global adventures and listen to his stories, you quickly realize his life has been devoted to experiencing KADE in every area of his life, not just on the slopes.   More endearingly, he will devote as much time and energy as necessary, to ensure you also experience KADE.                    

…recognizing how cool it is to be in that moment – that is KADE”


I started these interviews partly out of curiosity of how other 50+ athletes train, eat and recover – and partly as example #237 that exercise really is the very best medicine to combat the most common chronic issues – and to add more life to your years.  After publishing this first group of interviews – I feel that I am slowly accomplishing both goals.   I am noticing commonalities in training mindset and personalities that deserve their own blog entry and I will address that very soon.

But I also noticed something else – looking over the initial cadre of people I asked to be interviewed, you will notice I like being around really interesting people.  I love diverse backgrounds, experiences and opinions, and what I can learn from each.   So far, everyone I have interviewed has more than met my definition of interesting, and in this kingdom – Dave Littman may be their king.  Maybe my love of the mountains makes me biased, or maybe it’s because I have listened and laughed to many of Dave’s stories. Stories spanning the globe and featuring people who seem drawn from the pages of literature, places where English is the second (or third) language, and his mix of adrenaline pumping hobbies.

I first got to know Dave during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta when we both represented Cybex – a manufacturer of strength training equipment for the commercial fitness industry.  In those three weeks, we worked together daily inside the Olympic Village fitness center.  Every Cybex employee who worked those games has enough stories to fill a trilogy, but few could tell those adventures as vividly as Dave.  Each night at dinner, Dave would entertain.  As the wine flowed, his eyes narrowed, his smile widened, and his famous toasts would become more elaborate.

Twenty-five years has not dulled his exuberance for life, his stories, or his need to “introduce people to cool new experiences”.   Dave currently manages international sales for Balanced Body Pilates, traveling the globe and adding new stories to his biography in every city he visits. On the homefront, the entire family (3 children, 6 grandchildren) all love the outdoors and of course – everyone skis. More recently, the, grandchildren have been getting sailing lessons (below), both on the water, and over the dirt. If you are not familiar with landsailing, imagine flying over the flats just a few inches off the ground in a “dirt boat”, accelerating up to fifty miles per hour – or better – just watch this short news segment.

Dave is an artist who became a ski bum, who became a teacher, a coach and salesperson.  None of these titles are in the past – he still wears each hat, and a few more.    

60+ years in 60 seconds

Athlete: Dave Littman
Home residence:  Reno, Nevada
Age:  69
Occupation when not participating in your sport:
 International Sales/management with Balanced Body Pilates
Sports/activities in order of time and preference:  Trail running, skiing (including teaching adaptive), bike riding, all season hiking and camping, landsailing.    Marathons back in the day, and now several ultramarathons –  trails, no pavement.  When much younger, I was also a competitive squash player.
Exactly how much do you love coffee?  Triple iced espresso, 1-2x daily
Did you play sports when younger?  Swimming in HS and college, skiing, land sailing, triathlon, trail running, orienteering.
“Have to” or “Want to”?  All enthusiastically “want to”.
Current injuries:  none 
Past injuries, fully recovered:   dislocated thumb, broken ankle, and prostate cancer – cancer free for over 6 years. 
Past injuries that effect today: Sore knee during running and skiing.  (for the medically curious, here’s a view from a 2019 x-ray evaluation)

Age when I stopped recovering quickly from injuries: 60
Medications I currently use:  Gummies, Negronis  
Medications I was able to stop using once I started training:
 N/A
Supplements I currently use: Daily protein shake with some added spinach or berries, green superfood, collagen, maca powder, flax and hemp seed. 
Dietary choices or restrictions:   Mostly plant based. Kim is a nutritionist and keeps my diet pretty clean.  So at home – I’m a vegetarian, but remain obsessed with smashburgers and chocolate chip cookies.   (Hmmm.  This reminds me of someone:  Anna Welsh, our favorite pizzatarian)
Average hours of sleep: 6-7
Do you track your quality of sleep?  No
Greatest achievement of being a 50+ athlete:   Still being able to safely teach adaptive skiing, particularly high-risk sitdown skiing.

Specific to your many sports & activities

When you started cycling:  50 years ago
Average miles per year:  2000   Target miles for this year:  2000   Next year? 2000    I’m a communal rider – not competing.  Just enjoying time outdoors on a bike.
Dream bike? Seriously considering Specialized Turbo Levo SL (e-bike)
Types of riding you most enjoy:  (road, gravel, mountain, etc)  No more road rides – moving exclusively to trail riding.   AND – no more 4 hour rides, mostly because my wife and dog can’t go.
Any huge bucket list goals or adventures planned? 
Napa Valley ALS Ride Century distance.  I also invested in the Ikon Pass for the 2021-22 ski season.  Hope to ski more areas than just Lake Tahoe.
Do you prefer training solo or with a group?  Why?   Solo running and riding for self-reliance and discipline.  Group skiing for sore-cheek grins.
Indoors?    Why? 
Great irritant related to cycling: Traffic
Something non-cyclists should know about cyclists:  Leg shaving is not a vanity thing.

Average weekly miles? 25
How frequently do you replace your shoes? 4-6 months
What becomes of your older shoes?  Trashed
How do you fuel your runs?    Water
Prevent chaffing?   Avoid summer heat, be aware of sensitive feet
Recovery protocol?   Rest days
Favorite competition shoe:  Montrail (now Columbia)
Lost in your thoughts or letting music set the pace?  No longer obsessed with pace
First thought when you see another runner up the trail?   I wonder…“what’s printed on that t-shirt”.




How did you get interested in tri’s?  Competed in my first tri in 1980.  Triathlons only got started in 1974, and I correctly thought that I could be competitive in a totally new and obscure sport.  In my mid-30’s I dropped tri’s when I switched to trail running.  The training time required to be a competitive triathlete is very consuming.   Too much time away. 
Your best of the 3 events?  Swim
Your worst of the 3 events? Run
How important is the transition? Very
Favorite race distances:  mainly competed in the sprint distances
Prevent chaffing?   Vaseline
First thought when you saw another competitor up the road?  In my distant past/competitive era – pass them!

              


In sports, skiing is Dave’s primary love.  Flying down a groomed run at a resort, skinning up and skiing down a run in the back country – or where you will find him most often:  teaching adaptive skiing.

The origin story of your love for skiing?   I started skiing when I was 12, and right after high school – when I should have been headed to college – I made a 3 year detour to Steamboat Springs, CO and became a ski bum – meaning I worked a variety of seasonal jobs:  carpenter, dishwasher, river guide, surveyor and yes, ski instructor.  Skied regularly with the legendary Bill Kidd.

1988 Olympic gymnastic hopeful – So Young of Korea

How did you get started as a teacher of Adaptive Skiing?   In ’74, I moved back to Ohio to help my father open a few gourmet burger restaurants.  I joined a local running club where I became friends with a blind man who wanted to run, so I became his running guide.  Later, he asked me to take him skiing.  I told him, “Dude, you’re blind”.  But he insisted, so we went.   That experience changed my life, changed both of our lives.

Today, skiing and adaptive skiing are one and the same to me.  I started an adaptive ski program in Ohio, got heavily involved with the National Handicap Sports & Recreation Association, (now Disabled Sports USA; DSUSA).  As a member of the national clinic team for DSUSA, I traveled and taught instructors around the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.   In the mid90’s, our team was the first to introduce adaptive skiing to Korea. 

Teaching adaptive is challenging and rewarding….selfishly it is all I want to do.  Skiing is a lifestyle, and downhill skiing is only part of the experience. 

Skiing and teaching adaptive has brought all the best things in my life to me. I will always ski, I will always teach”


How did you become a sit-down specialist?
I had no experience with people with mobility and intellectual challenges when I first became interested in adaptive skiing.   I was an experienced ski instructor and strong enough the manage the heavy adaptive equipment, and sit-down skiing seemed completely amazing.  Turning anyone onto skiing was great fun, but it is truly remarkable to help get a wheelchair rider into the mountains.

Sarah’s first sit-down ski lesson

How do your students typically respond to a day on the slopes?
Having a disability can be isolating.  Sports and recreation are often segregated and separated from others.  There are many barriers, especially before the ADA.  Skiing is a lifestyle sport, allowing everyone to enjoy the outdoors, open and free choices; family and friends enjoy snow, winter and gravity together.

You have been teaching adaptive skiing for over 35 years, what have these experiences meant to you personally? 
The idea of taking people skiing who never dreamed this is something they would be able to do – is extremely satisfying to me.  We’re both salespeople and at our core, salespeople are teachers.  A teacher is the conduit to new ideas, new experiences – we enjoy turning people onto cool new experiences.   Sharing those new experiences with people is what I enjoy most – and nothing is cooler than skiing.  Skiing and teaching adaptive has brought all the best things in my life to me.  I will always ski, I will always teach.

How many days did you get in this season?   
At least 30.

Any idea of the total number of runs?   
Total for the season?  Around 360.  Ish.

How many days each season do you teach adaptive skiing?   
Normal season – between 30-50.   This covid season – only around 10.

Who most inspires you in your sport? 
My ski students!

More about physical / mental health and community…

Why?  What motivates you to put yourself through any amount of physical suffering?
It’s just who I am.  I started as a competitive athlete at a young age and always accepted that training to be competitive would require a certain level of suffering.  Sometimes we push beyond what would be seen as reasonable, but it’s a decision you make.  One of many. 

In my 20’s and 30’s, competition was important.  Today, I don’t compete, but there’s still an incredible satisfaction in climbing that hill, in finishing that course.  I don’t quit, because I mentally set myself up not too.  I don’t set unreachable goals, and when I do set a goal – I have to see it through.

What singular achievements are you most proud of?  
I’ve been unbelievably lucky – my parents gave me foundationally good genes.  Good genes or not, I’ve never “let myself go”.   At 69, I’m still able to trail run and ski, mostly without pain.  Probably most proud that I have kept myself healthy and active enough to give myself choices.   Physically, I can still make a lot of choices that others in my age group cannot.

Dave & Kim – spring skiing

Let’s discuss injuries or medical conditions that effect your training and/or goals:
Knee pain – both knees.   Mainly when skiing hard, or running hills.  I’ve adjusted my stride and today, I run on mostly flat trails.   No other limitations.

Outside of your sport, how do you prepare your body for the stressors of that sport?
Pilates!  Trail running and cycling is what I mainly do when not skiing.   And the more I do this in the off season, the better I feel that first week of skiing.  Skiing is a high agility sport, and I feel that the concentration required for proper foot placement on a trail really helps with the agility needed during ski season.  But once ski season starts….I only ski.

Nutrition / diet:  has training changed anything about how you eat or drink?
When really serious about training, I recognize the importance of the fuel I put in my body.  Of course, I have the advantage of being married to a nutritionist.

Recovery?  (not post-exercise, but throughout the year)
I recognize the importance of rest, but don’t have a real recovery strategy.   I listen to my body and back off as needed.  I’m very mindful of “training to reduce pain” for the future.

Any “non-exercise” forms of preventative care?   (massage, chiro, personal trainer, blood work, etc)
Both Kim and I are cancer survivors, so we regularly get blood panels, and I pay attention to my sleep.  I’ve tried cold showers and cold-water treatments, but mainly, I focus on the quality of my sleep.

How healthy were your parents at your age?
Very.   Dad was a runner into his mid-70’s, even did an ultra before I did.   Mom was also active, playing a lot of tennis.   And my siblings are mostly healthy.

Any family history you’ve been able to avoid?  
Hoping to avoid dementia.   Both parents dealt with this towards the end of their lives.  My current focus for prevention is my diet.   I’m also an avid reader.

The health benefits of training / competing:  is that a focus?  Or just a happy and beneficial outcome?   
Kind of both.   It’s my lifestyle, and I want to remain active and healthy for as long as possible, but I really don’t think of it that way.  It’s just who I am, what I enjoy.

Rocket Rob Mendez

How do you feel – physically and emotionally – when you miss several days of training/activity?
No, I don’t.     (Editor’s note:  at first, I thought Dave meant that he does not feel bad if inactive for several days.  Glad I asked for clarification.  He meant simply:  “no, I never go for several days without being active”)  As a traveling salesperson, it’s hard to stay active, but you can always find a way.

Do you find a supportive community in your sport / activity?
The world of adaptive skiing is a wonderful, like minded community, very accepting of others.   And we have a relatively new community:  bird watching.  Regularly, you’ll find us hiking with our binoculars to watch a nesting pair of eagles.  Cocktails are often involved, so this activity has now become known as “eagle happy hour”.

Is your family supportive?
Outside of skiing, my partner (Kim) will always be my best community.   And of course,  my dog.

Putting on your coaching hat…

What advice would you give your younger self?
“If it’s not fun, it might be time to turn the page”.   You should always be able to find fun and satisfaction in your pursuits.  If you don’t enjoy it – why would you keep doing it?   Maybe I turned that page too soon a few times, so I would coach my younger self to be more self-aware.  Focus on building friendships –  value them, nurture them.

What advice would you give any 50+ individual that believes their athletic days are better left in the past?   
Everything I’ve personally done, everyone I’ve coached, every experience I’ve had, tells me this thinking is just wrong.  You can always improve.  Find an activity you enjoy that includes movement and just keep moving, stay active.

Any final hard-earned wisdom you’d like to share to the 60+ crowd?
Especially today, almost any sport can be adapted to anyone’s capabilities.  Movement is good for your physical and mental health.  Let’s find an activity that we can do together.   Do something, anything. 

Questions for Dave?
Include any questions in the comment section below and I’ll forward his reply….or his invitation to ski.

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