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We’ve all been there before: it starts with daydreaming throughout the summer months of fresh turns in deep snow. After getting on a first-name basis with all the employees at your local ski shop due to constant visits to fawn over all the equipment, you finally decide on some brand new skis with bindings. Some custom fit ski boots follow to complete the setup, and you’re left playing the waiting game.
Then the day finally comes. Mother Nature gets after it, and your first day of the season is full of powder. Unfortunately, right away your body feels drained and you have to keep stopping to catch your breath while your friends wait for you at the bottom of the mountain. After several slow laps, you decide to do one last run before quitting for the day. On the way down your legs are too weak to point your tips in the right direction fast enough and you take a tumble, tweaking your leg. Now you’re out for several weeks nursing an injury.
While it can be hard to get the motivation to head to the gym at times, the most important part of enjoying skiing with the least risk of injury is being in shape. Correct form in skiing (or any sport really) is crucial to staying injury-free and maximizing the efficiency of your movements on the slope. We tire as the day progress and in turn, your form can deteriorate, leaving your body positioning feeling out of control and careless. Pre-season training also helps to alleviate soreness and sluggishness you get after the initial day back on the slopes. Think of it like the ski tune-up you do before the season, only for your body.
When talking about strength and training in the context of skiing, it is important to emphasize functional movement and strength. Exercises that mimic rapid shifts in terrain, and shifts in your body’s center of gravity relative to the slope, will be effective in preparing your cardiovascular and muscle systems ready for the shred to come.
Something that we’ve learned since the days of gym class warmups, it pays to put time into stretching and being limber. No, you don’t need to be able to do the splits in your ski jacket and pants, but this is still important now if you plan to stay mobile and active all winter. A great starting point for mobility is yoga, which of course, also has the added relaxation benefits. Setting aside time for warm-ups before workouts and stretching after is important if you want a faster recovery and to ski through the winter without injury. Try starting with several yoga warm-up movements:
- Deep Breaths
- Side Bends
- Back Bends
- Cobra Pose
Many other warm-up movements also work well including:
- Backward, forward, and lateral lunges
- High-Knee Walk, Straight-Leg Walk, and Deadlift Walk
- Standing Quad Stretch
- Karaoke Run (Crossover)
- Hamstring stretch
- Jumping Jacks / Seal Jack/ Ski Jacks
- Downward Dog
Once your workout is finished it is time for a final stretch. Any of the movements mentioned above are great options, making sure to hold or perform each movement slowly for extra benefit.
Cardiovascular exercise allows you to maintain physical performance for extended periods. The science of it relates to improving your body’s ability to consume and distribute oxygen to your muscles efficiently. Cardio exercises don’t improve the power of our bio-mechanics, or the ability for us to put out more work over the shortest period, but they do allow us to stay on the mountain without getting burnt out halfway through the day.
Some basic examples of cardio exercises are jogging, biking, walking, swimming, and rowing. A good goal is to engage in these exercises for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times per week. Do so will do a lot for your stamina.
Fast Twitch Exercise
In contrast to cardio training, fast twitch endurance is your muscles’ ability to function in the absence of oxygen. When using your fast twitch muscles, lactic acid builds up which causes the “burning“ sensation you get in your thighs mid-run. Exercises focused on this area improve your body’s ability to process the build-up of lactic acid, allowing you to get after it for longer and harder.
Many fast twitch centered workouts involve High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), with periods of intense effort followed by rest periods and then by intense efforts again for several repetitions. One example of an anaerobic workout is certain Crossfit workouts which often alternate short bursts of movement with weight-related exercises.
An example workout would be while on a 2-4 mile run, mix in 10-minute strength intervals where you alternate burpees with easy jogging.
These workouts are usually pretty vigorous but will pay dividends once you’re on the mountain.
To be realistic, not all resorts are blessed with the Cold Smoke of Bridger Bowl. Strength workouts improve your ability to handle chop and keep your skis pointed in the direction you want even when you find yourself navigating through some Cascade Concrete.
Some basic examples of strength training are:
- Squats (weighted or unweighted)
- Kettlebell Raises
- Resistance Bands
- Lateral Side Jumps (these closely mimic a skier movement laterally across a slope)
- Medicine ball throws
While getting at it outdoors is the favored choice for staying fit throughout the summer and into ski season (and just getting stoked on life in general), performing cardio, fast-twitch, and strength training workouts in the pre-season can do wonders for your performance on the hill.