Get fit to hit the slopes

🕔Sep 22, 2008

What makes skiing so fun is the fact that you can only do it at certain times of the year…but that’s also what makes it dangerous. On top of that, many of us end up skiing only a few times a year, so we don’t have much consistency to keep our bodies conditioned for it.
To avoid injury (and misery), take some time to prepare your body before you hit the slopes. If you don’t already have a regular exercise routine, it’s not too late to start one. If you already exercise, you may need to tweak your workouts to make them more effective. This year, make it a point to get in the best shape you can for skiing. Not only will your skiing go more smoothly, but you’ll have a much better time.
The best training for skiing is skiing, but we don’t all have the luxury of skiing year-round. Besides, you need to participate in exercise other than skiing to develop the muscles that aren’t as important in turns, but that just might stave off fatigue and injury while skiing.
The best ski workout is the one that is best suited to a person’s level of skiing proficiency. A beginner would require strength to get back up after a fall, and an advanced skier needs endurance and power for long and challenging runs. Skill, balance, coordination, agility, strength and power are some of the components that combine to develop athletic performance for skiing. Regular participation in activities that promote cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, muscular strength, and endurance will serve to promote a healthy foundation for the ski season.
The first criterion for any kind of training is to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy enough to maintain. If you don’t like it, you probably won’t do it! Another criterion—one to be approached prudently—is specificity: if you have to make maximum use of a limited amount of training time, muscle-specific exercises will produce the greatest benefit.
Build your endurance
If you want to get your money’s worth out of that expensive lift ticket, you’ll need plenty of cardio endurance. Most of us hit the slopes and plan on skiing all day, even if it’s been months or years since we last skiied. By afternoon you’re so tired you lose focus…and this is often when injuries and accidents happen.
To prepare your heart and body for long-term skiing, your cardio program should include 3-5 days each week of your favourite activity; the best for skiing include running, Stairmaster, step aerobics, elliptical trainer and rollerblading. Try to have a variety of workouts lasting from 20-45 minutes. As you get closer to your trip, you can also add time to one of your workouts so that you have one long workout each week. Below is a sample schedule of workouts, just to give you some ideas. These are just examples, so feel free to make your own schedule.
Workout 1: Interval training, 20-30 minutes
Workout 2: Medium pace workout, 40 minutes
Workout 3: Short, intense workout, 20 minutes
Workout 4: Medium pace workout, 45 minutes
Workout 5: Long, slow workout, 60 minutes
Build your strength
What makes skiing such a great exercise is that it uses all of your muscle groups. However, some muscles are used more than others, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on when it comes to your strength workouts. Skiing involves:
Quadriceps: Probably the most-used muscles in skiing are those of the quads. These muscles hold you in position as you ski and they also provide protection for your knees. Great exercises for the quads include squats, leg presses and lunges.
Hamstrings and Glutes: When skiing downhill, you typically hold your body in a flexed position—meaning you’re leaning forward from the hips. This requires great strength from your hamstrings and glutes as they help stabilize your body. Work your hams and glutes with deadlifts, leg-curls and lunges.
Inner/Outer Thighs: Your inner thighs work like crazy to keep your skis together. Your outer thighs keep your body stable and help you steer. Work these muscles with side lunges, inner thigh squeezes and leg lifts.
Calves: Because your knees are bent as you ski, your calves (specifically the soleus) help you stay upright so you don’t fall over (your ski boots help too). You can work this muscle by doing seated calf raises.
Abs and back: Because you’re in a flexed position, bent over, your back has to work like a maniac to hold your body in that position. Your abs help in that endeavour while also protecting your spine. Your lats get involved as you ski on a flat surface or uphill, using your poles for leverage. Work these muscles with exercises like bicycles, woodchops, back extensions, lat pulldowns and dumbbell rows.
Arms: Along with your back, arms help push off with your poles while stabilizing your shoulder joints. Be sure to work your biceps (barbell or dumbbell curls) and triceps (try dips or dumbbell extensions).
Don’t forget to get plenty of stretching in as well; being flexible is another way to keep your body safe from injury.
Regardless of your choice of exercise, keeping yourself excited about being fit is the key to success. Choose training activities that are fun and that exercise the right muscle groups for skiing. Rest appropriately to preserve your enthusiasm for each session and alternate the difficulty of various sessions. You will find yourself more fit and consequently your skiing more fun and enjoyable.