Getting into shape for winter

The air is getting colder and the first snow has fallen, so it’s the time of year when I start thinking about a few ideas to get into skiing shape for the upcoming season. There are already quite a few good sites on the internet with plenty of exercises that you can do so I wanted to give a little bit more background information on what areas to focus on rather than specific exercises.

I’m not a fitness expert but I do know that getting into shape for winter will definitely help your skiing. If you are going to do a preseason training program there are three areas you should focus on. Remember to pick exercises that promote balance and coordination; these two attributes are important elements in skiing.

Skiing Fitness

Being Active
First, being generally fit is a good idea. If you haven’t been active recently you can’t expect to excel at skiing right off the bat. Cardio is a great place to start – running, biking, skipping rope and swimming will be beneficial. The nature of skiing means you are in the mountains at high elevations, so any activity is harder on the lungs. I can remember moving into my first place in Mammoth Lakes and getting puffed carrying stuff up the stairs; the town is at 8000 feet so that was to be expected!

You also use muscles and energy skiing, especially when you are starting out.  Someone once said to me in a class they couldn’t believe how much ‘work’ they were doing, wasn’t skiing a gravity sport?  The better you get the more efficient you get but also the more challenges you can face, for example, if you are not breathing hard after doing a long bump run then you are doing something wrong!

Suggested exercises: Running, biking, swimming, skipping rope or anything else that you enjoy doing that gets the heart rate going.

Your Legs
Second, your legs get a pretty good workout when skiing, so pick some exercises that help strengthen them. In day-to-day life we take it for granted that we use our legs a lot – we walk around on them and they hold us up when standing – simple stuff. When it comes to skiing we use our legs even more as they act as shock absorbers and we use them to turn the skis. It is those two movements that your exercises should focus on.

First, try to work the quads and hamstrings. Here you probably want to go for more endurance than pure grunt so avoid using heavy weights.

Next, pick exercises that aid the twisting movement of your legs when skiing. When people say “I used muscles skiing that I didn’t know I had” I think they are most likely referring to the inner thigh and hip flexors. These muscles help your thigh bone (femur) rotate in your hip socket which turns your skis to where you want to go.

Once adept at certain exercises you could modify them to promote balance. For example, try some of the exercises on one leg!

Suggested exercises: Single Leg Hip Flexion, Lunges, Ski Jumps, Stretches, Squats, and Inner Thigh Squeeze

Your Core
Third, as you progress in skiing your core becomes more and more important. You have mastered the easy smooth slopes and so head off-piste into the bumps or powder. Suddenly your balance and your stance is challenged; core strength will help you out in this area. Working on your core will also help your back out by having strong muscles around it to support it. Also, as I explained earlier, we use our legs to turn the skis and so having a strong stable core will help us achieve this.

Suggested Exercises: The Plank and Back Extension.

Finally, one last exercise you might want to think about is yoga. To be honest I’ve only been to one yoga session and it was hard but fun. I have a lot of friends that love yoga and rave about its benefits for skiing. Yoga helps your flexibility which will make you less injury prone. Yoga also promotes controlled breathing which I feel has applications in skiing for getting into a rhythm.

To conclude, there are lots of benefits in doing some preseason training:

  • You will be less likely to injure yourself.
  • You will be able to ski longer, getting the most out of your day.
  • Your skiing will improve and then you will have more fun!

I hope this article gives you a few ideas for your preseason training. All the recommended exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home. For information about specific ski training equipment visit a post I wrote last year here. Good luck with your preseason training!

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