While many of us are still enjoying the outdoors in light to medium wear, just last week A-Basin (Arapahoe Basin) in Summit County, Colorado announced it is opened up for the 2012-2013-winter season, becoming the first non-glacier mountain resort to officially open up.
So while it may be time to dust off your boots, get the skis waxed and book your ski travel, more important are you physically in tip top shape to shoot down the mountain trails? If you are shrugging your shoulders and thinking you have plenty of time to get in condition, then think again.
Two of the biggest grumbles I hear from others when on the ski slopes is the aching burning sensation felt in their legs followed by wanting to retire from the mountain only after a mere couple hours due to fatigue. ‘What? Get off the mountain? We just got on, plus we just traveled a very long distance to get here and ski. You can’t quite yet!’ is the thought often flying through my head as I watch their exit from the slopes.
Skiing uses nearly every muscle in your body and ideally requires training year round in order to be in tip top shape for the slopes, not just in the weeks or months leading up. Strong legs and core, solid balance and coordination, and great endurance are key to be able to ski in dominance and tear through the glades with ease and confidence.
To build your endurance, include a cardio program a minimum of three days, but ideally five days, a week consisting of running, the elliptical trainer, aerobics classes or Stairmaster workouts with varying intensities lasting from 30 to 60 minutes. A great add is to include one “long day” workout when your cardio workout is longer than one hour and preferably for a few. This could actually be a fun aerobic activity such as hiking, biking, tennis or swimming to help build and increase your lung capacity and strengthen your legs, abs, back and arms to make you a more powerful skier.
The following are recommended exercises are just a few to help increase and improve your balance, strength, stability and joint agility – all abilities that are challenged maneuvering the trails of a mountain. Perform these exercises on three nonconsecutive days during the week, complimented with your additional routine.
Ski Jumps: Stand with feet together. Bend your knees and jump to one side as far laterally as you can. Land with soft knees and immediately jump laterally to the other side. Repeat the back and forth movement. Repeat 20 times on each side.
Squats: Place your feet shoulder width apart on a flat floor while standing erect and holding your arms out straight in front of you. Keep your back straight while lowering your buttocks as if you are sitting down and then slowly bring your body back up and stand up straight. Repeat 20 times. Variations: 1) Stand on a BOSU instead of a flat floor and performed as described above. 2) Place a stability ball against a wall and lean your lower back against it. Roll with the ball as you bend your knees into a squat. Rise up and repeat 20 times.
Lunges: Stand on a flat surface with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward and lay your foot flat on the ground. Your knee should be at a perfect 90 degree angle and lined up with the front of your toes while your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Never bend so far that your knee extends further than your foot. Bring yourself back up, returning your body to the standing position and and switch legs. Repeat 20 times on each leg. Variations: 1) Stand with feet wide and toes out slightly, hold a medicine ball of comfortable weight at chest level. Lunge to your right, bending the right knee and touching the weight to the floor while keeping your abs engaged, torso straight. Press back to start and lunge to your left, touching the ball to the floor. Do not use momentum. Repeat 20 times on each side. 2) Place a shin on an exercise ball placed behind you while bending your opposite knee. Slowly lower into a lunge. Squeeze through the heels to raise back up, making sure knee is behind toe and torso is straight, abs in. Adjust the ball as needed to keep your knee behind your toe. Add dumbbells for more intensity.
Crunches: Lie on your back on the floor or a mat, bending your knees while keeping your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands beside your head with your elbows bent outward. Raise your shoulders up while crunching your stomach and pulling your belly button to your spine. Lie back down and repeat 50 times. Variations: 1) Perform a bicycle pump, touching your right elbow to your left knee. Alternate your legs, pumping your legs as if you’re riding a bike. Repeat 50 times. 2) Lie facing the ceiling with an exercise ball under your mid-back. With your arms and hands in the same position as above, perform the crunch as if you are on a mat. As you curl, keep the ball in a stable position, then lower your back down again. Repeat 50 times.
Additional Exercises: Push-ups are a great way to get your arms and chest in shape for the slopes. Build up your strength by starting with 3 sets of 10 reps, increasing the reps as your push-ups become easier. To assist with building your speed, try sprinting, intervals and/or running up hills. Add ankle weights for added resistance. For flexibility, perform stretches for your lower extremities, such as the core twist. Weight machines for leg extensions, leg curls and leg presses are highly recommended for developing powerful leg muscles to ski hard. Remember to never swing your legs and to keep your movement slow and controlled. Perform 3 sets of 12 at a comfortable weight. Increase the weight when you plateau. Calve raises and hamstring curls are two other important exercises to include in your ski exercise routine to help stabilize your body when moving down the hill.
The above are great workout suggestions to help you carve the mountain all day without fatigue or leg burn and reduce your risk of injury. Remember to check with your physician before starting any new exercise regimen. With the green light go ahead, train hard and ski even harder with the confidence that your body is ready to take on the moguls on the mountains.
Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.