Six Exercises in Six Weeks.
Skiing is a sport that offers its greatest rewards for those prepared for its rigors. That’s because skiing isn’t just letting gravity pull you down the hill. It’s a full-body workout.
The reality of skiing is this – The more fit you are, the more you’ll enjoy being on the boards. You’ll be able to handle tougher and steeper terrain, and you’ll have the energy to ski all day. It also means you’ll have an extra bounce in your step for après-ski festivities, and you’ll sleep better at night (which will give you the requisite get-up-and-go for the next day on the hill).
That kind of fitness doesn’t happen overnight. Charles Lucarelli, a longtime personal trainer from the ski Mecca of Aspen, Colorado, encourages skiers to maintain an active lifestyle year-round, so they’re always ready to handle whatever physical challenges life throws at them.
“My professional belief is that we never stop training for the best six months of the year – ski season,”
said the 34-year-old Lucarelli. “We can back off from the intensity of direct training, and maintain adequate strength by lessening the frequency of the exercise.”
The key is to keep moving, on a regular basis, throughout the off-season.
“Summer training is great,” he said. “I love the combination of mountain biking and road biking for the legs. Mountain biking is great for the quick sprint uphill action, while road biking is going to have that longer endurance assistance.
“But biking can be tough to the hip flexors,” warned Lucarelli. “Yoga will have a huge benefit in terms of increasing mobility. Trail running is important to keep my whole leg/hamstring strength in good condition.”
The reality, though, is that many of us still fall into the off-season trap of becoming more sedentary. It happens. The good news is that a six- to 8-week “preseason” workout plan is “adequate” for preparing us for the first turns of the season, said Lucarelli, allowing us to hit the slopes reassured that our body can handle the workload.
“Keeping the body in balance is essential for overall ski performance. I feel there needs to be a balance of workout styles,” he said. “You need a high-intensity interval workout, yoga for the core and the mind, a plyometric workout – jump squats, jump lunges, etc. – to keep the knees in good condition, and lower intensity running to help keep the heart at a medium beat and relieve any anxiety.”
A proper fitness regimen will also help prevent injuries, and help those previously injured get back on the boards.
“Injury prevention is pivotal for an all-around healthy ski season,’ said Lucarelli. “You need a healthy combination of strength training, yoga, and mobility training.” (Editor’s note: Look for an upcoming blog post focusing on yoga and flexibility.)
“We always have to be ready for the things we love in life, like skiing,” he said. “We have to maintain a strong body, core, and mind. If you’re confused about what weaknesses you may have, I highly recommend a biomechanical evaluation. This can be done with a physical therapist. Once they’re completed it, hire a trainer to help devise the exercise regimen the physical therapist recommends.”
Of course, no two people are alike. For that very reason, personal trainers are adept at creating an individualized plan for each client.
“Working with a personal training is a great way to get a custom workout,'” said Lucrelli. “Everyone is built different, and has different goals. I’ve found that people have different injuries that they need to correct, and a group class won’t produce a tailored workout for the individual. Group classes are great if everybody has zero injuries and they want more of a ‘general’ workout.”
If your schedule, or your budget, don’t allow for time with a personal trainer, you can still get prepared for ski season. Before any heavy duty work, warm up properly (the same holds before your first run of the day). Lucarelli suggests movements like Supermans (lying face down, and lifting the hands, head, and feet off the floor, arching the back), cats and camels (from all fours, slowly arch and then curve the back), hip extensions (raising your heel behind you while standing), opposing arm and leg reach (same as hip extension, while raising the opposite arm in front of you) and a squat and reach (these last three all assists with core stability, plus hip and shoulder mobility).
For the heart of the workout, Lucarelli recommends six basic exercises that target ski-specific muscle groups.
- Wall sits are a classic skiing tool. The best way to start is to sit against a wall with legs parallel to the floor. Start with 30 seconds. As your legs get stronger, increase the duration. You can then add weight.
- Lateral monster walks with elastic tubing. These help fire the glutes, which helps prevent the back from doing all the work while skiing. Place tubing around the ankles or calves, get into a crouched stance (similar to a defensive position in basketball), and walk side-to-side while maintaining proper alignment (toes forward, knees straight, butt back).
- Squats with slow concentric and eccentric muscle contractions (meaning controlled movements going up and down). These will help maintain proper joint alignment under fatigue.
- Planks, with variable balance exercises. Most people do planks incorrectly. While lying face down, prop yourself up on your forearms, keeping elbows under the shoulders, pulling back on your elbows to engage the lats. Squeeze your quads, which helps engage the glutes. Squeeze heels together to help stabilize the lower part of the body. Start with 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds and then a minute.
- Single-leg balance exercises. Standing on a soft mat or cushion, barefoot, helps promote balance while building strength in the fascia. Adding more instability, like a squishy balance pad or Bosu ball, will produce more benefits. Start with 10 seconds, keeping shoulders back and proper body alignment.
- Medicine ball throws. A great exercise for maintaining alignment of the top half of the body, to avoid doubling over. If we’re weak in the back, we can collapse like a noodle, said Lucarelli. The force from the medicine ball helps skiers maintain alignment (chest up) while cruising down the mountain.
Finally, be consistent. Try to exercise at least every other day, even for just an hour or less, in the weeks leading to ski season. Commitment during the pre-season will lead to comfort and dependable performance on the slopes. And that translates to more fun.