Winter is here and many ski resorts are now open. Downhill skiing represents an exciting, enjoyable physical, and social activity that can benefit from physical preparation. Skiing is a dynamic and demanding activity that will challenge your endurance, power, balance, reaction, stability, and sometimes courage! As we get older the importance of ski specific fitness for enhanced enjoyment and decreased risk of injury becomes increasingly important.
A typical preparation block for skiing can take between six to eight weeks. However, if you haven’t started preparing, don’t worry, it is never too late to make a positive impact! It pays to prepare your body before you head to the ski slopes during winter. Taking a proactive stance before ski season is the key to getting in sport specific shape so that your ski trips are fun, safe, and injury-free. Here are some important recommendations:
1. Prepare Your Cardiovascular System: Skiing at moderate altitude is a demanding task on your heart and lungs. A consistent cardiovascular (aerobic training) routine that includes 3-5 sessions a week can contribute towards more stamina, reduced fatigue, and in some cases less residual soreness.
Perform 2-3 days per week of high-intensity interval training on the bike, treadmill, or on the elliptical trainer. Session duration should vary between 20-45 minutes and should also include different intensities. Check out this example of elliptical trainer intervals.
Perform once a week a slow and steady training session for 60 minutes or more at a heart rate that is greater than 60% of your maximum heart rate. These sessions will prepare you for the long days on the slope and could enhance some aspects of your recovery.
2. Build Your Strength: Skiing involves lower body movements that require significant quadriceps (thigh) muscle strength and fatigue resistance. Although research documents that only 20-30% of your time upon the slopes will be spent actually making turns, these sequential turns will require muscle contractions that can be fatiguing. In preparation for skiing remember that, single leg balance and reactive stability can be helpful to reduce knee injuries and to stimulate the ankle - knee - hip coordination.
When skiing downhill, the body leans forward also putting additional demands on the glute and hamstrings. The following exercises are recommended to integrate into your routine in the 6-8 week lead up to your first ski trip.
Squat Pulsing with Medicine Ball - Hug a heavy medicine ball (15–50 lbs) to your chest and lower into a squat position. Staying low, doing short pump squats (pulsing up and down about an inch or so) without coming back up to start. Your muscles should always be contracting. This exercise builds local muscular endurance in the lower back, glutes, and quads. Perform the exercises for a duration of 30 seconds and progress to 1 minute. Consider executing the exercise multiple times throughout the day to simulate the morning and afternoon runs.
Single Leg Hip Clock Exercise - Staying balanced over your skis is key to good skiing, whether you’re hitting fresh powder or groomed runs. This balance exercise will help you develop stronger hip coordination for better control of your skis, which in turn can help prevent knee injuries. This exercise strengthens your glutes and hamstrings. It prepares your body for uneven terrain and balancing on one ski.
Stand with your weight balanced on your left leg and that knee slightly bent.
Keep your back straight and weight centered over the standing knee.
Imagine that you’re at the center of a clock. Lift and extend your right leg, reaching forward toward 12 o’clock.
Bring your leg back to the center.
Repeat the movements toward the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. As you reach for each position, stay balanced over the standing leg and don’t let your hips shift side-to-side.
Switch to the other leg and repeat; do 5 to 8 repetitions on each leg.
Skater Hops - Skiing is a lateral weight-shifting motion, and most of our daily activities and gym exercises fail to work on this side-to-side motion.
Starting at the left of your space, squat slightly then jump to the right as far as you can, leading with and landing on your right foot. Swing your arms across your body to help you jump further.
Land on your right foot and try not to touch your left foot down as you bend your knee (almost into a mini squat).
Jump back across left to land on your left foot. Try to jump as far and as fast as you can while staying balanced.
Perform 15 hops on each leg.
Plank (30 seconds)- A strong core helps you stay balanced while skiing. As the legs get fatigued and sore after a day or two on the slopes, your core stability will play a crucial role in controlling your limbs.
Start with your forearms and knees on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Elbows should be stacked underneath the shoulders, your forearms straight in front of you on the ground.
Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back to bring your body to full extension, so your body creates one long line.
Keep your core tight and your hips lifted, and keep your neck in line with your spine.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Side Plank (30 Seconds Each Side) - Side planks are another way to work on that core strength.
Lie on your left side, your right foot stacked over your left foot.
Using your left forearm, lift your upper body off the floor so your body is in one straight line. Your left elbow should be stacked below your left shoulder, your left forearm straight in front of you. Raise your right arm towards the sky. Don't let your hips drop!
Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Remember to listen to your body
If you have prepared your body for the ski slopes, you should be able to enjoy more runs and perhaps even impress yourself with your improved ability. But people do have limits, and your body will tell you when you're reaching yours. Listen to it. Some skiers, specifically those who keep going when they really should have called it a day, put themselves at risk for altitude sickness. The symptoms of this include nausea, fatigue and dehydration. Not to mention extreme soreness you will be in for the next day. So listen to your body and know when it's time to call it quits and head in for some hot chocolate.
Most importantly remember that most skiers are injured in the last 1-2 hrs of the day. If you feel yourself getting tired throughout the day finish with some easier runs and enjoy a “wind down” vs a “wind up”. As mentioned in the following article aggressive skiing at the end of the day may be the riskiest thing a skier does. There is no need to be scared but it is worthwhile to be aware. Protect yourself so that you can keep coming back to the snow for many more ski trips throughout the winter.
We’re here to optimize your ski training to have a wonderful season. Reach out to an Apeiron Life representative if you'd like more information.