The summer is finally coming to a close. All over Europe and North America people are starting to excited about the forthcoming winter. While the sun worshippers mourn at their loss the skier tribes start to dust off their jackets and polish their skis in eager anticipation of the soft powder that will soon start falling.
However, are you ready? Have you spent the summer months crawling from one barbecue to another, wallowing in a pool with a beer and generally being exceptionally lazy? If this sounds like you then you may be in for a shock when you don your skis once again. Your legs have become weak, your core jelly like and your tendons and ligaments tight.
So now, while the weather is still reasonable mild, is the time to start working on your fitness again in time. The skiing season is fast approaching, it is time to start preparing for the gruelling demands of the slopes. Skiing is a very demanding pastime, and the fitter you are, the more enjoyment you get out of it.
If you ski for one week just once a year, it is essential to get fit for skiing beforehand, with some ski specific training, so that you can maximize your enjoyment while on holiday. But even regular skiers should do relevant training during the off-season period to ensure that they stay in shape, and avoid injury.
For ski training you need to focus on three main areas:
- General cardiovascular fitness
- Muscular endurance
- Leg strength
- Flexibility and agility
Ideally you should aim to start your training regime 6 weeks before your ski holiday, or 8-10 weeks before if you are not generally an active person. Studies have actually shown that a majority of ski holiday accidents happen during the afternoon of the second day. This is generally when unfit, novice skiers find their concentration flagging due to lack of physical conditioning, and sore muscles becoming less responsive.
The Skiers Workout:
A simple bodyweight circuit training routine is perfect for skiing. Although weight training can be added later to help build thighs and glutes further, most holiday skiers will benefit greatly from this circuit. Also, this circuit training routine can be done at home with little equipment – there is no need to join a gym to get into shape for a ski holiday!
Warm up before exercising, either with some gentle jogging on the spot, or go for a run. After a brief warmup, start this circuit. The first circuit is a continuation of the warm up, so should be done gently. The subsequent circuits should be done with increasing intensity.
Ski Jumps – The first exercise builds muscular endurance in the major leg muscles, and also helps to strengthen the muscles which support lateral movements. Simply squat down into a ski position, and jump to the left while remaining in the semi-squat. Return to the center, then jump to the right, and return to the center again. These four jumps should be done in quick succession, with a short breather in between. This can be a very intensive plyometric exercises if your legs are not in condition, so be warned. Aim to do 100 jumps (25 sets of 4 jumps). Try to avoid bobbing up and down too much, keep your height consistent.
Bodyweight Squats – After the ski jumps your legs are now fully warmed up and ready for squats. When squatting simply keep your back straight, head up, and lower your backside down until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Aim to do 25-50 squats in each set.
Lunges – Lunges are simple at first but quickly get harder. Simply step forward as far as possible and straighten the read leg. Ensure that your front knee never extends further out than your toes, as this can cause injury to the knee. Return to standing position and then repeat with other leg. An alternative is to do lunge walks, which are simply done by stepping into the second lunge immediately, rather than stepping back. As with the ski jumps, keep your height consistent. This is a very deceptive exercise. If you are unaccustomed to it, you may ache well in the following days after the first sessions.
Box jumps – For this you need a good solid step box, or traditional gym bench. Simply straddle the box, with a foot each side, then jump up onto the box, and quickly jump back down to the floor. This is a plyometric exercise to help build functional strength in the joints, which really helps to avoid injury. It is also an excellent cardio-muscular endurance exercise. If you do not have a suitable box, then do squat jumps; from a squat position, quickly jump up as high as possible, then return to squat position. Whereas the body weight squats are done steadily and evenly, squat jumps are dynamic and intense. These will also help to improve your vertical jump.
Squat thrusts – The classic school gym workout. From the plank position (press up position), keeping your hands on the floor, jump your feet forwards close to your hands, then return. These work the glutes, hamstrings and the quads, and also provide a modest upper body workout.
Horse stance – This variation is very unusual to most westerners. The horse stance is a simple but very effective exercise done in kung-fu schools. It is a, isometric exercise. All you have to do is hold a squat position for as long as possible. Just imagine that you are sitting on a stool. Keep your thighs almost parallel to the floor, your back straight (do not lean forward) and try to relax. When your legs start to tire, lift a little, then drop back down into the horse stance. You will develop very powerful legs.
One legged squat – By now you are probably sick of squatting. So lets try a variation. One leg at a time. Squat as low as possible, and return. Do about 10 reps on each leg. Go slow.
One you have worked through these exercises, repeat the circuit, or move on to the complimentary exercises, before repeating the entire circuit.
Core / Complimentary Training
Although leg training is the key to skiing, some core training is important to keep a good muscular balance, and to help provide stability and agility.
Push ups – The classic push up is one of the best ways to strengthen the back and arms. This old school exercise is still done in martial arts clubs and army boot camps the work over, and still gives great results.
Sit ups / crunches - Core training would not be complete without some abdominal exercises. Building your abs give you greater twisting and turning strength, and increased stability, while also supporting the upper body while in prolonged ski-squat positions.
Stretching is vital for sports such as skiing, as keeping your joints supple will reduce risk of injury if you fall, twist or turn unexpectedly. The plyometric exercises (ski jumps, jump squats) will help make the joints stronger, stretching will make them more pliable. Basic stretches can be done after each circuit – simple forward bends, groin stretches and calf stretches. Read this article on how to stretch properly to learn more.
It really is a case of the harder you train the more you will enjoy your skiing this year. So many people fail to prepare for skiing and then injure themselves on the first day of their holiday. You do not want to be one of these people.
Image source: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism. Image cropped and colour enhanced.