Get fit to hit the slopes
A week of winter ski or snowboarding is guaranteed to put you through your paces fitness-wise, but how can you best prepare for the intensive workout you’ll get on the slopes without burning out? With limited access to mountain terrain or dry ski slopes what other types of exercise can you do to prepare yourself for the impact and make sure you’re in tip top condition to tackle those fiendish runs?
Former Olympic skier Graham Bell recommends several regular aerobic sessions of exercise per week to tune up your general cardiovascular fitness. Start at least six weeks before your trip. Any type of exercise that gets the blood pumping and raises your heart rate to around 50 to 60% of its capacity should help, and even walking at a fast enough pace so that you can just about hold a conversation will get your heart and lungs acclimatised.
A range of exercises can do the business, especially as part of a vigorous cross training programme with plenty of variety to keep things interesting, but of course each have their pros and cons, so it’s best to choose a method you’re comfortable with to ensure that you stick with it for long enough while you build the endurance and strength required.
Make sure you train at a pace that you know you can maintain – establishing a routine of short, sharp bursts of aerobic exercise in 20 minute blocks that you can do regularly will do you more good than going hell for leather!
Running delivers an approximate level of high intensity workout, but it can also take a toll on the knees. For this reason, professional skiers tend to favour cycling which pushes you towards an equivalent level of fitness and can also be a good ‘cool down’ after a day on the slopes.
Rowing and step exercises work well too – and if you can access them activities like rollerblading or rollerskiing replicate the skiing experience closely enough.
Anyone who’s put in a bit of time on the slopes will have experienced muscle burn and the familiar aches the next day after a serious shredding session. A series of exercises targeted at building muscle strength and resistance in your thighs, buttocks and calves is what you need to prepare for this.
Go for exercises that focus on endurance through repetition. You don’t even need to visit the gym for most of these – a series of 20 hamstring curls, simple squats and lunges repeated several times, combined with some specific strength exercises for your core of stomach, back and side muscles should deliver a variety of movement and also prepare you for the regular exertion involved with getting back on your feet, especially for learners and snowboarders.
While the main movements in skiing are not as demanding as some sports in terms of your overall flexibility, it’s still best to do a few stretches of your quads, calves and hamstring muscles before an exercise session to minimise general stiffness and soreness, which will also help you recover faster from any wipeouts.
To learn more about how you can exercise well during winter check out these guides on the NHS website.