Skiing is a wonderful sport for all-around fitness, but each year, recreational skiers suffer injuries when they hit the slopes before they are physically prepared. Now is the time to be thinking about getting in shape–before the first snow ever falls.
The good news is that there are many excellent strength and conditioning exercises you can do in advance to ensure you have an injury-free ski season. You need strong legs, a strong core, and strong arms. It’s also important that you strengthen the deep pelvic floor muscles.
You must build an aerobic base to help strengthen your cardiovascular system. Endurance workouts of 30 to 60 minutes, 3-5 times a week help with this area. You want to work at a pace where you are are sweating, but you are still able to carry on a conversation with your workout partner. Running, hiking, rowing, bicycling, inline skating, swimming, stair climbing and elliptical machines are all appropriate for building an aerobic base. This type of training boosts your body’s ability to consume and deliver oxygen to your muscles and will decrease fatigue while skiing.
Once you’ve established an aerobic base you can add anaerobic exercises to your training regimen. Anaerobic means “without oxygen” and refers to the ability of your muscles to function in a state of oxygen deprivation. When you ski continuously for 2 minutes, your body uses the aerobic and anaerobic systems about equally. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic function and is responsible for the burn you feel in your thighs at the bottom of a ski run. By training your anaerobic system, you will improve your body’s ability to process lactic acid, so that you can ski at a higher intensity for longer periods of time. Anaerobic training is often done by performing intervals of hard work for thirty seconds to three minutes followed by a rest period of equal time. An example would be inline skating rigorously for 1 minute, coasting for 1 minute, then repeating 5 more times. You could then take a 5-10 minute break and do another set. The total amount of time that you are working hard should be 10-24 minutes a session.
Strength training is an important component and can be started two to three times per week at the same time that you begin building your aerobic base. You need to have the strength to move and stabilize your joints as you power through the different snow conditions. The majority of your time should be spent working on your legs, but it is important to also incorporate development of upper body muscle groups, like the chest, back, shoulders.
Lower extremity skiing-specific exercises include squats, front and side lunges, hamstring curls, bridging on the physioball, the standard wall sit, and the leg press. Good lifting technique is imperative to prevent an injury in preseason! When possible use free weights since they require more balance and coordination than machines. While most skiers know that they need strong legs, it is also crucial that you strengthen the core muscles that surround your midsection. There are a variety of exercises that train the core using the physioball.
A good training program always incorporates maintaining or improving your flexibility. Major muscle groups that should be targeted include the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, calves, gluteals, and trunk musculature. Stretching exercises should be performed after a warm-up period and not at rest.
Balance and Agility
The next component of a good ski conditioning program is balance and agility training. Paying attention to this area will greatly enhance the connection between your muscles and your brain and will help keep you upright when you get into a precarious position on your skis. Great exercises to work on balance and agility include balance board squats, physio-ball kneeling, functional grid reaching, ski simulation machines, and agility ladders.
Explosiveness and Coordination
The final component is explosiveness and coordination training. This component can be developed through one to two sessions per week of plyometrics, which are jumping and bounding exercises that incorporate controlled landings with quick and powerful takeoffs. Plyometric training is designed to improve reaction time and increase explosive power, eccentric muscle control, and coordination of fast movements. For more advanced skiers, this type of training simulates on-slope conditions, reactions, and explosiveness. Box jumps, scissor or tele-jumps, and hurdle bounds are a small sample of the many different types of plyometric exercises.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable physical therapist if you need help designing a personal program. Paspa PT will be happy to conduct a pre-season ski fitness screen to help you identify your deficits and determine which areas to focus on. Call us today at 212.967.5337.