Before you slope off to the snowy mountains for a week you might want to consider putting in a little ski specific training.
Perfecting your parallel is a big ask in the gym but with these exercises you will be better prepared when the going gets cold.
Up in the mountains your levels of fitness will tell beyond just your time thrashing in the snow. As well as the careful mix of balance, endurance and power that effective skiing requires, you also have to be pretty fit to master the chairlifts and slug your gear to and from the slopes.
Before you get to base camp you should try to have a good level of cardio endurance. It’s essential in all sports as it aids recovery after bouts of fast dynamic movement – particularly skiing, where quick recovery means quickly hitting the next run, and then the next. A little aerobic fitness will also give you the extra energy you need at altitude for long walks with heavy gear to and from the après ski bar.
Steady-state exercises like running, rowing, swimming and cycling are great for increasing your aerobic capacity. Try including 60mins of cardio, twice a week, pushing yourself harder each time – upping the time, intensity or distance. Similarly, mix this up with interval training, which mimics the patterns of snow sports where you work hard for a short period of time. Try a spin class or interval running, varying speed, gradient and work times on the Skillmill.
Skiing a single run, jumping, riding moguls, or going off-piste can take a matter of minutes. It can be very heavy on three areas of your fitness: power, pushing into and out of turns and jumping; muscular strength, maintaining and holding your turns and muscular endurance, just how long you can do it all for.
Here are a few moves you can include to get a head start on the slopes.
For power – plyometric work, exerting maximum effort in short spaces of time.
Bounding off a plyo box onto another one, or explosive box jumps. Frog bounding (jumping from a squat position and extending your legs midair before landing in a squat position) with or without weights. Or Bulgarian bag squat jumps.
These should be low reps (1 or 2) and maximum effort, with a 10sec rest before repeating. Basically like going into and out of turns.
For strength – try barbell/dumbbell/kettlebell squats, lunges, and deadlifts, lateral static lunges or walking lunges with dumbbells, (like holding poles) which are especially good. 4-6reps and a heavy weight.
Although skiing will mostly use your bottom half, your torso will have to maintain a strong position throughout, so core strength is essential.
Basic upper body free weights will help support your frame and give it strength, and full body exercises like kettlebell swings and kettlebell thrusters are great for this.
Use the go-to core strength exercise – plank holds in various guises, e.g. single leg or arm plank. Overhead squats are a professional skiers favourite, but watch your technique.
For muscular endurance – The main issues skiers face, which you are sure to hear being moaned about, is a nasty sensation in the legs after long days. Called ‘the burn’, it’s basically a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. Imagine running the 400m, fast, and then doing it over and over again for a week - your legs get really heavy and the idea of squatting to turn doesn’t bare thinking about. You need to become lactic tolerant to cope with the lumps, bumps and occasional fall if you want to make it down the longest slopes without a pit stop.
Try 30-45min HIIT classes (Grid is excellent for this), or your own intense muscle circuit. Using various equipment on the gym floor, kettlebells, Bulgarian bags, dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls, ViPRs, TIYRs, etc. Do an exercise for 45secs, rest for 10secs, across five different exercises.
Do this for six rounds with only 2mins rest. After this those black runs will be cinch.
Full-body fitness is essential to your skiing. And the high intensity and little rest – après can really eat into recovery times – mean your training will go a long way. By varying your routine and covering all the bases, your weeks in the mountains will go from the nursery slopes to double diamond in no time. Alex is the National Personal Training Manager at Virgin Active Australia.