Physiotherapist and women’s health expert Lisa Westlake provides these tips to help family members get fit for the slopes this season.
The fresh crisp air of winter brings anticipation and excitement for thousands of skiers and snow boarders who can hardly wait to dust off their skis and boots and head for the slopes. The seasonal nature of snow sports means that many enthusiasts do not maintain year-round ski-specific fitness. Now’s the time to seek out some training to get you ski-fit-ready so you can be physically prepared to generate maximum enjoyment, minimal muscle soreness and reduced risk of injury from your trip to the snow.
Remember, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing and snow boarding all involve slightly different fitness elements. These are further varied according to the level of experience and proficiency, but all require cardiovascular fitness, endurance, balance, core stability and strength. Here are just a few options to include in your six to eight-week ‘fit to ski’ training program.
A sound cardiovascular basis will allow you to enjoy an intense day on the slopes. Cardio machines, brisk walking, running, cycling, hill walking, swimming will all assist in providing the endurance for run after run in cold dry air. Skipping is an easy and effective option and can be interspersed with other strength exercises to simulate the stop and start nature of skiing.
Safety on the Slopes
Here are a few tips to help you have a safe and enjoyable snow experience:
- Remember to warm up gently before you head out for your first run of the day.
- It’s a great idea to incorporate stretching into your daily routine and be sure to stretch at the end of the day, before you hop in the car for the drive home.
- A lesson or two, especially for beginners, is a wise investment for an injury-free experience.
- Dress appropriately, and always use a helmet.
- Choose runs that suit your ability and listen to your body throughout the day.
- Remember to hydrate.
Specific strengthening of the muscles used in skiing, such as quadriceps, triceps and core muscles are important. Here are seven exercises that may help you achieve this. Remember to chat with your PT for their expert training advice and to confirm if the exercises suggested are appropriate for you.
1. Slalom on the Ball
The benefits: You’ll boost cardio fitness, ski posture, core control and thigh strength.
The movement: Sit tall on the Fitball, with your feet and knees together. Jump your feet from side to side, reaching the inside arm forward and the outside arm back, simulating the planting of your stocks in the snow.
Equipment-free option: Perform a similar action in standing, jumping side to side, being sure to bend both knees each time you land.
Technique tips: Keep your feet and knees together, ensure your calves do not touch the ball, and keep your back straight and strong.
2. BOSU Tucks
The benefits: You’ll enhance your fitness, balance and proprioception for control down the slopes.
The movement: Standing on top of the BOSU, dome side up, bend you knees, engage your core and jump, bringing your knees towards your chest.
Equipment-free option: Tuck jumps on the floor, or if you need to avoid high impact activities on firm surfaces, then squats.
Technique tips: Start with small jumps initially, and progress to more, as you refine your control. Focus on keeping your back straight, maintaining an even rhythm and landing with control.
3. Mogul Jumps
The benefits: Provides some fun fitness, ideal for mogul enthusiasts.
The movement: Start by stepping side-to-side and then progress to jumping side-to-side, with a tuck jump in the middle and a small squat on each landing.
4. Triceps Dips
The benefits: Improving your upper body strength, which is required for pulling yourself through the snow, and for getting up after a fall.
The movement: Sit on a bench, with your hands by your hips. Slide your bottom off the bench and then bend and straighten your elbows to lower and raise your body. Make sure you keep your back straight and bottom close to the bench throughout the movement.
Technique tips: Maintain core control to keep your back straight. Avoid locking your elbows straight at the top. To increase the intensity you can walk your feet further forward.
5. Fitball Hovers
The benefits: Enhanced core stability and control.
The movement: Kneel on the floor with your forearms resting on the ball and wrists close to the top.
Engage your core stabilisers by drawing your lower abdomen gently towards your lower back and setting your shoulder blades downward and inwards. Straighten your knees to the plank position, maintaining scapular and lumbar stability. Hold the position for 10 breaths before lowering your knees back to the ground. To increase the challenge raise one leg, keeping your pelvis in the neutral position. Gradually increase the hold time.
Equipment-free option: The hover can be performed without the ball, and for an easier option it can also be performed upright with your forearms on the wall and your feet a metre out from the wall.
Technique tips: Keep your back straight and avoid rounding your upper back or shrugging your shoulders.
The benefits: Ideal for conditioning the quads and gluteal strength, making it particularly good for cross-country skiers.
The movement: Perform travelling alternating lunges, then progress these to jumping alternating lunges.
Equipment-free option: Prone hip extensions and side lying hip abductions.
7. Wall squats with leg lifts
The benefits: Ideal for practicing unweighting of the ski whilst turning.
The movement: With a Fitball between your lower back and the wall, roll down into seated/squat position. Remember to keep your back straight and the weight pushing through your heels. Engage your core as you lift one foot just off the ground. Replace and lift the other foot. Continue unweighting side-to-side, all the while keeping your upper body straight and stable.
Technique tips: Check your feet are far enough out from the wall to avoid excess load through the knees. Your heels should be under your knees and you should be able to just see your toes.
Equipment-free option: Squat with your back against the wall and practicing lifting one foot then the other or replace the Fitball with a basketball.