Here is an all too common scenario: you’ve been waiting all year to get back out on the slopes. After drooling over all the equipment at your local snowboard shop you decide on a perfect new setup, and a new jacket to go with it. The stars align, winter season starts out with a bang, and your first day on the mountain is a deep powder day. Then it takes an hour to get down the mountain on your first run. Your legs are burning and you have to stop every hundred yards to catch your breath. By the time you get back to the top of the mountain all of the good powder stashes are skied-out. A few mushy legged slow runs down the mountain follow before you head home, gassed from the day, and not looking forward to the several days of soreness to follow.
While often overlooked, the most important part of being able to charge hard all day and stomp landings with the least risk of injury is your physical condition. Correct form in skiing (or any sport for that matter) is crucial to staying injury-free and maximizing the efficiency of your movements on hill. You fatigue throughout the day and your form deteriorates, leaving your legs feeling out of control and sloppy. This can become most evident if you’ve experienced that close call before quitting for the day, where you couldn’t muster the leg strength to get your nose pointed in the right direction fast enough. Preseason training will also decrease the soreness and sluggishness you get after the initial day back on the slopes. Think of it as similar to the snowboard tune up you do before the season to prep your gear, only for your body.
Performing aerobic, anaerobic, and strength and power workouts are pre-season exercises that can do wonders for your performance when skiing.
When talking about strength and training in the context of skiing, it is important to emphasize functional movement and strength. Exercises that mimic rapid shifts in terrain, and shifts in your body’s center of gravity relative to the slope, will be effective in preparing your cardiovascular and muscle systems ready for the shred to come.
Something that we’ve learned since the days of warmups during youth soccer, it pays to work on flexibility. No, you don’t need to be able to do the splits in your ski jacket and pants, but this is still important now if you plan to stay mobile and active all winter. One of the best options for flexibility is yoga, and of course, it has the added relaxation benefits. Dynamic warm-ups before workouts and stretching after workouts is crucial if you want to recover faster and stay on the hill all winter long without injury. Try starting with several Bikram Yoga warm-up movements:
- Deep Breaths
- Side Bends
- Back Bends
- Deep Stretch: With your hands under each heel bend forward, hug your face to your knees, and slowly attempt to straighten your legs.
Many other warm-up movements also work well including:
- Backward, forward, and lateral lunges
- High-Knee Walk, Straight-Leg Walk, and Deadlift Walk
- Backward run
- Hamstring stretch
- Jumping Jacks
- Downward Dog
Once your workout is complete it is time for another stretch. Some people even believe your post-workout stretch is more important than the warm-up! Any of the movements mentioned above are great options, but make sure to hold or perform each movement slowly for added benefit.
Aerobic endurance allows you to sustain physical performance for sustained periods. In boiled down tech-talk, aerobic endurance maximizes your body’s ability to consume and distribute oxygen to your muscles efficiently. While anaerobic exercises don’t improve the power of our bio-mechanics, or the ability for us to put out more work over the shortest period, they do allow us to stay on the hill without getting burnt out before lunch.
Some basic examples of aerobic exercises are running, cycling, hiking, swimming, and jump rope. Performing any of these exercises for 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times per week will do a lot for your aerobic base.
Many anaerobic workouts involve HIIT training, with periods of intense effort followed by rest periods, and then intense efforts again for several repetitions.
In “science-speak” anaerobic endurance is your muscles’ ability to function in the absence of oxygen. In anaerobic metabolism, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. This mechanism causes the “burning“ sensation you get in your thighs mid-run. Anaerobic exercises improve your body’s ability to process the build-up of lactic acid, allowing you to send it for longer and harder.
Many anaerobic workouts involve High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), with periods of intense effort followed by rest periods and then by intense efforts again for several repetitions. One example of an anaerobic workout is Fartlek Training, which is Swedish for speed play training.
One example workout is on a 2-4 mile run, mix in 10-minute strength intervals where you alternate burpees with easy jogging several times.
These workouts are usually pretty intense, but pay dividends on the slopes.
Strength and Power
Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with the Champagne Powder of Steamboat. Strength workouts improve your ability to bust crud and keep your skis pointed the direction you want even in the thickest, dampest, or iciest snow.
Some basic examples of strength and power workouts are:
- Squats (weighted or unweighted)
- Box jumps
- Lateral Side Jumps (these closely mimic a skier movement laterally across a slope)
- Medicine ball throws
While getting at it outdoors is the favored choice for staying fit throughout the summer and into ski season (and just getting stoked on life in general), performing aerobic, anaerobic, and strength and power workouts in the pre-season can do wonders for your performance on hill.
What kinds of preseason excercises do you do?
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