Unlike a beach holiday, where you just have to show up in a swimsuit and look good with a tan, a winter ski break requires some physical preparation if you want to make the most of your time and stay injury free. Your body requires a certain amount of strength and flexibility when it comes to strapping a pair of planks to your feet and heading down a snowy mountain slope… |
Skiing is usually a once or twice a year sport, so you don't have the consistency of regular, specific training outside of the ski season. But diving in and simply expecting your body to cope can result in a painful wake up call, so it's vital that you begin some preparation as soon as you possibly can.
Meet Your Muscles
The art of skiing requires the use of muscles you may not even know you have, so you might need to do some gentle bonding before you hit them with the news their hibernation is over – at least for the duration of the ski season! Here's how to cover all the bases.
Cardio for Endurance
You're usually at the ski resort for a good time not a long time, so you'll need all the endurance you can muster to get your money's worth out of that expensive lift pass. It's when muscles are tired that accidents happen out on the slopes, so building up your stamina and endurance is very important.
Your pre-ski cardio regimen should include at least three (and preferably five) days of exercises like running, the Stairmaster, and the elliptical trainer. Vary things up as much as you can, with 30 or 45-minute sessions interspersed with short, intense bursts, and longer, steady 60-minute sessions at least once a week.
Super Strength Building
You use some very particular muscle groups to ski, so you need to prepare them in advance to make sure they're ready for the ski season.
Calves: 'Bend zee knees, bend zee knees!' is good advice when it comes to skiing, but you'll need strong calves to comply. Work on calf strength with lots of standing calf raises (or the machine equivalent).
Quads: Pay particular attention to your quadriceps (that's the front of your thighs if you're wondering) and the rest of your body will thank you. These are the most important muscles of all for skiing, so it's plenty of squats and lunges – and no excuses!
Thighs: You also need to work on your inner and outer thighs if you want to keep your skis together and be able to steer – and yes, you do. Again, lunges will do it, but this time to the side, as well as side-step squats and thigh squeezes.
Gluts and Hams: No, this isn't your pub lunch - they're the muscle groups you need to build up if you want to remain steady and upright as you're hurtling downhill. Leg deadlifts, hamstring rolls, pull-throughs, and step-ups will do the trick. Arms: With all the focus on the lower half of your body, don't forget about your biceps and triceps, which need to be in tip-top condition to help you plant and push those poles. Dumbbell deadlifts and weight training will help.
Abdominals and laterals: Aka your front and back. There's a lot of bending and flexing involved, so you need to build up your abs and lats to cope and keep you injury free in these delicate areas. Include some back extensions on a yoga ball, planks, and kick and lunge combos.
Stretch and Flex
As well as concentrating on cardio and strength training, make sure you include plenty of stretching exercises in your pre-ski workout. Pilates and yoga are both excellent for flexibility, with some quad, bicep, shoulder, chest and hamstring stretches thrown in at the beginning and end of each workout session.
If you've got one or more visits to the snow planned for the ski season, physical preparation can make all the difference between a safe, incident-free holiday and one that's curtailed or ruined due to physical problems. Start early, stick to a regime, and don’t expect your body to do anything you haven't prepared it for. Oh, and bend zee knees…
Belinda Smythson works for Ski Amis, a specialist ski travel agency and booking service that has been helping avid skiers craft their perfect winter holiday for over a quarter of a century. If you're planning a getaway this ski season to the Three Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy or Chamonix Valley, Ski Amis is the go-to company for winter sports fans searching for the holiday of a lifetime.
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