Fit to ski: the fundamentals

18th October 2009, by Chris Gill

Stiff and achey, too tired to ski as many runs as you would like, legs refusing to bounce, unable to keep up a rhythm and taking frequent rests … know the feeling?

Skiing and boarding are physically demanding. A week on the slopes at altitude will subject your muscles to shocks and strains that it may not be used to – and for longer periods. But it’s easy to convince yourself that any specific effort is a waste of time. After all, you’ll soon get the muscles moving once on holiday. But to get the most out of your trip, reduce the risk of injury and make progress with your skiing technique, you need to prepare. We start with a quick look at the fundamentals.

The four cores

You don’t have to be a fitness fiend but to be really fit for skiing you need to work on your stamina, strength, endurance and suppleness. Balance and co-ordination exercises will help too. And it’s not just the legs that need a work out. Ideally, combine some specific exercises with general sports.

Stamina: Think Duracell bunny (you know, the batteries that go on and on …) Well, if your muscles tire your skills and attention will slip too. Any regular exercise will boost your stamina by developing muscle fibres as well as heart and lung efficiency. Cycling, hiking, swimming, running are all good examples. Start with a few minutes per session, increasing that as the activity gets easier.

Endurance: How long can you sit against a wall? Muscle endurance determines how long you can repeat or tolerate a given movement. This example increases endurance in your thighs – give it a go and you’ll feel the ‘burn’ soon enough. Try knee bounces and ‘ski’ jumps.

Strength: Strong muscles means powerful turns. Train for strength and you’ll ski longer and harder. Try squats, power jumps or lifting weights. And don’t forget core strength.

Suppleness: How flexible are you? Increasing the range of movement in your joints cuts injury risk and stiffness. Start your training sessions with warm-up exercises and dynamic stretches.

Warming-up / Cooling-off

Always take a few minutes to warm-up before you exercise; loosen the muscles and get the heart rate going – a brisk walk or light jog, for example. Include some dynamic stretching such as knee raises, shoulder rolling, bend and jump, side-steps … If you are a beginner, local fitness classes such as circuit training are an ideal place to start. At the end of your activity or work out, cool-off with a gentle walk then longer stretches (30 seconds per stretch).

NB: If you’ve have had a recent injury or illness, or don’t regularly exercise, do check with your GP first before you try any of these sports. And you should do some warm-up exercises before you begin.

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