December is nearly upon us and with it, ski season closes in. To get the most of your time on the slopes and keep yourself injury-free, it’s best to start pre-season conditioning weeks before the first real snow falls.
While the ground is still free of ice and snow, take advantage of activities that will help you prepare with cardiovascular conditioning. These activities include bicycling, running a hilly course, rollerblading and rowing. For indoor activities, try stair climbing, elliptical trainer, step/low-impact aerobics, and slide board training. For sports, basketball, squash and racquetball are beneficial because their lateral/cutting action will train your muscles for the side-to-side agility involved in skiing.
Begin with a moderate pace for 10-15 minutes and add 1 or 2 minutes each week. Once you’ve reached a 30-minute workout, gradually increase the intensity of the exercise. You should try to stay within 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. Make sure you warm-up and cool down at an easy pace for about 5-10 minutes at the beginning and end of each workout.
Unless you’re planning on sticking to the Bunny Slope, strength training is equally important. A strength training program in preparation for ski season should focus on knee stability and the muscle groups used in skiing. These include quads (front thigh), hamstrings (back thigh), glutei (buttocks), hip abductors and adductors (outer & inner hip). Also important are the abdominals, back extensors (low back) and muscles on the inside and outside of your foot and ankle.
Strengthening exercises should be done 2-3 non-consecutive days per week, 1-3 sets, 8-12 repetitions or to muscle fatigue. Exercises for the abs and back should have an endurance focus and be performed for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Good flexibility will allow you to assume a better, lower ski position and may help prevent muscle injury. Important muscle groups for skiers include many of the same covered in strength training: quads and hip flexors (front thigh), hamstrings (back thigh), hip adductors (inside thigh), and glutei (buttocks). Also the calves (particularly the soleus since the knee is usually bent), back extensors (low back), back rotators, foot and ankle stabilizers (inside and outside shin).
Regular stretching is crucial to good overall flexibility. For each area, assume the stretch position (feel tension, not pain) and hold for about 30 seconds. Repeat 1-3 times. Stretch daily or as part of your workout.
Proper preparation can make your ski season exciting and rewarding. As you get ready to hit the slopes, make sure your body is as finely tuned as your gear, and you’ll be all smiles until the spring. Make sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise regimen.