Cold weather equals no fun, right? Not so much. At least not for those who like to ski and snowboard. Winter is the season we get a chance to break out the snow gear, head to the mountains and hit the slopes.
But there’s a couple things about skiing and boarding that complicate things for those of us in the lowlands. First, these activities are inherently physical. And second, we just don’t get a chance to do them very much.
I’ve got a friend who loves to snowboard. He’ll probably get in three of four trips to Colorado before the season is over in late spring. For an Oklahoman, that’s a lot of boarding. For someone who lives in Colorado, it’s not much at all. As for the rest of us, we’re lucky to get up there once a year.
We look forward to it. Spend a lot of money on it. Dream about it. But what are you doing to prepare for it? Seriously, unless you’re on the slopes all the time, your body just isn’t physically ready for the gauntlet of physical punishment that comes with skiing and boarding. So that’s why I’m posting this.
You need to be (as much as possible) physically ready before you go. Otherwise, you’re an injury waiting to happen.
So let’s start with the legs. Any coach or trainer will tell you that the foundation of a good athlete is a pair of strong legs. Skiing and snowboarding are, by their nature, athletic endeavors. So you need to strengthen your legs. Some of my favorite exercises:
1. Squats. With or without weight, depending on your fitness level. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart, toes slightly out and back straight. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the ground, then stand back up. Do eight to 10 repetitions. Take a short (1 minute) break, then do that again. Do three sets. This works both the front and back of the thighs as well as your buttocks. Squats are widely considered the best overall exercise for legs, and if done right, also strengthens your core.
2. Lunges. Again, this can be done holding a pair of light dumbells or no weight at all. From a standing position, lunge forward with one leg, then push your body back up to a standing position. Alternate legs for eight to 10 reps each leg, again, for three sets. This works the same muscles are squats, but in a different way. If you are a telemark skier, this exercise is one your should do regularly anyway. If squats are considered the No. 1 leg exercise ever, lunges are No. 1a.
3. Calf raises. With your feet close together and legs straight (not locked), rise up on your toes, then down again slowly. Three sets of eight to 10 reps. Your calves do a lot more work than you think when you’re on the slopes.
4. Core work. Crunches, leg lifts and other abdominal exercises should be a part of your routine. They’ll help stabilize your upper body as you maneuver and reduce upper body fatigue. It will also help support the weight of your upper body, allowing your legs to be more focused on maneuvering.
You can use other leg weight machines at your gym or at home, but I stuck with the squats and lunges because they are compound exercises, where you are teaching your body to use several muscle groups in conjunction. I think that’s more realistic.
Lastly, I seriously recommend working on your cardiovascular strength. How you do it is up to you, whether it’s running, elliptical machines, bikes or something else. But you should try to get in 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous cardio work three times a week.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, the majority of us ski in the Rockies. Unlike east coast ski resorts, the Rockies are high elevation sites, with most runs starting above 9,000 feet. Most Oklahomans live at or below 1,200 feet. So the air is much thinner on the slopes, which will make your heart and lungs have to work harder.
Second (and this works in conjunction with the effects of altitude), a person who has a strong cardiovascular system doesn’t tire as easily as a person who is out of shape. And it’s when you’re tired that you’re more likely to have an accident. According to the netfit Web site, most accidents occur in the afternoon, when you’ve been at it all day. The unfit person will be on the low ebb of their energy; a fit person will remain strong right up to the time when the lifts are closed.
Ideally, you should begin training eight weeks before your trip, according to netfit. Some of you heading out for a Christmas ski holiday won’t have much time. But for those of you planning a mid-winter or Spring Break trip, there’s still plenty of time to get your body ready. I’d rather come home with good memories of a fun outing than a leg brace and a hospital appointment. One way to help prevent that: Get in shape!