Skiing is an awesome sport but imagine how much more you would get from your ski trip if your muscles, heart, and lungs were in better condition. For many skiers, especially those weekend warriors who work all week in sedentary jobs, skiing can be a physically demanding shock to the system that leaves many battered, bruised, tired, or even injured by the end of their trip.
Rather than let your lack of conditioning limit your skiing enjoyment, why not get into pre-season training so that, when the snow arrives, you are in great shape and better able to make the most of your time on the mountain?
The demands of skiing
Skiing is arguably a whole body activity although it tends to be your legs that work the hardest so it makes sense to focus on your lower body in your ski training. As runs can be long as well as steep and bumpy, you need a combination of muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility and, if you like to get big air, some power too. This is all wrapped up in a good level of cardiovascular fitness, coordination, and balance so you don’t run out of steam part way down the mountain or spend more time on your butt than on your skis.
Advice for newbies
If you are new to exercise, spend a few weeks building up your basic fitness and endurance by walking more, doing some basic calisthenic exercises like sit-ups, squats, and push-ups, and gently stretching your major muscles – especially those in your legs. After four to six weeks of this kind of routine, you’ll be ready for a more demanding workout.
Building leg strength, power and endurance
Strong, stable knees and hips are essential for skiing. While you could head off to the gym and do exercises like leg extensions, leg curls, and leg presses, you don’t need to have access to such fancy equipment to get your legs ski-fit. Do the following three exercises two or three times a week…
Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your knees slightly bent and your hands by your sides. Keeping your weight on your heels, push your butt back and squat down until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor. Stand back up but stop short of fully locking out your knees. Descend into another squat and repeat. Keep bobbing up and down at a smooth, brisk pace until your thighs are really beginning to burn. Rest a moment and then repeat. Do two to four sets.
Stand with your feet together and next to a mid-shin-high barrier. Using your arms for extra momentum, jump sideways up and over your barrier and then immediately jump back. Make each jump reactive and quick by imagining the ground is red-hot. Do two to four sets of 8 to 20 repetitions.
High step ups
Stand facing a knee-high platform and place one foot on the top. Push down through your foot and step up and unto the platform. Step down leading with the same leg and repeat. Do 12 to 20 repetitions on this leg and then change. Make this exercise more demanding by holding weights in your hands.
Your core or midsection muscles are responsible for keeping your spine properly aligned and work very hard when you ski – especially when you change direction or are bouncing over the rough stuff. Keep your core muscles strong by doing this mini-core workout a couple of times a week…
Lie on your side with your arm bent beneath you, resting on your elbow. With extended legs, lift your hips up and off the floor so your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold this position for 20 to 40 seconds.
Roll over onto your front and rest on your elbows. Lift your hips off the floor so your weight is supported on your arms and feet only. Hold this position for 20 to 40 seconds.
As before but on your opposite side.
Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Push your hips up to the ceiling so your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold this position while clenching your butt as hard as you can for 20 to 40 seconds. Rest and repeat the entire sequence once or twice more.
Balance plays an important part in skiing so it makes sense to include balance exercises in your pre-season ski training. One of the best balance exercises around, the tree pose from yoga, is very simple but that doesn’t mean easy! Do this exercise every day to improve not only your balance but your knee and hip stability too.
Stand on one leg with your non-weight bearing foot placed on the inside of your other calf, knee or thigh, knee turned outward. Place your hands together in front of your chest. Hold this position for 60 seconds and then change legs. Make this exercise more difficult by raising your arms above your head, standing on a pillow, or closing your eyes.
Skiing is hard on your heart and lungs as well as your muscles. Unless you want to have to stop to catch your breath every few minutes, you need to develop a good level of cardiovascular fitness.
The best exercises to develop skiing fitness also use your skiing muscles. Elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, step machines, and cross country ski machines are all good options or you could go out and walk briskly, jog, run, or cycle outdoors.
Whichever option you choose, do two to three sessions per week of 20 to 30 minutes at around 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. You should be comfortably out of breath but not gasping for air – think five or six out of a scale of one to ten in terms of effort.
Flexible muscles tend to be less prone to injury and can work through a wider range of movement. Flexibility is especially important for your leg muscles. In addition, regular stretching may prevent post-exercise muscle soreness so try and stretch every day. Gradually ease into each stretch and back off if you feel any burning of your muscles begin to shake.
Standing calf stretch
In a staggered stance, lean against a wall and push your rear heel down and into the floor. Keep your rear leg straight. Move your rear leg backward to increase the depth of the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and then change legs.
Standing quad stretch
Bend one leg up behind you and grasp your ankle. Pull your foot into your butt and hold for 30 seconds. Use your free arm for balance if necessary. Change legs and repeat.
Kneeling hip stretch
Kneel down in a staggered stance so your knees and hips are at right-angles. Let your hips sink forward to gently stretch your hips. Keep your torso upright by putting your hands on your leading knee. Hold for 30 seconds and then change legs. For a deeper stretch, slide your rear leg further back.
Seated hamstring stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Sit up tall. Lean forward from your hips and lower your belly toward your thighs – try not to round your back. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then relax. If you have particularly tight hamstrings, bend your knees a little rather than round your back.
Seated groin stretch
Still sat on the floor, bend your legs and bring the soles of your feet together. Pull your feet into your groin or as close as you can comfortably manage. Use your elbows to GENTLY push your knees down and out to the side. Hold for 30 seconds and then relax.
Full body stretch
Lie back and extend your arms above your head along the floor. Point your fingers and toes as far away from you as you can – make yourself as tall as possible. Hold for 30 seconds and then relax.
By making sure you are ski-fit, you lower your chances of suffering an injury and increase the chances of having a great fun-packed ski trip. Don’t let poor fitness limit how much skiing you can do – start training now for your best skiing trip ever!