Hit the Slopes in Shape This Year
Don’t hit the slopes this winter without first hitting the gym (or the floor in your home or apartment). Snowboarding and skiing use different muscles than you use in your day-to-day activities, and you’d rather spend your après-ski hours sipping wine in front of a fireplace instead of icing down aching knees or applying smelly muscle ointment.
Doing the right skiing and snowboarding workouts a few weeks before you hit the slopes or cross country trails will help you improve your performance and speed your recovery after each outing.
Don’t worry about building big muscles before ski and boarding season. What’s more important than large muscles is your ability to use the muscles you have for long periods. This means building muscular endurance. You can do this with circuit-training exercises. During a circuit-training workout, you perform 10 to 12 reps of a resistance exercise, followed by a short, 10- or 15-second break before beginning the next exercise set. Or, you can perform exercises with less resistance for two minutes, followed by a short break.
You can choose a half dozen or so key exercises, perform them one after the other for 10 minutes, and then take a break of several minutes before repeating the circuit. You can repeat each circuit three times to create a 30-minute workout. Choose explosive, reactive and core exercises that mirror the movements you’ll be doing while you ski or snowboard.
Explosive Power Exercises
The first powerful movement you make on a mountain, hill or even a golf course covered with snow requires explosive power. You can build your explosive power with a variety of jumping exercises, using the floor or a box. Create a circuit-training routine that includes eight to 10 reps of each exercise, followed by a new exercise. Good exercise choices include:
- One-legged split-squat jumps
- Box jumps
- Box squats
- Broad jumps
- Leg presses
Watch videos of each exercise to learn the correct form to maximize your benefit and minimize the chance of injury. You can find videos on YouTube or at the website of the American Council on Exercise.
Reactive Power Exercises
When you use more than one muscle to create a quick or powerful movement, you’re using reactive power. Examples include bending down before you jump upward when hitting a mogul, or turning your shoulders and hips backward before exploding forward during a turn. Add these reactive power exercises to your circuit-training workouts:
- Depth jumps
- Squat jumps
- Box jumping
- Skipping with high knees
- Butt kicks
- Running stairs
- Jumping rope
- Hop scotch or octagon jumps
- Quick lunges
Unlike many recreational sports, skiing and snowboarding are not highly anaerobic, so aerobic workouts are better for you than high-intensity interval training. Create cardio workouts that elevate your heart rate so you’re breathing hard but still able to talk while you’re exercising. Perform movements similar to what you’ll be doing outdoors, but avoid using only one type of cardio machine (e.g., elliptical) to get in shape. This will help you avoid a repetitive-stress injury and improve your muscular endurance.
While you don’t need abs of steel or a six-pack to ski or snowboard successfully, you will need to use your core for extended periods to help turn, jump, propel you forward and stop. Add at least 10 minutes of core workouts, three times a week, to build your abs and obliques. Good choices include:
- Reverse crunches
- Hip raises
- Russian twists
- Bicycle kicks
- Kettlebell swinging
Speed, Quickness, Agility and Balance
Do plenty of footwork drills to improve your balance and agility, and your ability to make quick moves when you need them. A rope ladder is a great piece of equipment, as are low hurdles. Learn to alternate your feet when jumping rope and perform exercises that require you to move quickly forward, backward, laterally and on a 45-degree angle.