The demands on the body
Flying down the slopes all day on two narrow strips of fiberglass with only a pair of thin poles for support will place unique demands on your body. To cope with these demands, you’ll need to focus on the following three key areas for your training to boost your skiing fitness:
1. Skiing strength
Skiing demands specific training for improving your strength. The primary areas to focus on for skiing fitness strength are:
Legs. Focusing on the quadriceps muscles at the fronts of the thighs is particularly important, because maintaining the correct skiing position means that the quadriceps will be loaded the whole time.
Triceps. To maintain your balance when skiing, you will have to continually drive your ski poles back into the snow – and the specific muscles that facilitate this are the triceps at the back of the upper arms.
Core muscles. Your core muscles will keep you upright and help you to balance. Without good core strength, you will have no control on the slopes.
2. Cardiovascular ski fitness
You won’t be running or moving forward under your own steam for most of the time when you’re skiing, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need good cardiovascular (CV) fitness. Skiing requires total body control in order to stay upright – and this will place a continual demand on your CV system as you employ every muscle group in order to remain balanced.
3. Flexibility training
If you’re flexible, you will have a good range of movement, which is extremely important when it comes to skiing fitness. Additionally, being flexible in the calves and Achilles tendons (at the backs of the lower legs) is vital, because your ski boots will force you to ‘hinge’ at the heel, thereby stretching both the calf and the Achilles in each leg. If you’re tight in either of these areas, your risk of injury will be much higher.
How to avoid injuries
The last thing that you want to do on your skiing holiday is get an injury – so the best thing to do is prepare your body correctly by building up your skiing fitness. For injury prevention, your main focus should be on flexibility training, particularly in the legs. As we have mentioned, the calves and Achilles tendons are important to your flexibility – but you should also ensure that you are loose and supple in the following two areas:
- Quadriceps (front of the thigh).
- Hamstrings (back of the thigh).
However good your preparation is, though, one thing is certain when you go skiing: at some point or another, you’re going to fall over. So, to avoid common injuries such as broken collarbones, work on your all-round mobility as much as possible. This way you will be in control of your body, and so when you do fall over you will be able to position yourself quickly and easily – rather than be awkward and stiff in your movements – which will make you less liable to suffer an injury.
Additionally, try to have a couple of sports massages as part of your après-ski routine, as these will flush out the waste products in your muscles from your day’s skiing and help to keep your muscles in tip-top condition throughout your holiday.
Skiing fitness training – how much to do and how often?
Start your skiing fitness training program as soon as possible before you go on holiday, because the earlier you begin, the better conditioned you’ll be by the time you hit the slopes. Build up your training slowly and carefully – particularly if you aren’t a regular exerciser – and ensure that you cover the three primary disciplines of strength, flexibility and CV fitness outlined earlier. Factor in plenty of recovery days – especially when you begin your training, when you’ll need to allow your body to gradually adapt to the new demands that you are placing upon it.
To keep your exercise program balanced, build up to the following training levels:
- Strength training – twice weekly.
- CV training – two to three times per week.
- Flexibility training – after every strength or CV training session.
Ski–fit training – specific sessions
Now that you know what areas to focus on, as well as how much exercise to do and how often, the next stage is to check out our specific strength, CV and flexibility sessions and try to incorporate them into your training:
1. Strength exercises
Skiing requires a blend of strength and endurance, so look to build up to completing two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions of the following leg and triceps exercises, separated by a 60 second recovery period. For the core exercise, build up until you can hold the position for 60 seconds.
Legs: Squatting-type exercises are ideal for your skiing preparation because they very closely replicate the actions and movements that you will employ on the slopes. Start by simply squatting without using additional weights, and as your legs become stronger, add more weight by using a barbell or dumbbells.
Triceps: To strengthen your triceps muscles, either do triceps dips using a chair or bench, or use a specific gym machine or dumbbells to target the area.
Core: There are numerous core exercises that you can do to strengthen this important area, but one of the most effective is an exercise called ‘the plank’. To do this exercise, lie face down on the floor with your arms bent at 90 degrees and tucked close to your sides, with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your hands pointing ahead. Push up until you are solely supporting your body on your forearms and toes, and are holding a rigid, flat, ‘plank-type’ position.
2. Cardiovascular exercises
To strengthen your CV system for skiing fitness, any rhythmical exercise that gets you breathless and you can maintain for at least 20 minutes is good. Walking, jogging, running, rowing, swimming, and cycling are all suitable examples, with the most effective being the ones where you are supporting your own bodyweight. Walking or running can therefore be more effective than swimming, and will also provide the additional benefit of strengthening your legs – which, as we have seen, will be important when you are on the slopes.
3. Flexibility exercises
After each strength or CV exercise session that you complete, look to stretch the major muscle groups that you’ve used. For example, if you’ve been jogging, do some leg stretches and target the calves, Achilles tendons, quadriceps, hamstrings and adductors. Alternatively, if you’ve been focusing on triceps exercises, then you should target these instead.
Getting ski-fit the easy way
Skiing is all about fun, and you certainly don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy the sport. However, the more training you can do before you go, the more you’ll get out of your holiday. So, if you want to get ski-fit the easy way, start your ski-fit workouts as soon as you book your holiday, rather than trying to cram a couple of months’ specific training into a fortnight! This way you will allow yourself to build up gradually and sensibly, without risking replicating the post-skiing muscle soreness that you’re actually trying to avoid by training beforehand.