Phil Teare, founder of thechaletexperience.com, discusses the importance of health and fitness for safe and enjoyable skiing.
So you’ve found a great ski deal this winter and you’re looking forward to hitting the slopes. Your flights are booked, your ski hire and lift passes are being organised by your host, and a cosy, snow-coated ski chalet awaits your arrival. But with two months left to cross off your calendar before your skiing holiday begins, the most important preparations may still lie ahead … in the form of health and fitness.
The issue of fitness for outdoor skiing is one which comes up quite a lot in ski forums online. In one post I recently read, a forum member asked: “Surely to get fitter skiing you should just go skiing?” This seems like a fair point, and it’s certainly true to say that skiing is an inclusive sport, and you don’t have to be an Olympian to enjoy a great vacation on the slopes.
However, a basic level of fitness, strength and flexibility will certainly help you to get the most out of your ski holiday this winter, keeping you on the slopes for longer and helping you to stay injury free while boosting your performance as a skier. This article sets out a few things that you can do to get yourself ready for the slopes. Of course, before undertaking any new forms of exercise, you should always consult a doctor, sports therapist or personal trainer.
The first thing to say is that you don’t have to hit the gym everyday to improve your strength and endurance for skiing. There are simple exercises you can do at home or in your everyday life which can make a big difference without the need for regular personal training sessions and an expensive gym membership. If done properly, a simple regime of basic stretches, squats and jumps can get your legs ready for a week on the pistes.
You can also build effective exercise into your every day life by cycling or even roller-blading to work, which will give you a good leg work out in the articulated knee position which you most use when skiing. Whatever system works best for you, you should try to think about five key attributes which you will draw on when you’re skiing: flexibility, balance, speed, endurance, and strength. Here are some tips to consider each attribute
Flexibility: The suppler you can be, the better. So lots of stretching will definitely be beneficial when you start skiing again this winter. When it comes to stretching, little and often is best, so 5-10 minutes each morning stretching your hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps and back muscles is definitely time well spent.
Balance: Skiing and snowboarding are both about balance above all else, so honing your sense of balance and improving your coordination can make a big difference to your overall performance as a skier or boarder. Simple exercises such as kneeling on a Swiss ball or jumping on a trampoline can have a big impact.
Strength: You’ll be using those legs a lot and, at speed, they are carrying forces much greater than your normal body weight – so strength is really important. The good news is that you don’t need a Herculean work-out regime to improve your overall strength. Body-weight routines can be done quickly and effectively from home. Squatting your own body weight, or just holding a squat position with your back pressed against a wall are just two simple ways to work on your leg strength without going near a gym.
Speed: There can be no better exercise than running, but you don’t have to go for miles to work on your basic speed. Try alternating between jogging and sprinting on the spot. Jog on the spot for ten seconds, then sprint on the spot in the smallest, fastest steps you can – again for ten seconds. Then, repeat. Can you last five minutes?
Endurance: You’ll be skiing all day everyday, so endurance is vital if you want to get the most out of your chalet holiday. Try sprinting up your nearest hill, walking down and repeating the process to make a “set” of three uphill sprints. This will really get your heart and lungs going, not to mention your quads! See if you can manage three sets (i.e. nine sprints in total), with a 90-second recovery in between sets. If that’s not hard enough, add more sprints to each set, or more sets to the overall routine.
Remember: you should check with your doctor before you undertake any vigorous exercise, whether it’s fitness for skiing or skiing for fitness.