There’s Still Time to Get In Skiing Shape

Sport |

Heading for the slopes? Get in great ski shape with these tips and exercises that will soon have you effortlessly skiing down your favorite run.

First, consider your cardio exercise. If a leisurely stroll or a stretch-and-tone class is your exercise of choice, you’ve got some work to do. Even if you’re a long-distance runner, you may do better switching to intervals for a time. Downhill skiing, while not as obvious an exercise of spurts as tennis, is still characterized by fairly short periods of activity, followed by periods of standing in line or sitting on a chairlift. Practice with three to five minutes of fairly hard activity (the intervals), followed by an equal amount of slow recovery. If you’re a runner, you can run two or three laps of the track, then walk a lap or two. On the stationary bike, pedal hard for a few minutes, then easy for the same. You can do this on any piece of equipment you enjoy; you don’t have to find some sort of ski simulator. Warm up first with some easy jogging or pedaling, do three or four intervals and then cool down for a few minutes. Do this twice a week, and your usual cardio the rest of the time.

You also need to strengthen your legs, or more specifically, your thighs. Squatting motions are most important here. If you know how to do free weight squats, do them. If barbell squats aren’t your thing and you’re at the gym, you can do leg presses. At home you can do your squats holding dumbbells or even with bodyweight. Start with your feet shoulder width apart and sit back, lowering yourself slowly until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. You don’t have to go to parallel for this purpose, because your skiing position is more of a quarter squat. For any form of squat, keep your knees over your feet, but don’t let them extend past your toes. Do not let your back round. If you are using only your bodyweight, hold your arms out in front of you with your fingers on the opposite elbows. With dumbbells, hold them down at your sides. Do three sets of 12 repetitions three times a week, on alternate days. If you wish, you can try the wall squat — a traditional ski conditioning exercise. Put your back against a wall with your feet a foot or so away from the wall, and lower yourself to a sitting, or almost sitting, position, with your back still flat against the wall. Hold it until your legs give out. It hurts but will do no damage.

You will have to push yourself along on the snow sometimes, plus carrying your skis, so some upper body strength is a good idea. At the gym, do rows and bench presses. At home, you can get by with pushups or do your rows and presses with dumbbells. Abdominal strength is important to hold your body in good position and avoid fatigue, so do your crunches.

Another good exercise is to hop sideways, feet together, back and forth over a string, stick or whatever. Move from the waist and give yourself a good springing motion. You can do this a couple days a week.

Next year you may want to start earlier, or better yet, keep yourself in shape all year round. But these exercises will get you fit enough to enjoy your trip without too much pain and be strong enough to improve your skiing technique. Have your bindings checked, don’t forget to pack your gloves, earmuffs and sunscreen and have a great time.