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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman

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More Training Info > Preparation for Winter Sports

Preparation for Winter Sports

C. W. Schurman, CSCS 9/17/02

Some Body Results Resources

Are you eager for snow season to hit so that you can dust off your snowboard, skis or snowshoes? What�s the best way to shift gears from summer activities to your favorite snowy activities and stay healthy and injury free? We�ve compiled several ski-related articles on our web site; see S2Skiprep.asp for several basic strength exercises, S2Skiadvanced.asp for more advanced ski exercises involving plyometrics, and S2SnowPolygon.asp to better understand the training elements you need for your particular snow sport. Below, we combine all the necessary fitness components together so that you have a better understanding of what�s involved in order to make sure you participate in a well-rounded training program to prepare you for ski season.

Cardiovascular conditioning

The first fitness component to focus on, believe it or not, is general cardiovascular conditioning. While you may not think of downhill skiing as requiring a lot of oxygen, at least not as much as hiking, running, or cross-country skiing, the very fact that skiing usually starts up at higher elevation means that the better your general physical preparedness, the more alert you�ll be and the less likely to injure yourself. Cardiovascular conditioning will give you a base level of muscular endurance so that your body won�t fatigue as quickly on 10-20 minute ski runs repeated throughout the day. Once the leg muscles begin to tire, mental alertness goes, and accidents are more likely to happen. If you hit the slopes without getting adequate cardio conditioning ahead of time, at the very least, start with the easiest runs until the legs and lungs can handle the exertion and thinner air.

Lower Body Plyometric exercises

Think about the movements that you�ll be doing on the slopes; are you a moguls fan? Do you like to go crazy over jumps? If your legs aren�t used to absorbing the impact of hitting on the other side of any jump, you run the risk of severe knee injury. Whether you are a rondonnee fan, a snowboarder, or prefer to race downhill, you can benefit from some simple jumping, or plyometric, exercises. Try including some simple lateral hops or forward jumps to mimic the skiing motion. Place a jump rope or short sports cone on the floor and then jump sideways over it, back and forth, with feet fairly close together as they�d be in your skis. Start with 30-45 seconds of jumping at a time, for 2-3 sets, and gradually add time to each set as your fitness increases. If you snowboard, think closely about how your body position differs from downhill skiers � you need more body control forward and back, as you traverse across a slope. Try to get really familiar with balance on the heels and balls of your feet by practicing on a skateboard or even a wobble board like those in PT offices.

Full Body Strength

A month or so before starting with the ballistic jumps and hops mentioned above, be sure you�ve included free weights exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges or dips for the legs. Try to resist doing your strength training only on machines, as they don�t require the spinal loading or balance in three-dimensions like your sporting activities do. Exercises that help strengthen the abdominal and lower back muscles are also a good idea. These include all variations of the situp, crunch, reverse situp, and back extensions, as well as good mornings, stiff-legged deadlifts, and upper back exercises such as rows or pullups. If you find that your back gives you problems when crouched down over your skis on a run, then start building your �crouch� endurance by getting down in your ski tuck and holding that position for 1-3 minutes, interspersing sets with upper body exercises for the shoulders, triceps and upper back. Be sure to include targeted stretches for the quads, hips, calves, and lower back afterwards.

Ski Training Mental Warm-up

When you first head out to the mountains, give yourself a few weeks to get re-acquainted with (or try for the first time) your gear, since it may have been a long time since your last ski outing. If your friends dart towards the black diamond slopes and you�re not quite ready to join them, take a few hours to warm up on the easier slopes to test your legs and get in the right mindset. Rather than choosing the most difficult cross-country route you can find, do a few mellow, moderate ski conditioners early season. Just like any other sport, you want to maximize your conditioning and minimize chance of injury by preparing yourself with a few test-runs ahead of time. If it�s been several years since you last used your snowboard or skis, consider taking a refresher lesson for an afternoon.


Be sure to take some good snacks with you to munch on during the day. Try to avoid ski resort fare like burgers and fries. Healthy foods full of complex carbs and protein that tote well are chunky homemade soups in a thermos, sub sandwiches, low-fat granola bars, fresh fruit, and the occasional chocolate bar for a treat. Try to stay well hydrated, and stop to refuel or take a break whenever you feel you�re getting close to empty. During your dry-land training, consider sipping on a Powerade or Gatorade-type drink diluted with water in order to replenish the electrolytes you�re sweating out in your circuit class. And have a tasty snack and beverage ready in the car for the drive home. Have a great season!


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