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The Outdoor Athlete Book by Courtenay and Doug Schurman



Train Today for
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Sport Specific > Skiing > Winter Sport Training

Assess Your Winter Training Program

The eight sport-specific characteristics that need to be considered when revising your own snow sport training program include Strength, Speed-Strength, Speed, Stamina, Structure, Skill, Suppleness, and Strength-endurance. This model is developed and discussed in Supertraining, by Dr. Mel C. Siff (1999). Each sporting activity can be evaluated for how much of each of the eight elements you need to include in your workouts. First let's take a look at what each element is, in simplest terms.

Elements Defined

Strength refers to how strong you need to be for optimal performance in a given outdoor activity. Functional (sport-specific) strength can best be developed by using body resistance, free weights, cables, weighted balls or bars, and (to a somewhat lesser degree) certain machines. Speed-strength (or what we refer to below as Power) can be developed by doing jumps and hops, more ballistic plyometric moves (with emphasis on very brief contact with the ground or surface), medicine ball tosses, Olympic-style lifts, or dynamic moves in climbing referred to affectionately as "dynos." Speed refers to how quickly you perform a given movement--sprinters, for example, would include a larger amount of speed training than a marathon runner. We've chosen to label Stamina as Cardiovascular endurance.

Structure refers to body size and shape. For example, climbers and gymnasts want to maximize functional strength while minimizing muscle size and extra bulk, while bodybuilders want large muscles but don't seem to care so much about how strong those muscles actually are. Skill refers to technique and mastery of coordination. Suppleness, for all intents and purposes here, is labeled Flexibility, below, and indicates the amount needed in a chosen activity. For example, climbers, gymnasts, or cross country skiers will benefit from having greater range of motion in the hips and shoulders than, say, a marathon runner or downhill skier. Finally, strength endurance refers to how long the musculoskeletal system can last during a particular activity. If you assemble these on a Fitness Polygon, below, and then determine how much of each type of training you need for your sport, you can then make sure you include components of each in your periodized plan.

Fitness Polygon

Fitness Polygone adapted from SuperTraining


To help you get a better understanding of how this Fitness Polygon works for your particular event, we've created two examples within the broad category of "Snow sports." There are actually many specialties within snow sports: snowshoeing, telemark skiing, cross-country skiing, downhill, and snowboarding, to name a few (here we don't specifically address sports such as skating, ice climbing, etc.) Each activity has a slightly different profile. To further complicate things, if you are someone who wants to do a little of everything, you will have a much more interesting challenge balancing training components. (That's where outdoor conditioning coaches comes in handy. Leave that to them!)

Cross Country, Telemark Skiing, and Snowshoeing

This first example includes an evaluation of the components involved in snow sports that typically involve cross country travel rather than a rapid downhill descent. All three involve sustained activity and rate "high" for CV Endurance requirements. They also usually require less instruction in order to become proficient, compared to downhill skiing or snowboarding, hence the "low" rating in Skill. The exception, however, and what gives this trio a "medium" rating, is telemark skiing, which takes more time to master. Strength endurance also ranks "high", since the large muscles of the core, or torso, and legs coordinated with the upper body are required to work for an extended period of time, with the athlete usually carrying a fairly substantial pack. Someone whose main interest is backpacking, hiking, or scrambling during the summer months might have a somewhat similar profile (see Climbing Polygon). Cross country skiers, showshoers, and telemark skiers should focus primarily on muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance, with medium amounts of work on shoulder, core and leg strength, flexibility (particularly in the shoulders, core and hip flexors) and skill training, and little emphasis on body size development, power or speed (unless the goal is competition). Below is Body Results' interpretation of the body's training needs for snow travel across moderate terrain.

Cross Country, Telemark Skiing, Snowshoeing Fitness Polygon


Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding

The Fitness Polygon of the Downhill Skier or snowboarder will look substantially different and might vary depending on the desired level of skiing one wishes to reach. Skiers need flexibility training primarily in the calves and core, in order to complete quick transitions on skis and successfully maneuver moguls. Downhill fans would benefit from spending additional time closer to ski season preparing for staying in the low crouch position for upwards of 5-8 minutes, or more, depending on anticipated speed going down the slopes. General preparation in the late summer or early part of fall might include some biking, running, hiking or stairs. However, specific preparation closer to ski season should shift toward developing muscular endurance and strength in the upper back, core, and legs. A good way to focus on strength, while still providing an increase in your stamina, is to do circuit training a few times a week, alternating between strength training moves and lateral jumps or hops chosen specifically to simulate the moves you will be making on the slopes.

Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding Fitness Polygon


Integrating the model with your own experience

Take a look at your outdoor activity of choice or get an outdoor conditioning coach at Body Results to help you. If you are a downhill skier and you spend 3 hours a week doing yoga, you may not be optimizing your training time. However, you may be doing yoga for reasons other than to assist with your skiing, which is certainly fine--don't let this model be the end-all, be-all for your training, merely a guide. If you are primarily someone who likes to take the snowshoes out for short day trips on the weekends, then you probably don't need to add a lot of plyometrics, hops, jumps, or twisting movements such as your downhill ski pal would need. If you find that your calves burn the first day back on the downhill slopes, then preparing now to increase your calf flexibility and overall leg strength will help you prepare for a fun, pain free winter. Look at what's been weakest in the past, determine where that falls in the polygon, and then train those weaknesses away.

For questions related to this model, feel free to check into Dr. Siff's book, Supertraining. For questions about requirements of your particular sport or activity, contact a Body Results trainer.



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