The Top 10 Exercises to Get you Fit for your Skiing Holiday
Bluebird powder days get us excited. When we go to bed and it’s snowing and we wake up to the sun peaking it’s head over the mountain tops we know it’s going to be a day to remember. The only problem is that the day after our legs feel like jelly and our core muscles feel like they have taken a pummelling. Everyone wants to get the most out of their ski holiday and we think that with a small amount of ski fitness exercise to physically prepare before your ski trip you can spend more time on the slopes and less time recovering in the morning while reducing the risk of injury. And also ski fitness does not have to be boring!
Ski fitness essentially boils down to 3 key ingredients: Cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and strength + power. Firstly, cardiovascular fitness is your heart and lung’s ability to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues, and the ability of the muscles to use them to produce energy for movement. Skiing usually involves both aerobic exercise (moderate levels of exertion sustained over long periods) and anaerobic exercise (high levels of exertion sustained over short periods). Think about cruising down a long tree-lined green run (aerobic) and then charging down a black mogul run (anaerobic). So it would make sense to improve both your aerobic and anaerobic areas of your cardiovascular fitness. Secondly, a consistent stretching routine will help you absorb the bumps and feel less stiff on the morning after. It is a good idea to incorporate both static stretching (stretching a body part to it’s farthest position and then holding it for 30 seconds or more) and dynamic stretching (controlled movements of arms and legs that gradually take them to the limits of their range of motion). Thirdly, strength in both your legs and core muscles will increase the amount of time and intensity you can spend on the slopes. Both skiing and snowboarding involve a lot of eccentric strength – eccentric contractions cause muscles to elongate in response to a great opposing force. Think about gravity bouncing you down the ski slopes as your muscles absorb the negative force from each landing of a mogul or turn on the piste.
So check out our below Top 10 ski fitness exercises to get help you physically prepare for your ski holiday. The Ski Club of Great Britain recommends that 6 weeks of ski specific exercise will put you in good stead for your holiday in the Alps. Exercises 1 and 2 will focus on cardiovascular fitness. Exercises 3 – 6 will improve your strength + power. Finally exercises 7 – 10 will increase your static flexibility as opposed to dynamic flexibility. These stretches will help reduce muscle soreness after exercise and help get your muscles back to their original length. The pre skiing exercises will greatly help you prepare your body before hitting the slopes:
Exercise 1: Aerobic Exercise
Slow and Steady. 30 minutes to 1 hour.
The object here is to maintain a heart rate of somewhere between 55 – 80% of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t know what your maximum heart rate is that is not a problem. Just think during a cardio workout about trying to maintain a constant rate of exertion where your breathing quickens but you are not completely out of breath. You should develop a light sweat after about 10 minutes but you should still be able to carry on an conversation. Swimming, running and cycling are all good examples of aerobic exercise.
Exercise 2: Anaerobic Exercise
Fast and Short. 20 minutes.
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is where intense levels of exertion are combined with recovery periods. This type of training can be done in various ways: running, cycling, swimming, circuit training etc. An example running HIIT running session would be:
- 5 minutes slow jog warm up
- 30 seconds sprint then 45 seconds slow recover jog. Repeat 8 times.
- 3 minutes slow jog warm down
Your breathing will be deep and rapid. You should develop a sweat after only a few minutes of activity and you should not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Please note that High Intensity Interval Training should not be done without a good base level of aerobic fitness.
Exercise 3: Squats.
4 sets of 20 reps with a 60-second rest between sets.
Your quads will almost certainly be the hardest working muscles on the ski slopes. Squats offer the simplest and arguably most effective way to increase your strength and power in this area:
- Stand with your legs shoulder width apart
- Push your hips back
- Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor while maintaining a neutral back (do do curve your back)
- Stand up and repeat
Exercise 4: Squat Jumps
4 sets of 8 reps with a 60-second rest between sets.
Just like squats but next level! Not only will this exercise increase your overall strength in your legs but it will develop your explosive power. This will help you move out of your ski turn with more control and speed. Strength is your overall ability to move an external force whereas power is about producing the greatest amount of force in the shortest possible time. So during the squat jumps it is important to think about exploding upwards as quickly as possible and jumping as high as possible to develop your leg power.
- Stand with your legs shoulder width apart
- Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor with the same technique as a normal squat
- From this position extend your legs and jump into the air as high as possible
Exercise 5: Single Leg Lunges.
4 sets of 6 reps on each leg alternating.
A single leg lunge is a great exercise that focuses on the gluteal muscles that make up your bum as well as the fronts and backs of your thighs, the quads and hamstrings. It also has the benefit of working each leg in isolation meaning that you can improve any imbalance between each leg. Often when you exercise using both legs together you tend to compensate for your weaker leg by using your stronger leg more.
- Stand with your legs slightly apart
- Step forward with one foot and then squat down while keeping a straight back – don’t bed forward. Make sure that your knee on your front foot does not go past your toes – otherwise you risk injuring your knee.
- Push back up and bring your front foot back next to your back foot. Repeat with the other foot.
Exercise 6: The Plank
3 sets of 45 seconds. 30 seconds rest between sets.
The simplest and arguably the best core exercise out there! The correct technique is very important here – if you arch your back you risk inuring your lower back.
- Lie face down on the floor and then support your weight with your elbows and feet touching the ground shoulder width apart while keeping your back straight.
- Activate your core muscles by sucking in your lower abdomen and tightening your glutes.
- Keep your back in a neutral position at all times – when you start getting tired make sure that your hips do not dip towards the ground otherwise it will put pressure on your lower back.
Exercise 7: Lower Back Stretch
Lie on your back with both feet flat on the ground. Pull your left knee to your chest until you feel a stretch on your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly lower your leg back down to the ground. Repeat with your right knee.
Exercise 8: Glute Stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent and both feet parallel and flat on the floor. Cross your left foot over your right thigh. Grab the back of your right thigh with both hands and pull your right leg towards your chest while at the same time keeping your lower back pressed against the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly lower back down. Repeat with the other leg.
Exercise 9: Thigh/Quad Stretch
While standing grab your left foot and gently pull your heel towards your left glute while keeping your knees touching. To get a deeper stretch tilt your hips forward which will help lengthen out your quad. Also try tightening your glutes which again will help lengthen the other side of your leg. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat with the other leg.
Exercise 10: Hamstring Stretch
Stand with your right leg just in front of your left leg with both hands on your hips. While keeping your right leg straight, left leg slightly bent and your toes curled upwards, bend at the hips towards your right leg while keeping your back straight. Concentrate on pushing your chest out towards the opposite wall rather than your head down towards your toes.
We recommend doing 2 days of the cardiovascular fitness exercises plus 2 days of the strength and power exercises each week for 6 weeks before your holiday. Each day of ski fitness exercise should be followed by the static stretches. If you follow these pre skiing exercises in the build up to your ski trip in the Alps then we are confident you will be able to get much more out of your time on the ski slopes. You will be able to ski faster with more control, reducing the risk of injury, and generally feel more fit to ski. Unfortunately these exercises for skiing do not combat against hangovers!