It’s important to be physically fit before hitting the slopes. But what does it really take to be ready for snow sports?
“Being in shape not only leads to a smoother body motion, it also enhances your skiing or riding skills,” says Garett Shore, Director at Rookie Academy, which runs world-class ski and snowboard instructor training programs.
Hoping to ski or ride yourself into shape will only make you feel tired and more susceptible to injuries, advises Garett, who has over 20 years’ experience as an instructor. Rather, you should get fit first. “We recommend moderate exercise for at least one to two months, before you ski or ride, to strengthen your core and increase your flexibility.”
Garett says there are four elements to on-snow fitness which can really help: strength, flexibility, cardiovascular (aerobic) endurance, and core training. He continues:
Strength training is important in maintaining a solid athletic position. Muscular strength develops your ability to relax and be in control at the same time. It also improves your ability to make fast adjustments in off-piste conditions and gives your body the support it needs to help prevent injuries.
Flexibility is the most important physical conditioning factor in preventing injuries and is often the most overlooked aspect of fitness. Flexibility is the ability of your muscle-connective tissues to extend as far as needed without compressing joints extremely.
Stretching all of your muscle groups for around 20 to 30 seconds before and after workouts will definitely do you good. Good flexibility gives you a larger range of movement, which can help improve your performance on the hill. Focus your flexibility training on your upper legs, lower back, shoulders and hips.
Cardiovascular fitness is the type of fitness that gets your heart pumping! When you are cardiovascular-fit your heart is stronger and more efficient at getting oxygen to your hard-working muscles. This enables you to ski or ride harder and faster for a longer period of time without fatigue.
A strong endurance base provides you with a solid foundation for more advanced leg-strength endurance workouts. Having a good aerobic base also helps you more effectively recover between challenging runs.
A solid foundation of fitness would include at least three weekly aerobic workouts of 30 to 45 minutes duration, and might include biking, walking, jogging, training on an elliptical or rowing machine, or hiking. Try to get your heart pumping for 30 minutes, three times a week.
Skiing and riding require stability, power, coordination, and agility in all three planes of movement to protect the entire back against load, torsion and shear. Connect the upper and lower core by training with a Swiss/exercise ball. This type of training will improve stability of the hips, trunk, and shoulder girdle and give you more dynamic strength.
Strengthening the upper and lower core muscles will help to provide a stable platform for the extremities to work off and protect your entire back and pelvis against injury during activity.