A five or six hour day of skiing can easily involve the equivalent of 3,000 squats. Let that sink in for a bit. If you’re having problems getting your imagination around that, start doing squats. After about five minutes you’ll get it. If you’re an athlete, it may take 10 minutes.
It turns out lots of avid skiers are ex-professional athletes or current amateur athletes. I came to realize that most of my ski buddies fell into this category. As I got older and larger, I also came to realize that I was their fat friend. My friends trained year round or had jobs that had them physically active outside of ski season.
I haven’t trained year-round at a sport since college. I was an office jockey for twenty-two years before I had an opportunity to start spending ski seasons on the slopes. I still worked off-season in front of a computer up to 16 hours a day. Every July or August, after the end of ski season, and not working out for four or five months, I’d begin my effort at getting into ski shape.
Not great shape. Ski shape. Or what I defined as good enough ski shape. For me, this meant the ability to chase my friends over 50 down the slopes without getting killed. My aspirational goal was skiing turn for turn with one of their kids, for at least one run.
My over 50 friends are no slackers. They are instructors, patrollers, and ski bums. Keeping up with them was no small feet. But I could do it if I worked hard for 4 months in the gym. As for their kids: most of whom periodically competed in extreme contests or were amateur racers, my aspirations were small. One run was all I required. And I chose to make that run when conditions were at their best. I kept it to one run. And if I was diligent about getting into shape, I’d succeed. Sixteen hundred vertical with an extreme skier.
I hate the gym as much as I hate working out. So my gym routine had to be pretty simple. Tae Bo. I was fortunate because the founder of Tae Bo, Billy Blanks, has a daughter that lives in my town. If I wanted to enhance my workout, I’d add some free weights, quad exercises and bike work.
Michael will offer some simple conditioning options soon, and over time we’ll try and share with you some of the very best ski conditioning exercises we can find. But let’s get started with the basics that you’ll need to know if you want to get smart about ski fitness.
The best way to think about ski conditioning is to understand what parts of your body are most involved. With this general knowledge of what parts and muscle groups are most important to great skiing, you can research exercises to help strengthen these parts of your body. Michael and I will also point you in the right direction.
Although these areas are sometimes described in differing ways, the following areas, and their descriptions will get you started.
Ski skills: balance and control
Your core, or your torso, is composed of a variety of muscle groups that help connect the top and bottom parts of your body. Critical skills like balance and control through your turn are dependent on strong core muscles.
Core muscle groups include transverse abdominis, external abdominal oblique, internal abdominal oblique, rectus abdominis and certain gluteal muscles.
Ankle & Foot
Ski skills: Edge control, edge pressure, rotational movements
Your ankle and foot is composed of ligaments and muscle groups that help you walk on different surfaces at all different angles. This group is critical for edge control, edge pressure and rotational movement.
This muscle group includes plantar flexors, that allow you to point toes toward the ground, and dorsiflexors, that allows you to curl toes toward your shins. Also see the Lower Leg Section.
Ski skills: forward flex, tilting skis.
Lower leg muscle groups work closely with the ankle and foot. The lower leg has three key areas: the anterior, posterior and lateral. The anterior area has extensors like the digitorum longus that supports dorsiflexion (moving foot upward toward the shin), toe extension and eversion (tilting the foot). The lateral area has the peroneus longus and brevis muscles that supports eversion and plantar flexion. The posterior, in the calf area, also helps plantar flexion.
These areas allow you to tilt your foot and flex the foot forward. These are critical in edging your skis.
Upper Leg (Knee Flexors & Extensors)
Ski skills: endurance, absorption (flex and extend) in bumps and steeps
Think quads and hamstrings. Bending (flexion) and straightening (extending). These are the big muscle groups involving your quadriceps that straighten your legs and stabilize your knee joint and prevent excessive rotation. It also includes your hamstrings that help bend your know and protect important, but easy to snap ligaments like your anterior cruciate.
We’ll post exercises and sites demonstrating exercises soon Check back here for exercises.