If you plan to hit the slopes or Nordic trails this winter, or trek into the backcountry, chances are that you are already in decent shape and just waiting for snow.
In case you have put off your fitness goals, it’s time to get dialed in and ready. Being fit in all the right ways will increase the joy of the sport while reducing risk of injury.
The Idaho Mountain Express asked three local fitness professionals how to get in shape quickly, stay fit and how to prevent common injuries. The basic exercises they offer could mean the difference between a great day on the slopes and time off due to fatigue or injury.
Zenergy Health Club & Spa personal trainer Cory Duffy has more than a decade of world-class instruction from the fitness industry’s top professionals and is a recognized authority on performance health and longevity.
In October, Duffy hosted Zenergy’s dryland winter sports training at Dollar Mountain. The community had a chance to train there with members of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team, an Olympic development squad. The classes progressed week over week with increasing intensity.
“Everyone starts from a different foundation, but leg strength and leg endurance are central, as well as core strength,” Duffy said.
While not everyone has the opportunity or desire to work out with prospective Olympians, Duffy said it’s never too late to get started on the basics. He said skiers and snowboarders will benefit from squats, lunges and box jumps (leaping from a standing position to the top of a box or ledge, and then back down.) Alternating these simple exercises in a circuit series of 10 each will bring strength, as well as agility.
“These will get some of your fast-twitch muscles going, which are good for skiing,” Duffy said, as opposed to “slow-twitch” muscles that primarily consume oxygen and pertain more to endurance.
“The ultimate goal is to build up leg strength and endurance so you can ski longer and harder during the day,” he said.
Duffy said muscle development is also crucial.
“If you happen to take a fall, your muscles will make you less fragile,” he said.
Mark Morgan is a physical therapist at Boulder Mountain Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation in Hailey, and an avid alpine and Nordic skier. In private practice since 1999, he has seen his share of winter sports injuries.
“Alpine skiing is the sport with the largest number of participants who do not prepare themselves before the season, especially adults,” Morgan said. “They
say, ‘OK, it’s Thanksgiving and we have a pass, so let’s go!’”
Preparation should include hearty doses of cardiovascular exercise.
“The heart is a muscle and you need to have it in good condition to provide adequate blood flow to your demanding muscles while you are out there on the slopes or trails,” Morgan said.
That can be accomplished on the Stairmasters, elliptical trainers or stationary bicycles at the gym.
“The alpine ski champion Bode Miller does an intense cycling workout for muscle endurance,” Morgan said. “Strengthening, especially the quads and hamstrings, is also important. These muscles protect your joints against outside forces. The next line of defense after muscles is the ligaments, which can tear, especially the knee ligaments, while skiing.”
Morgan advises training the body core or mid-section with planks, side planks, abdominal crunches and Swiss ball crunches.
“One thing people can forget is balance exercises,” he said. “These can be done by squatting on a BOSU Ball [with one flat side for standing]. This balance training will help you recover before falling. The less falls, the less injuries you will have.”
Margie Cooper works as a personal trainer at the YMCA in Ketchum. She has taught skiing and snowboarding for the Sun Valley Snowsports School and has more than 30 years of experience as a fitness professional.
Back in 1989, she created a video locally called “Tune Up To Ski” that included the practice of putting ski boots on early and doing leg lifts with them on before hitting the slopes.
“It used to be all about cardiovascular training. Now, ski training is about the balance between strength and flexibility,” Cooper said.
In addition to many of the ideas shared already in this article, Cooper adds the component of “mobility work” for agility; wall sits at various angles can be added to squats and box jumps can include boxes of several heights. Squats can also be done on a slanted surface to include various angles of position on the lower leg and ankle.
“It’s all about range of motion and not just stretching,” Cooper said. “You can get your legs and feet used to multiple positions and angles just as they will be exposed to different angles on the slopes.”
After a long day having fun, Cooper recommends loosening up using foam rollers and tennis balls to release tight spots on the body, perhaps on the way to the hot tub.