10,000 steps a day
But is it enough to prepare for your time on the slopes and really get “ski fit”?
I think we can all agree that skiing is fun, in fact more than fun it is fabulous! But no question about it it is a million times more fun if you are ready, raring and ski fit. Skiing can really take it out of you – extended bouts of physical activity while trying to remain upright on varying terrain! Combine the altitude with being physically active all day (depending on what your idea of a perfect ski holiday is!) and you can end up feeling pretty exhausted and/or sore at the end of the day. To really get the most out of your week (or more) it is best to prepare properly – good levels of strength & fitness will help in multiple ways by improving performance on the slopes, reducing muscle fatigue and aiding recovery for the next day. All this, in turn, will help your enjoyment and even reduce your risk of injury.
Being ski fit means being able to cover more of the mountain over the week, finish your days in style, minimise injuries & sore/tired muscles, aid recovery from day to day, as well as helping if you want to take your skiing to the next level and try new things.
Obviously it is important to keep fit and healthy all year round. But when it comes to preparing for your ski holiday it might be worth upping the game slightly in the run up and throwing in some more specific sessions.
Downhill skiing requires a blend of strength, stamina and endurance. Dynamic active skiing combines technique with power, strength & flexibility. We should be in constant motion, bending and stretching our legs, moving from one leg to the other all the while making adjusts to ensure we stay in balance whatever the terrain/conditions throw at us. Of course we are using our legs a lot but we must not forget our cores, which are crucial to the balance part of things.
So what constitues a good pre-holiday programme?
At this point I should probably add a disclaimer! I am by no means a fitness expert and have no formal qualifications – the following “chat” comes from observation and personal experience and should not be taken as anything other than that!
Squats and lunges are good. Use a Swiss or Bosu Ball to do the same exercises to up the core game. Add some weights to up the strength game – free weights will also help address the core side of things rather than fixed weights. And include some one legged variations.
Pilates – I can’t recommend this enough. I have just restarted some pilates sessions with the wonderful Ginny at Action Sportive Physiotherapy and Massage www.actionsportivephysio.com. I have to confess I normally prefer to sweat it out when I exercise and really feel like I have pushed myself. I was a little dubious about Pilates – I mean my mum does it so how hard can it really be?? Turns out pretty darned hard!! I always thought my core was pretty strong and I have let it look after itself. But actually it needs a bit of fine tuning and it can be hard to really tap into the deepest muscles! Ginny has been great putting us through our paces, pushing us hard but adapting exercises where necessary. And I am REALLY feeling the benefits. I would highly recommend a Pilates course before your next holiday and would bet money on you feeling the positive effects after a day on the slopes.
Pilates will help with balance & posture, toning the inner thighs to help keep feet/legs parallel, and overall core conditioning which will help with everything including keeping the movements of the upper & lower body separate and counteracting the twists and turns of the slope as well as improving the ability to get up unscathed when you take a tumble.
As well as strength, power and balance we also need to have a cardio focus and address the aerobic demands that can take their toll when skiing. A day on the slopes equals a day of physical activity at altitude where the air is thinner and oxygen levels lower so you also need to look at some cardio exercises in addition to any ski specific work, to help you with the altitude and a full day of sport. Cycling, running, swimming – these are all good aerobic exercises to incorporate into your fitness routine. Mix it up – do different classes, different machines, different weights. This will keep it interesting and make sure you cover your entire body and all muscle groups preparing you best for your winter holiday.
How far you go with your “ski specific” fitness regime really depends on what you want to get out of your holiday. If you like to take in the scenery, not push your limits and stop for long lunches and the odd well deserved coffee/hot choc/vin chaud then you will no doubt be fine with a little extra focus on your legs and core in the lead up to your holiday.
If, however, you want to push your boundaries, try new things and get involved in moguls, off piste & steeper slopes then you will want to up your fitness game a little. You can even look towards some plyometrics &/or fast feet work to improve your power, agility and coordination. Think explosive dynamic exercises like jumping & hopping, with or without the addition of boxes, hurdles and floor ladders
Skiing, in itself, is good for fitness but to take things to the next level then you should really take part in a more specific regime off the slopes as well.
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