GET SKI FIT: Simple workouts to help you get ready for the piste
For those of us who are snow bunnies rather than sun goddesses, will probably be heading for frostier surroundings this winter. To get the best out of our winter ski holiday it’s best to be prepared as we possibly can be before we click into our skis. Rob from Stridefit has kindly written this excellent post to help you get prepared for ski-fun.
As an old fitness mentor once told me, “fail to prepare then prepare to fail” (and no this wasn’t Yoda), which I took to meaning if we don’t build some sort of strength and physical condition beforehand then we risk either having a very sore time on the piste (or post-piste woe) or worse still get an injury that puts us out of action for the rest of the holiday (not nice).
However finding both terrain and snowy conditions in Blighty to practice our ski technique can be difficult, if not impossible (in fact even more so for those looking after kids). Luckily though there are some straightforward ‘dry land’ workouts that can help build strength, stamina and power and which are transferable to the slopes!
Unfortunately the following exercises are not recommended for those in the later trimesters of pregnancy or those who have recently had a baby. Remember, during pregnancy the body produces almost 10 times the normal amount of a hormone called relaxin, which acts to relax joints in the body. High impact and load bearing exercises that jar or stretch the joints may cause damage to the tissues – so take it easy on yourself.
STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
- Building a stronger core is essential for those who will be maintaining and adjusting their center of gravity over skis or a snowboard.
- Everything from maintaining ski positions, changing direction, jumping, taking on moguls and/or suddenly stopping all work core muscles and abs hard. Often you’ll be keeping the core tight for extended periods of time, so it is fundamental that we spend time strengthening this area before we go.
- A minimum of 4-5 weeks before your holiday try and build in regular core building workouts comprised of mainly isometric (or static) exercises. Try to do at least 2 sets of the following exercises 3 times a week for maximum effect.
o Planks – This will really work your core muscles, such as the transversus abdominis. Try to hold a plank position for 30 seconds or more. Make sure you keep your body straight, if your bum’s too high simply dip the hips slightly. You should be feeling this exercise in your abs, if you start to feel it in your lower back just drop the knees and hold a half-plank for the remaining time.
o Side planks – This will work in part the core and also the side trunk muscles such as the internal and external obliques. Similar to the above, try and hold on each side for 30 seconds or more. If you feel like you can’t hold for the full 30 seconds, lift the top leg and place the foot in front so it’s acting like a little support and taking some of the weight. Over time you’ll find you won’t need to do this as you get stronger.
o Single leg bridges – This will work the lower core and the muscles of the bum, called the glutes. As before try and hold the position for 30 seconds on each leg. Keep those hips pushing nice and high and that will really activate the glutes.
o Hyperextensions – This will work on the muscles of the lower back, the erector spinae and perhaps the multifidus. Unlike the others perform this isn’t an isometric exercise and instead should be performed for 15-20 repetitions. When performing this exercise – lying on your front with your hands by your sides and pulling the chest up from the ground – first try lifting the shoulders off the ground to increase the number of back muscles being recruited, strengthening more of the back.
BUILD YOUR LOWER BODY STRENGTH
- Having good lower body strength and muscular stamina will help you no end on the slopes. During a ski run you’ll be moving into and holding body positions to turn, avoid obstacles and even jump, which mean you’ll work the muscles of the back, bum and legs continuously for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes – I know, tough….
- If your muscles aren’t used to operating at this level before you go then chances are you’ll have a extremely painful start to your holiday. Worse still, a weak back, bum and legs will mean within seconds you will be struggling to hold your form, making the slopes a whole lot less fun and a whole lot more hair-raising!
- Kettlebell exercises are some of my favourites for getting clients ski fit. These exercises use the momentum of a kettlebell – basically a cannonball shaped weight with a metal handle – to build the muscles of the back, bum, legs and core, plus they raise the heart rate and build aerobic fitness – two benefits for the price of one!
- There not the easiest exercises to do and need plenty of practice to get right. If you haven’t used before I really recommend booking onto a local beginners kettlebell training session or bootcamp where you should be able to pick up the basics you need….ahem….so read on…
Shameless plug time: I run group kettlebell sessions for people all ages and abilities in Brighton and Hove. To make sure those new to kettlebell training use correct technique from the start I provide a free 30 minute induction where I teach the basics – the only way to ensure people are exercising both safely and effectively.
- At least 5-6 weeks before you go start introducing at least 2 sets of the following exercises into your workout 2 times a week and you’ll really notice the difference.
o Kettlebell deadlifts – This is a great and simple exercise for building muscular stamina in the glutes quadriceps and hamstrings. As we are focusing on endurance over pure strength don’t use too heavy a weight.
o Kettlebell 2-handed swings – The perfect exercise for not only strengthening the muscles of the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes and back) but also the core. Again we are focusing on endurance so don’t choose too heavy a weight and aim for between 45-60 repetitions.
§ The glutes are a fundamental muscle in this exercise as their contraction creates the momentum for the swing, plus as the kettlebell comes down between the legs, these muscles will soak up the energy as it slows down. A good back position is vital, so if unsure speak to an exercise professional.
o Kettlebell reverse lunges – This exercise will focus on building strength and power in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Try to perform the exercise for 45-60 seconds per leg with the kettlebell in a ‘racked’ position.
o Single-arm kettlebell row – As you’ll be spending a lot of time in a forward flexed position you may want to focus on some exercises for the back muscles to counter. This exercise can also be done using dumbbells or the back row weights machine at the gym.