There are around 90 days until the 1st December, which means one thing – about three months until the next ski season begins! Although this may feel like a little while away, if you’re going to make the most of your time on holiday then you need to make sure your body is ready to handle a week of intense physical activity. And the ski exercise prep needs to start now.
If you’re already set with your catered La Plagne chalet, transport and other holiday essentials booked, the next step is to focus on your fitness.
Get prepared for the upcoming ski season with these different exercises – each in their own way can improve your fitness for skiing.
Whether you’re a beginner skier or enjoy regular ski holidays, you will need to work on improving your core strength (for balance), flexibility (to prevent injury) and endurance (for not tiring yourself out).
Here are some suggested types of exercise that work on these three aspects:
Core strength and flexibility
Regular practice of yoga works on key muscles used during skiing and snowboarding, such as the hamstrings, quads, lower leg, core muscles and back muscles.
Yoga can also help you concentrate and focus, as explained by Tammy Mittell, a London-based Senior Yoga Alliance Yoga Teacher, in her yoga for snowboarding blog:
“By taking deep relaxed breaths, effort that you exert becomes effortless. With a calm clear mind, free of distraction, anxiety or fear, you are present in each moment and each movement, which will allow you to overcome any obstacle calmly and confidently with control.”
She also has this tip for setting yourself up for the day:
“In the morning before you hit the slopes, practising dynamic yoga stretches such as the surya namaskar (sun salutations) can mobilise all the major muscle groups and warm up the spine and the joints. This will get the blood pumping, the breath flowing and you’ll be ready and energised.”
- Tammy Mittell, tammysyoga.co.uk
Tammy covers basics for beginners and core work for free on her YouTube channel.
Try out the beginner’s sun salutations sequence, or intermediate sequence if you’re familiar with yoga!
Core strength and flexibility
Pilates works on your core and flexibility, and will also include stretching to prevent cramp and strengthen your legs.
Pilates expert Bill Freedman explains why Pilates is great for skiers, and beginners in particular:
“For a beginner skier, balance is most important. Pilates concentrates on core stability, improving balance. It is also good for injury protection and movement confidence.”
- Bill Freedman, Pilates Central
He specifically recommends an exercise called scissors, which targets abdominals and stretches hamstrings. You can see it in action here:
Endurance, cardio and leg strength
Improving your overall fitness and endurance will make sure you can have a great time skiing or snowboarding and not get burnt out midweek.
The focus here is to gradually improve your fitness, building on your endurance so that in three months’ time you will be able to keep going for as long as possible each day. Building up this endurance over time also means that you are less likely to injure yourself.
To get into running and gradually improve, you need some good running shoes, some willpower and a plan. Louise from Good Run Guide has some expert advice:
“Just getting to the point where you can run 5k (assuming you start as a beginner) would be plenty sufficient enough to be a useful increased fitness level. Obviously it does depend on which level you start at, but from personal experience of skiing (only a very average skier though!) having the confidence that you can jog 5K without being completely out of breath certainly helps.”
- Louise, Good Run Guide
If you’re new to running and want to work up to 5k over a three-month period, Good Run Guide has a helpful and realistic Beginner’s Training Plan that will help you achieve this.
“I would recommend sticking to the Beginner’s Training Plan for aerobic fitness, a bit of leg strengthening and overall fitness confidence. The longer the run (especially without having enough time to build up to this) the more likely the chance of injury, which would be counter-productive.”
If your running level is above this, it is best to incorporate several different types of running into a weekly schedule. Good Run Guide has some helpful guidance here about creating your own improvement plan, including how much running you should do per week and at what pace.
If 5k is a good distance for you to aim for, a great way to work on this is by signing up to your local parkrun.
This organised scheme allows runners to sign up for a free, weekly timed 5k run. You are given a unique barcode when you sign up, which allows run organisers to track your time. You can check out your results after each run and see if you’ve improved. As well as this, parkruns are great community events where all are welcome, and they’re held in safe and pleasant surroundings.
To find a local parkrun and sign up (which is very simple to do), visit the parkrun website.
Skiing exercises at home
Core strength, cardio, flexibility
Fitting ski exercises around the rest of your time can be difficult, which is where exercising at home has its appeal. All you need is some space to exercise and, if you want to, some equipment for certain exercises.
If you want to incorporate this into your ski exercise plan, personal trainer John Pilkington has some great advice. Currently his online training services are primarily for trainees he sees on a fairly regular basis, but in the near future he is hoping to offer a wider range of remote training opportunities via his online training services website.
In the meantime, his guidance below is great for exercising different areas you want to improve:
Stretching and Mobilisation
Work on this every day.
Learn an effective dynamic warm-up which you can perform prior to training, or as a standalone mobility routine. I’d highly recommend Joe DeFranco’s ‘Limber 11’ which is described in detail and with a video here.
You will need a foam roller and a massage ball (a tennis ball or similarly sized ball makes a good substitute) to perform the first 3 exercises.
Save your static stretching (stretching whilst the body is at rest) for post-training/relaxation.
Work on strength 2-3 times per week, ideally on non-consecutive days.
Lower body and core strength endurance are the priorities for skiers and snowboarders, so you should focus your strength training on staple exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, and so on, as well as glute bridges, planks, hip thrusts, and lateral squats, and Pallof presses.
Don’t forget the upper body, though, and be sure to include press-ups/push-ups, suspension trainer or ring rows, and chin-ups or pull-ups. All of these provide excellent core-strengthening benefits too.
If you don’t have a gym membership, a suspension training system may be the cheapest and best way for you to get stronger at home. I’d personally recommend the Jungle Gym XT, available here, which fits most solid doorways.
Strength endurance and general stamina can be radically improved by performing simple circuits at home. You’ll need an interval timer such as Tabata Pro, which is available as a free web-based app, or as an iOS or Android phone app.
Try performing this example circuit 3-5 times per week:
3-5 rounds of 30 seconds work / 30 seconds rest
- Goblet or Bodyweight Squats
- Press-ups / Push-ups (if you can’t do full press-ups, it’s best to perform them leaning against a stable counter or surface, rather than performing them from the knees – always maintain a good, solid plank position)
- Lateral Shuffles, Hops, or Speed Skaters
- Suspension trainer Rows
- Front foot elevated split squat (15 secs each leg)
- Glute Bridge March
(Tutorial videos for all of these movements can be easily found on YouTube)
Rest 1-2 minutes between rounds
Of course, other sports and activities such as cycling, swimming, tennis, and so on will help you improve your cardiovascular fitness as well, but the circuits are a fantastic, quick way of preparing you for the snow.