Why A Ski Trip Starts In The Gym
For successful runs, you have to do the (right) work. Steal these moves and tips from pros and coaches.
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Slalom skiers sometimes withstand forces that clock in at three times their body weight, says Eirik Hole, U.S. Ski Team Women’s Speed Team Strength and Conditioning Coach. And while you may not be up against that, building a balanced body underneath you—one with good alignment, a strong core, hips, and powerful legs—is still crucial, regardless of skill level.
That’s why planning for a trip to the slopes should begin in the gym: Skiing may be an escape—invigorating and relaxing—but without the proper prep work, indulgence can turn to injury (and that can’t-quite-walk-right soreness). Here, an expert-backed plan for powering through your next day on the mountain.
Build a cardio base outside the gym.
Without an aerobic base, skiing for even a straight minute can be exhausting, attests Laurenne Ross, a U.S. Olympic alpine ski racer. But cardio can be boring. “I like to have fun while keeping my cardio up. I go mountain biking a lot—usually for between one and three hours. It builds a lot of leg strength too,” she says. “There are some similar aspects to skiing.”
Increase endurance with ski-specific intervals.
No matter where you’re headed, “you need some sort of endurance to be able to withstand forces over time,” says Hole. He suggests intervals in ski-specific lengths. Try this 53-minute workout he uses with the team:
Warmup: Jog slowly for 10 minutes, then for 5 minutes increase intensity to between 72 and 87 percent of your max heart rate. Incorporate 30-second, high-intensity sprints (87 to 97 percent max heart rate) if you choose.
Interval workout: Run for 2 minutes at high intensity, rest for 1.5 minutes. Repeat 8 times.
Cool down: Jog slowly for 10 minutes.
Prep for altitude with intensity and hydration.
“If you’re going somewhere with high altitude, the more cardiovascular-ly conditioned your body is, the more efficient it will be using oxygen,” says Beth Giersch, Senior Manager of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute and a skier herself. And besides upping your intensity and hydration, know this: “Your body hydrates more when you’re moving, so get up and move around while you’re hydrating.”
Build balance blind.
“Many injuries in skiing happen from loss of balance,” says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist who has worked with Olympic skiers. “Try doing lunges and air squats with your eyes closed. Not easy but extremely beneficial.”
Roll immediately beforehand.
If you have a mini foam roller, pack it on your trip. “Rolling is particularly helpful prior to skiing. It gets out any kinks or scar tissue and brings more blood flow to the muscle and soft tissue,” says Giersch. Ross agrees—that’s why foam rolling is part of her pre-ski routine.
Create your own force.
“You have to have enough force to withstand the forces you want to create on the mountain,” says Hole. “The better skier you are, the more forces will be put upon you, the harder you have to work.” That’s why the U.S. ski team practices power cleans: “The point of power clean is to create power—which is a force-velocity relationship where you have high speed and high force, just like skiing.”
Build solid legs.
“Regardless of the type of skier you are, you need strong legs and muscular endurance to make it through a full day on the slopes,” says Giersch. “Single leg and multi-directional movements will prepare your body for the dynamic and resilient movement skiing demands.”
Try: Skier Jumps (unloaded or loaded with ViPR) ,
Starting in athletic stance, hands free or holding a ViPR, jump out to the right and land on right foot, quickly sinking into a single leg squat as the left leg sweeps behind to count-balance; if holding a ViPR, reach the left hand toward the right foot before jumping laterally to the left foot and repeating for reps or timed intervals.
(Note: Be sure to master loaded lateral lunges before progressing to skier jumps.)
Try: Mini Band Monster Walks (lateral and diagonal)
Slip a mini band above knees (easier) or ankles (harder); maintaining an athletic stance (feet just wider than shoulders, knees bent, slight bend at the hips, arms grabbing invisible ski poles), step out further to the right and bring your left foot back to the starting stance; repeat 10-15 times and then repeat going to the left. Diagonal: Moving forward first, maintaining that athletic stance; take a wide step about 45 degrees diagonally to right, then tap left toe shoulder-width from your right before stepping diagonally to the left; repeat 10-15 times and the carefully repeat going backwards.
Try: 'Round the Clock' Lunge Matrix (loaded or unloaded)
Stand with feet together and imagine you're at the center of a clock; starting with your right foot, do a forward lunge to 12 o'clock and back to center, then lunge diagonally to 1:30 and back, then do a lateral lunge to 3 o'clock (anchor leg is straight) and back, then another lateral lunge to 4:30 (anchor leg straight again) and back, and then a regular (reverse) lunge back to 6 o'clock; switch to your leg leg and start at 12 o'clock again (then 10:30, 9, 7:30 and 6); repeat 3-5 rounds of the full clock.
Stabilize your core.
“When skiing, your upper body should be relatively stable as your lower body shifts left and right and rotates,” says Giersch. “Focus on similar, anti-rotation exercises. This dynamic stability will help you react and recover quickly when the mountain or another skier throws you off balance.”
Try: Superman Planks
Start in plank position on your hands; lift your right arm up as if asking a question in class, then return it to the ground; then lift your right leg off the ground without moving the rest of your body, then your left leg, then your right arm; once you've mastered the single-extremity lifts, progress to lifting your right arm and left leg simultaneously for a few seconds and alternate for reps or timed intervals.
Try: Chops and Lifts (with cable or medicine ball)
From a standing or half-kneeling position, remaining tall from tail-bone to the top of your head, shift a weighted cable or medicine ball diagonally from one hip to the opposite side of your body overhead ("lift"), or in the opposite diagonal direction from overhead down to the opposite hip ("chop"); do chops and lifts in both directions for reps or timed intervals
Try: Warding Patterns (with cable or partner)
Using either a weighed cable or manual resistance from a workout buddy, start in athletic stance with arms extended in front of you, hands together, shoulders down, and resist allowing the external force to pull you left, right, down, or up (depending on which way the cable or buddy is pulling/pushing); from this starting point, keep your arms and upper body stable while repeating simple foot patterns such as side steps, cross-over steps, external rotation steps or small shuffles; switch up the direction of the external force and repeat for reps or timed intervals.