It’s the run-up to your long-awaited ski holiday! The equipment’s hired and you’re raring to go! Then a friend innocently asks how your ski fitness is. Well, you go for the odd jog, you think, but it’s a holiday, right? You don’t need to be an athlete to ski, right?
Of course! We’re not here to scare you into thinking skiing is only for the super-fit. There are plenty of people who go skiing without undertaking any prior exercise and have a ball. As born and bred skiers, however, we like to get the most out of a ski holiday (and we’re very competitive), so we find a little prior planning goes a long way when it comes to ski fitness.
A good level of fitness will lessen fatigue, allowing you to stay on the pistes all day long. Working on your legs and core strength will also improve performance, help with learning, and lower the potential of injury. Although we’d suggest you get a head-start on training, every little helps – and even a week or so can have you in slope shape.
Below are a few exercises for skiing, mainly ski exercises for beginners – you black pistse-ers probably don’t need to be told how to avoid the A frame. Whether you have six weeks or one, have a crack and enjoy!
Balance and core strength
Skiing requires you to be in a semi-squat position, with your weight spread evenly balanced over your skis, so as not to place too much strain on your knees. For that you’re going to need to work on your core strength. Stickler physiotherapists will argue that there’s no such thing as your ‘core muscles,’ but you know what we mean! We’re talking about your abdominals, obliques, lower back and hips, and in order to get into shape for the mountain you’re going to need to work on these.
First off, practise the ski position in the safety of your own home, it’s easy to do and just as importantly – no one’s watching. Bend your knees, keep your weight forwards and evenly distributed through your feet – it’s important not to lean backwards or rest on the balls of your feet. By adopting this position regularly before you hit the mountain, you’ll become aware of the muscles you’re using, which gives you better control and stability.
- Stand on one leg with your eyes closed for 2 minutes twice a day. Once that becomes easy, try doing it while you brush your teeth, and then try raising and lowering slightly. Doing this helps build your balance as well as leg strength.
- Joining a pilates or yoga class will help build core strength and stability like no other exercise.
- Get yourself a balance ball and perform a routine of leg, back and arm balancing moves.
Your legs are what will carry you down the mountain, so they need to be strong. By the third day you’re going to be knackered, so building up that all-important leg strength before you go will have you racing up the slopes just as quickly on day seven as you did on day one.
- Steps are your friend when it comes to ski fitness. Whenever you come across some, take them at a run, two at a time, or bunny hop them. You might feel silly at first, but you won’t when you’re whizzing down the pistes!
- One-legged squats – Super uncomfortable, super effective.
- Squats – Like one-legged squats but with two times the legs.
- Leg press (if you have access to a gym) – Put the weights to your own body weight – don’t panic, your legs carry you around every day so they’re well used to that weight!
- Walking uphill backwards – It sounds crazy, but it’s great for working the ankles and calves, also great for looking mental. If you’re feeling confident you can even drop in a few lunges. Just…please be careful!
- Ankle flexibility – Speaking of ankles; stand against a wall with your bum, shoulders and heels against the wall. Slide down the wall, keeping all three points pressed against it, then slide back up.
- External hip rotation – Lie on your side with hips and knees in your already-practised ski position. Keep your ankles together and open your knees like a clam. Once you’re used to that, try tackling it vertically.
- Inner thigh – Avoid the A-frame shape, which can put stress on the knees, and train your inner thigh. Stand on a cloth on the floor with your feet shoulder width apart. Slowly pull your feet together, without leaving the floor or dropping the knees.
You want to get your money’s worth, right? It’s only natural! In order to stay on the mountain all day for a week, you’re going to want to minimise fatigue. The best way to do that is to have a solid level of fitness. We don’t mean to say that skiing is only for the super fit – far from it! But in order to be the best you can be, we recommend a little prior cardio training.
Jumping from side to side, keeping your knees apart (don’t let them cave towards each other)
These are all really solid ways to build your fitness and train your heart, so you’ll be able to stay on the slopes that bit longer.
Flexibility is not a huge requirement for skiing, granted. That said, flexibility training can help to loosen tight muscles that could become sore after skiing. Try these stretches before you hit the hill:
- Superman – Lie face down on the floor and lift your arms and feet off the floor, towards the ceiling. Don’t forget to clench your bottom. Hold, and repeat.
- Cat/Camel stretch – Standing on all fours, take a breath and lift your ribcage, rounding your back and neck, then do the reverse, pushing your chest down and looking upwards to tighten your back.
- Hamstring – Lie on your back and pull one knee towards your chest. Hold, and repeat on the other side.
- Pretzel – Sit on the floor with one leg out straight. Lift the other leg and place the foot flat on the floor outside the other knee. Twist your torso round to face backwards, using your hand to support you. Hold, and repeat on the other side.
It sounds cliche, but try to have fun! You are, after all, preparing for what’s set to be a brilliant holiday. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself – these exercises are just a few hints gathered by the Madame Vacances team to help you build your ski fitness.
Disclaimer: Naturally, only do exercises that are suitable for you. Madame Vacances accepts no responsibility for accident or injury resulting from our advice.