Less than two weeks later, the first winter storms arrived in force. Usually my fitness levels wane in the shoulder season, but last year I was stoked to be able to transition my strong biking legs right into skiing powder. That was until I couldn’t make it from the top of Apex down to Solitude Village without a break. Turns out mountain biking isn’t exactly training for skiing.
Thanks to a mild autumn, it was possible to jump right off the bike and into skiing last winter. I was logging 50 miles a week on dirt trails right up into mid-November! Less than two weeks later, the first winter storms arrived in force. Usually my fitness levels wane in the shoulder season, but last year I was stoked to be able to transition my strong biking legs right into skiing powder. That was until I couldn’t make it from the top of Apex down to Solitude Village without a break. Turns out mountain biking isn’t exactly training for skiing.
The best exercise for skiing is obviously, skiing. But, like most of us, I have this thing called a job that gets in the way of skiing more than a couple times a week. This year I was determined to get into ski shape before the season starts, but had a debilitating back injury that kept me off my bike and out of the gym for a few months with nerve pain so bad I could hardly walk.
The physical therapist I worked with gave me a legion of stretches and strengthening exercises I could do while watching (Laura says “wasting”) football on the weekend and cheering on my Yankees through a solid postseason run. To be clear, screaming at the TV was not one of my doctor’s recommendations, but I did plenty of it.
This September 1, I had the flexibility of a tin-man, the back of a retiree in Boca Raton and core strength of a snowflake. I began to worry I may not ski at all this winter, nevermind be in shape for opening day. Clearly, I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. I am not even qualified to write about a TV doctor. But, I did scour the internet, talk to professionals (doctors and skiers) and do much of the following myself. I’m not here to give advice, just tell you what worked for me to get into ski shape and hope it inspires you to do the same.
Speaking of inspiring, Laura is without a doubt the most inspiring person I’ve ever met. You should buy her a glass of wine at The Thirsty Squirrel one weekend this year and find out for yourself. Health and healing have been a priority in her life since she beat cancer (read: kicked it’s ass) three years ago. Since then, she launched a natural healing blog: MyNaturalHealer.com and devotes much of her energy to wellness. Her post on frozen tests of alkaline water will resonate with snow lovers like ourselves. Alkaline water helps “ remove acid waste from your body due to the higher pH levels, and ionization helps neutralize free radicals in your body.” I have no idea what that means, either.
Laura was the first person to tell me I should stretch more and drink more water. I didn’t listen: the Red Zone Channel was too loud, and beer tastes better than water. Clearly, she was right, and I should have listened. My physical therapist within five minutes began with that very advice, and so I began drinking three liters a day and doing stretches named “dead bug,” “cat & camel,” and “quadruped” he recommended. I’m not making any of this up - google it for yourself. I was told water was important to help transfer fresh fluid around the discs in my spine that were degenerating. Doing the exercises helped move things around and water helped them to grow back. This is of course my layman’s understanding of what they told me.
After a few weeks of just stretching and I began to feel better. But I could tell I was weak. It’s amazing how quickly you lose core strength and those tiny muscles atrophy from lack of use. I couldn’t hold a plank for more than 15 seconds but quickly was able to go for over a minute. Progress! Once my core began to regain strength, everything else followed. I had less pain. My posture improved. And I could start doing ski specific exercises --->
All you need is twitter and a wall. Founded by @kristaparry all you need to do is put your back against a wall in a sitting position and hold it as long as you can. Feel free to post your time on the interwebs and join a community of skiers aiming to get in shape and push each other.
Don’t knock it until you try it. I still knock it, even after I tried it. But, it works. Everyone has their favorite studios and classes, so find a friend and get flexible. For those of us who avoid spandex and group settings, check out some ideas from Yoga Journal and The Clymb, both geared towards skiers and riders
Body Weight Exercises
Local pro skier Angel Collinson outlines her training regimen at TGR, which also includes yoga, but is heavily focused on body weight, and most of it can be done from home. I can’t ski anything like Angel, but her routine is really applicable to all skiers and snowboarders.
Weight and Gym Training
My office in downtown SLC has a Planet Fitness in the lower level, which means I really have no excuse not to go. I still make up tons of excuses to skip hitting the weights. But, with opening day around the corner, I began taking advantage of some moderate weight training. Most gyms have trainers who can help design a specific program for you, or at least recommend a few specific workouts beneficial to skiing. While skiing is leg intensive, don’t forget to incorporate some upper body and definitely core strengthening as well. Men’s Fitness put together this five-step program that includes fun things like Romanian Deadlifts. Or, better yet, take fellow Solitude skier Grete Eliassen’s word for it in another five-step training regimen, along with US Ski Team teammate, Heather McPhie, at OnTheSnow.com
And like Laura says, don’t forget to drink water and stretch.