Monday, January 3, 2011

First Time Skiers - Fitness Before the Mountain

If you are from flat country, like me, or if you live in the high elevations, you will need to prepare your body for your first time ski trip. Skiing is hard work. To fully enjoy your time, you will need to have the strength and the cardio to actually do the sport, and not spend most of your time in the lodge... Maybe this is your goal, if so, skip this part.

This is part two of a three part series on first time skiers. My first post was on what to buy, this post is about the fitness of skiing, and the final post will be on how to plan, and what to do when you get to the mountain.
I am not a physical trainer. On the contrary, I am a fighter. I adjust my workouts to include some things before skiing so that I can enjoy my time on the hills. The good news is that skiing and fighting are actually very similar in their cardio demands. They are both small bursts of high intensity action followed by short rests. Skiing has longer rest periods, but the over all exertion lasts much longer. The things we need to focus on are similar, good overall cardio, and fast recovery.
As always consult your doctor before beginning any fitness activity. Don't be a moron and drop dead because you thought you should be able to run faster than you do. Listen to your body.
Skiing is a sport that focus much on your legs, especially the quadriceps. As you slide down the mountain, you will need to turn from left to right to arrest your fall. To do this you need to use the big muscles of your legs. We will focus much of our work out on strengthening these muscles.
Skiing also requires you to do this activity over and over and over again, thus you need to have the cardiovascular capacity to keep up the activity as long as possible. We need to do exercises that build lung capacity, and improve overall cardio.

First things first, assess your general fitness. You know if you are in any type of shape. It is important to assess yourself so that you know when to start your training. If you are in good shape, you can start maybe a month out, bad shape? 6 or more months out. If you are from flat country, the altitude will rob you of your gas. So you will need to do some cardio work even if you are in good shape.

Go out and run a mile. Not sprint, but at a good pace, say a 10 or 12 minute mile.

If you did that with out much trouble immediately after you finish do 15 lunges, each leg.

If you finished that with out too much trouble, do 10 burpees.

How do you feel? If you heart is racing you are gasping for breath, or if you could not complete the fitness assessment above, congratulations, you are in the 6 month club. If you did fine, take a rest we will get to you later.

My focus for fitness workouts are to push myself to the point where I am uncomfortable, then try to keep myself there for as long as the rest of the workout lasts. We are not going for weight loss, we are going for high intensity endurance.

6 Monthers

You will need to work out at least 4 days a week. Sorry, it just has to be this way. You want to ski? You gotta have the lungs.

Running (3 days a week)
Start out with running 1 mile. Attempt to push yourself to the point you are uncomfortable and keep with it. Be sure to time yourself, we are not running for time, but we do want to keep track of what your times are so that you know when to push to the next level.
After running, do 15 lunges per leg, followed by 5 burpees. Try to get them out as fast as possible, but listen to your body. Burpees are not meant to be easy, so some discomfort is expected.
Your other work out this week should be something strength related. I like to do push ups, pull ups, and dips. Be honest with yourself while doing these exercises. You should make it all the way up with your pull ups then all the way down. Touch your chest to the ground and lock your arms up with the push ups. Dips should start all the way up, and end when your chest is parallel with your elbows. Upper body strength is important as you will need to push yourself up small hills and along flat parts. Try not to ignore this aspect.

Space your workouts so that you get enough rest, but try not to have more than two rest days in a row.

As you improve your time in your runs, as you hit the 10 minute mile or better mark, increase your distance by one mile, increase your lunges by 5 per leg, and your burpees by 2.
What is your target distances and numbers of lunges and burpees? You don't have any. The better shape you are in the better off you will be on the slopes. Just keep trying to get better. It won't be easy. Remind yourself that the hardest part of the work out is getting off the couch.

Better Shapers

You guys have it easier. Keep doing your existing work out until about a month out from your trip. Start working in as many lunges, with or without weight as you can. I like to be able to do at least 50 unweighted lunges per leg before I go.
Start incorporating some high intensity interval training in to your workouts as well. Sprints mixed in with your jogs, burpees, other type of high intensity exercises.
Start doing some extra upper body, especially chest, exercises as well. You will need the extra strength.

The idea of your workouts is not to hurt yourself, or to work yourself out so hard that you can't move. The idea is to push your cardio and strength to get out of your comfort zone. If you work too hard you will end up being sore, and this will discourage you from more work outs. Not good.

If nothing else you will need to be sure to do the lunges. This will help strengthen the thigh muscles that you will use the most during skiing. I highly recommend the running and burpees as well. There is just no substitute for good cardio on the mountain.

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