Published October 27, 2015
Hitting the slopes can be daunting for an out-of-shape beginner and even for more experienced skiers, but fitness experts say whatever your level of expertise, everyone can benefit from a bit of pre-ski preparation.
Lisa Wheeler, a New York-based fitness instructor, believes it's never too late to get in shape to make skiing more enjoyable and safe. But don't overdo it.
"Do some basic strength training for the legs, core and arms," said Wheeler, fitness program director for DailyBurn, an online workout site. "But if you haven't done anything, dial it back a little."
Wheeler recommends lunges to strengthen the quadriceps, the long muscles in the front of the thigh.
"Lunges are quad-dominant and skiing is very quad dominant because your knees are bent and you're going downhill," she said. "And lunges also work the hamstrings and glutes," she explained, referring to the large muscles that form the buttocks.
Wheeler thinks the novice can forgo jumping or hopping lunges and concentrate instead on matrix lunges, basically stepping to and pushing off different directions across the range of motion.
"For the last-minute person I recommend taking it easy," she said.
Wheeler said people think of skiing as going in one direction, downhill, and neglect to prepare their hips and core for the considerable demands of the activity.
"If you analyze skiing there's a lot of rotation and lateral movement of the hips," she said. "I would do some core exercises, such as planks, and rotational movements with the medicine ball," she said. "Because going down the slopes your body is turning, your hips are turning."
Jessica Matthews of the American Council on Exercises suggests exercises that mimic the activity of skiing, which along with cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength, demands a measure of speed and agility.
"I'm a huge fan of cone drills," she said. "I just picked up a set for the house."
Sold in sporting goods stores, cones are smaller and lighter than traffic cones. Matthews, an exercise physiologist, thinks they are ideal for setting up a circuit to train for the movements of weaving down a mountain.
"You can work on developing lower body strength, lateral movements, do cone jumps and practice proper landing," she said.
Squats and lunges build lower body strength but for those challenged by a full squat, Matthews suggests the wall sit, which is essentially placing the back against the wall with knees bent.
Ideally, she said, you want to begin a pre-ski routine at least six weeks prior to hitting the slopes.
"That's a good time from physiological standpoint," she said.
Another crucial element to skiing is the ability to react quickly.
"Downhill is not straight downhill," said Matthews. "You have to dodge people. You've got to be able to make quick changes, you might have to counter a fall, so it's important to make sure your hips, legs, shoulders, spine are all ready to go." Wheeler said.