Ski Season Fitness

HOW TO GET IN SHAPE FOR YOUR SKI VACATION

Your dream ski trip is booked. Now, despite your best intentions, you see that date quickly approaching and aren’t quite in the ski shape you had hoped you’d be in to maximize fun and vertical feet skied. While I don’t know of any miraculous workout or pill that will instantly get you ready for that trip, there are some things you can do to prep for your upcoming vacation or ski season in general.

Acclimation

I spent over 20 years ski patrolling in Utah and the first (and most common) complaint I heard from out of town visitors was problems with altitude. Coming from sea level to 10,000 feet is no easy feat for your body and it will make you pay for it in various ways, from headaches and nausea, and to more serious complications that may require medical help. Unfortunately, the only real way to acclimate is to spend time at altitude. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to help acclimate quicker once you arrive. First, avoid the temptation to rush straight out the door and onto the slopes upon arrival. Allow your body time to acclimate and adjust. Hydration is a huge part of acclimation, and unfortunately, alcohol is the enemy of both hydration and acclimation. Take it easy the first day, hydrate and do your best to get a good night’s sleep. All of these things will help you acclimate quicker to help you fully enjoy your entire vacation.

Fitness Prep

What can you do to get yourself ready for your ski trip or ski season? From a fitness perspective, the three key elements I look at are:

  1. Injury proofing,
  2. Stamina (local and systemic endurance) and
  3. Core strength.

Injury proofing is simply preparing your body for the rigors of the activity you want to perform. For stamina, we look at your overall endurance – the ability to get that last run or two in without fatigue (fatigue leads to injury) and local endurance – extending the time you can ski without your legs feeling like they’re going to explode. Core strength (when I say core, I’m referring to all muscles groups from your armpits to your hips, not just your abs) is critical to balance, stability and anti-rotation.

The more time you have before your vacation, the better prepared you will become. For this particular fitness program, you need essentially one hour of work, three days a week with one longer 90 to 120-minute effort on the weekend. It repeats each week with an approximate 20% increase in volume. You could theoretically repeat it indefinitely, although at some point you would start to see diminishing returns based on how fit you were to begin with.

Ideally, you would train Monday, Wednesday and Friday with your longer effort on Saturday, but none of these days will be so hard you can’t train back to back days. I would, however, caution against three days in a row. On off days, supplemental work like yoga, pilates or low-impact cardio (walking, cycling, swimming) will only benefit you more. The rule here is don’t work so hard on off days you have to sandbag the workout day.

Without specific one-on-one evaluation, it’s a little tricky to generalize the starting weights, but we’ll do our best. If it’s too easy, add weight, if it’s too hard, do less. At Gym Jones, we are more interested in doing the total reps/sets with good form than less or poor-quality reps at higher weights.

The Workouts

MONDAY: LOWER BODY STRUCTURE & STRENGTH

Warm-up:

10 min cardio warm up easy pace – row, bike, run etc.

2×5 Wall Squats

2×10 Air Squats

3×5 Single Leg box squats (each leg)

2×10 Forward Lunge

2×10 Reverse Lunge

 

Workout:

10×10 Back Squats (Leg Press is acceptable if you are uncomfortable with Squats)

The weight is a little tricky here, but we’re more interested in volume (total reps) than big weight. The workout is 10 sets of 10, this should be difficult without causing muscle failure or form break down. We are building the local area strength endurance, so for a very fit person, this may be a bar loaded with their body weight. For a beginner, this may mean an empty bar. Start light and find your appropriate working weight. If you’ve never back squatted, start with a bar and work up. If the bar is too much, you can substitute a dumbbell or kettlebell held in the goblet rack position.

 

Supplemental:

5 min 30:30 Hip Bridge holds – 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest for 5 min – active hip bridge, squeezing glutes and pushing hips toward ceiling

3×10 Romanian Deadlift – use KB or DB, focus on hamstring contraction, not the low back

 

Cool Down

10 min easy cardio, walk, foam roll etc

 

WEDNESDAY: POWER ENDURANCE & CORE

Warm-up:

10 min easy cardio

3×10 push-ups

3×5 pull-ups or ring rows

 

Workout:

15 rounds 30:90 Rowing Intervals

We prefer the Concept2 Rower, but any will do. If you don’t have access to a rower, a stationary bike, air bike or sprints will work. Idea here is 30 seconds work at 80-85% MHR or a 7-8 on the RPE scale, you should be working hard enough you can only speak 1 syllable words or grunts. During the rest period, perform 5 Dumbbell push presses (2x 20-30# for men, 10-20# for women) and focus on controlling breathing and slowing down your heart rate.

 

Supplemental:

50 curl-ups

50 superman extensions

 

Cool Down:

10 min easy cardio, walk, foam roll etc

 

FRIDAY: NO GEAR, HIIT (HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING)

This is “28 Minutes of Hell”, a no-gear workout we designed for deployed US military units to maximize full body work, increase cardio capacity and train the body to clear lactate. The intensity is determined by reps per round. By tracking them, you simply aim for more reps as fitness increases. You can do this anywhere from a hotel room to a roadside rest stop and anywhere in between. All you need is a stopwatch or interval timer. Since the workout is short and intense, your warm-up should be whatever you require to loosen up and be ready to work.

Warm-up:

10 min easy cardio

Shoulder Dislocates

Air Squats

Stretches and mobility work

 

Workout:

The workout is comprised of 5 movements, each done in 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest style for 4 minutes, with a 2 min intermission between each. To maintain intensity, count reps in the first 30 seconds and try to hit that number all 4 rounds of each exercise.

Round 1 – 4x (30:30) Frog Hops

2 min intermission

Round 2 – 4x (30:30) Split jumps

2 min intermission

Round 3 – 4x (30:30) Burpees

2 min intermission

Round 4 – 4x (30:30) Push-ups

2 min intermission

Round 5 – 4x(30:30) Air squats – for max burn, do these ‘hell style’ during the rest period hold in the 90 degree squat position – no knee/elbow contact and your butt not resting on your heels.

 

Cooldown:

Spin on a bike, walk, foam roll – neglecting your quads today will cost you tomorrow

 

WEEKEND

This is where you pick your poison: run, hike, cycle, swim for 90 to 120 minutes at 65-70% MHR.

 

INTENSITY

As you progress, you should increase the stress each week. For Monday’s workout, increase the weight on the back squat. On Wednesday, try to add a few meters to each interval, you can also increase the weight on push-presses. On Friday, go for 1 to 3 more reps in each round than you did the week before.  

I can’t make you fit in a short period of time, we still haven’t found that magic pill, but we can help prepare your body for the rigors of a ski vacation to minimize injury and maximize fun.

Article & Workouts by Jake Hutchinson

This article was written for the Wagner Journal by Jake Hutchinson. Jake has spent more than 25 years working as an avalanche professional. He is currently a lead instructor for the American Avalanche Institute, an avalanche dog handler and trainer and an avalanche safety consultant to the resort and rescue communities. Off the snow, Hutchinson is a Certified Instructor and former Head of Instructor and Seminar Development for Gym Jones in Salt Lake City. He is currently involved in private personal training with an emphasis on high level functional fitness for mountain and military athletes.