Come winter, most skiers simply ski themselves into shape. But there’s no question you can be kinder to your December body if you work up to the new season ahead of time.
Here we’ve compiled a few proven ways to fast forward your personal fitness before ski season. We suggest starting small. Twenty or thirty minutes of focused movements a few days a week can build a terrific base. If you find it tough to fit in a workout in your busy schedule, our tip is to aim for the first half of your lunch break. Come December, when you are deep in a powder turn and call upon your legs to push back, you will be happy you put in some time to make sure the strength is there.
Skiing begins with leg strength and resilience. These exercises will help you maximize your vertical from the first day of the season.
Side hops are meant to simulate a parallel turn. These left-to-right-to-left bunny hops, like jump lunges, build explosive strength and endurance – just what you need for long bump runs.
The Move: Keeping your feet parallel, bend to a 90-degree angle and leap to your left, cushioning your landing by bending again to 90 degrees, then leaping back to your right. Try for a set of 10 to start, and increase the count as you grow stronger. (Tip: Complement this exercise with wall sits to build pure leg strength without the impact).
Jump Lunges build critical quad strength – important for alpine skiers, but especially for telemark skiers. This drill trains muscles to respond with fast-twitch movements, particularly in the early season when the reactions aren’t as automatic.
The Move: Start with one leg forward and the other back, with your hands behind your head. Bend deeply then explode upward, changing which leg is forward and which leg is back before you return to the earth. Repeat as many times as you can handle.
Working your core ensures stability, giving the limbs a solid platform. Without core strength, the body will break down after a few runs. And you need core stability to pull off that heroic recovery.
You need a strong back and abs. Together, they form our nucleus of strength. The Plank is the way to start.
The Move: Get down on your forearms and toes, and hold the pose. Keep your butt down and your back ramrod straight. Stay there for 30 seconds at a time, and push it to a couple minutes as you build power. You’re earning extra turns with the burn you feel.
Call ’em old school if you want, but nothing turns your abs into granite quite like crunches. The most effective crunches put a twist on the classic one you know.
The Move: Lie on your back, bend your knees, put your hands behind your head, and start doing sit-ups by bringing your right elbow to your left knee, then your left elbow to your right knee. Try to keep your feet and upper back from touching the ground. Do them in sets of 15 to start.
While our legs assume a large percentage of manual labor during a ski day and our core keeps everything intact, it’s the lungs that keep everything working. If you’ve been desk-bound, especially at lower elevations, these aerobic exercises are vital.
The burpee is the 21st century jumping jack, It builds speed, strength and endurance, teaching your body to push through lactic acid the way it might on a high-speed charge in the variable snow.
The Move: Start with your hands above your head, drop to a push-up, then frog jump back to a standing finish with your hands up high. Make time for a few sets of these each day and you’ll be stomping steeps like a billy goat.
Nothing too scientific here, just a good all-around exercise that helps you cover distance and work your legs, lungs, core and mind. It even improves peripheral vision and balance which is important if you’ve been staring at a computer screen all summer. (Insider tips: read how to become a better downhill mountain biker here and how to choose the best mountain bike for your ergonomics and riding style here.)
Running over rugged, rocky, uneven terrain doesn’t exactly simulate the act of skinning uphill or skiing downhill on smooth, uniform snow. But, it trains your body to accept and manage pain while climbing and descending. Trail running is as good a cardio workout as is available in nature, assuming you push yourself. If you don’t like running but still want to train for going uphill, find a hill or mountain with a consistently steep grade and hike straight up the fall line with ski poles. (Insider tip: learn why skiing and trail running provide such an important, interconnected fabric to life here.)
Mixing up these simple workouts throughout the week will help you get, and stay in shape for ski season. That means less time taking breaks and more time enjoying powder.