Ski season is upon us and many will be planning a trip to the slopes of Europe or indulging in other winter pursuits. With the evenings getting darker, for some, there’s always the temptation to put the feet up in front of the television and pile on the pounds during the cold months.
But now’s the time to put a plan in action to get fit for winter sports. If you prepare your body now, you’ll hit the snow and ice in top shape and more importantly, reduce your risk of injury.
Here are some great exercises to get you ready for …
- Ice climbing
- Downhill skiing
- Cross-country skiing
Hours on a snowboard can take a considerable toll on the body and day two or three of your snow holiday is when your muscles really feel it. Flexibility, coordination, strength and endurance are all required to negotiate turns cleanly on the packed powder. Above all, your calves, thighs and buttocks will be working overtime.
The good thing is you don’t need a gym to train in advance because these exercises can easily be done at home. First, sit with your back against a wall, then stand up with your legs so your thighs are at 90 degrees. Hold for 30 seconds, take a short break, and repeat. Next, lie down on your side, prop your head with one hand and raise the upper leg. Hold for a short time, then bring your legs back together. Repeat until the muscles fatigue. To change it up, you can also do this exercise leaning on the forearm for support.
Ice climbing on frozen waterfalls or slopes is becoming much more popular. Walls of ice might be smooth but that doesn’t mean they don’t pose a challenge, especially as fingers and toes can become numb with cold. Unlike on a climbing wall, there are no standardised routes in the ice. You are at the mercy of what Mother Nature gives you. This gruelling pastime works the major muscles in the upper body like the back, shoulders and biceps even more than for pure rock climbers.
Your training should begin with a warm-up exercise consisting of push-ups with different arm positions. Pull-ups are also essential, and working out with a rope ladder is the perfect addition. You can then use the ice axes on a wooden ladder or an iron chain and work your way up using the feet as support.
If you’re going to hit Europe’s ski resorts, it’s always best to be prepared. It’s important to condition the body ahead of your trip, especially your legs and glutes, so you can prevent falls. You should start your workout at least three weeks before you travel. The downhill position is a good exercise to train the thighs and torso.
For this, bend the upper body keeping your back straight, knees slightly apart, up on the toes and arms forward. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and repeat twice more with a short break. To mix it up, you can move your weight alternately onto one leg.
Another exercise you can try is to stand up, pull one leg off the ground and “paint” the number 8 with that leg for 30 seconds - with five repetitions on each side.
The time when cross-country was regarded as uncool is definitely over as it’s now increasingly popular among younger snow enthusiasts. Skiing the trails is the perfect full-body workout as around 95 per cent of your muscles are put to use. Although the risk of injury is relatively low, strength, endurance and coordination are still vital for this energy-sapping sport.
In preparation, it’s a great idea to work on strengthening your balance. This will allow you to generate the power needed to propel yourself forward, and rope-training is a great exercise for this. Take two thick ropes in your hands and hit them up and down alternatively. This training is even more effective if you stand on a moving base such as a balancing ball.