1:05 PM

The Tips & Tales of Skiing

Wondering how training might help your form? Check out Coach T’s tips below for a stronger season on the snow.

 

Growing up in Vermont, I was fortunate to start skiing at just 4 years old. By the age of 5, I was on a racing team at The Green Mountain Valley School, where I trained every weekend in the cold winters until I was 17.

 

My coaches were experts at connecting with young kids and giving us personalized, bite-sized feedback. Most of the time, they gave us one thing to focus on and it would always come back to the fundamentals of the sport. Depending on the skill we were trying to master, we might spend as little as 15 minutes or as long as an hour on a single run, sticking with it until we began to feel the changes they had prescribed.  

 

Today, when friends, family and clients ask for advice, my suggestions still relate to those same core tenets that my coaches repeatedly enforced over the years. Though every skier is different and needs specific direction, I believe that there are three key concepts that all skiers can continually work on to shred better throughout the course of their lives:

 

Stay forward
Ski on both feet
Stay strong


 
STAY FORWARD

To win a ski race, the objective is to get through a series of turns fastest. If you crash in a race, you’re not winning. It’s that simple. So while racing may seem dangerous to the novice skier, it was actually a great foundation for ski safety. It forced me to learn—quickly—how to stay in control under all conditions.

 

The number one key for control is to stay forward on your skis. Lean forward, press your shins into the tongues of your boots and feel the tip of the ski bite into the snow. The hourglass shape of a ski (wider tip and tail, narrow middle or “waist”) turns best when its entire edge is in contact with the snow. When you lean back on your tails, you lose pressure on the tips, which means it takes longer for the skis to respond when you try to initiate the turn. If you need a visual, picture driving your car from its back seat...!

 

SKI ON BOTH FEET

When we are beginners, we make “pizza” or a wedge shape with our skis. As we progress, we make “french fries”—skis parallel and apart. These junk food analogies have stood the test of time because both kids and adults get them. (Besides, who doesn’t like french fries?) Good instruction should feel easy and make sense.

 

Once we reach french-fry-status, our snow “signatures” should resemble winding train tracks—parallel lines carved by the meticulous engineering of those complex boards under our feet. As you gain confidence in your turns, you’ll begin to “carve”—scoring the snow on the trail like the clean cut of a sharp knife—which makes these train tracks look even cleaner. If we weren’t carving at training, my Bostonian ski coach would yell at us for “spreadin’ the buddah” as we skied by him. In addition to leaving messy tracks, “spreading the butter” means you’re not grabbing the traction of the surface under your skis, you’re not winning races, and you’re getting into real trouble on ice.

 

A lot of intermediate skiers are able to carve with one ski (their downhill ski), but not both simultaneously. A goal nearly every skier—even experts—can work on is getting that pesky uphill ski parallel to its neighbor and in full contact with the snow throughout each turn.

 

 

STAY STRONG

Skiing may only be possible during part of the year, but the strongest skiers prepare year-round. Strong doesn’t mean hulk-like muscles or grunting on the bench press under hundreds of pounds. Strong means healthy, resilient bones, tendons, ligaments, and finally, muscles. When we slide down a mountain full of unknown obstacles—for fun!— even the best skiers are bound to fall from time to time. Strength is the key to injury prevention and real-time recovery on the mountain.

 

Toddlers can’t quite ski because they lack the strength to stand up and stay up, whereas older folks are more prone to fractures and soft tissue damage as a result of losing bone and muscle strength. The best basic strength exercises to work on off the slopes are the deadlift, squat, lunge, push up and pull up. Work on this routine year round, fuel your body right and get enough sleep...and you’ll be in better shape than 80% of the other suckers on I-70.

 

Coach Taylor loves talking shop—especially when it comes to skiing! For a pre-season training program, ski trip recovery protocol, on-the-go snack advice or tips for building up your endurance on the hill, email taylor@explorefitness.com. Or just yell, “It’s snowing!” to get his attention in the gym.


1:00 PM

Wake your A** Up!

What is the one exercise that will give you a better looking butt, get you in better shape, and get rid of your knee and back pain? (Hint: you're sitting on the answer)

 

Explore Fitness trainers and athletes of all ages and training backgrounds use "glute activation" everyday. Whether it's an isolated glute bridge or a hip extension (think squats, lunges, deadlifts), activating the glutes is an essential part of any fitness regimen. Not only will it enhance your performance and reduce your risk of injury, but you'll get a nice butt to boot!

 

The number one reason for prescribing glute activation is reducing stress on the low back and knees. The gluteus maximus - one of the biggest, most powerful muscles in the body - wraps around one of the most mobile joints in the body: the acetabulum (hip socket). That’s where the head of the femur (upper leg bone) fits into the pelvis, and weakness in that joint can easily lead to chronic pain in the rest of the body.

 

Many of us are locked in the seated position for the majority of our day, but our bodies were designed for movement. It's as if we were birds, blessed with the gift of flight, but choosing to stay in a cage all day. 

 

THE SCIENCE

The glute max's main job is to extend the femur and keep the body upright. There is a massive amount of that action going on in our daily lives! Whether you're a professional athlete, a casual runner, or simply a 9-5er standing at your desk, your glute max is working.

 

Because the glutes are one of the biggest muscle groups in the body, they are calorie burning machines when properly activated. If we skip the glutes in our warm up, our bodies will compensate by creating other - problematic - ways to move. In short, if one joint isn't doing its job, the joints above and below will suffer.

 

THE SOLUTION

Do you have low back or knee pain/injuries? Chances are the root is NOT at the site of the pain. More likely, the pain is a result of a weak butt!

 

Plain and simple: if your hips aren't moving like they should, your back and knees will move like they shouldn't! Ouch. Compared to the extremely mobile ball and socket joint of the hip, the knee and low back should stay relatively stable.

 

An alarming percentage of us will experience knee or back issues at some point in our lives, and incorporating glute activation into your daily routine may well be your first move to living pain-free.

 

Here are some examples of easy glute activation drills you can incorporate to get your booty looking nice and eliminate back and knee pain! With these three examples, remember to keep your abs tight, squeeze your butt, and pull your toes toward your shins. Try 2-3 sets of 10 reps each, before you start any activity.

 

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2:51 PM

PREPARE TO EXPLORE: TUNING UP YOUR BODY FOR SKI SEASON

t_ski

  
We’ve all read fitness articles listing the best lunges and squats to prepare our bodies for ski season. This isn’t one of those articles. While strength and conditioning exercises will undoubtedly help you make tighter turns and log longer days on the slopes, most of us are overlooking crucial steps outside the gym. Beyond leg and core strength or flexibility, below are key habits that can help you reach peak performance:

#1 Master the Basics
As a fitness coach for clients that range from pro skiers to fledgling ski bunnies, I always strive to assess the lifestyle needs of my client before logging any hours in the gym.

How much water do you drink?
Ideally, you should be aiming for half of your body weight in ounces (e.g. 200lbs = 100oz water per day, minimum).  Of course, you’ll need more leading up to and during days of intense activity—especially in dry, high altitude climates like Colorado.

How much sleep are you getting?
You know your body, but most people function and perform best after 8 hours. Even if you can’t get that every night, you’ll notice a difference if you prioritize the two nights before any trip to the mountains.

Are you adequately fueled?
Make sure you have a healthy breakfast and snacks that you can stash in your jacket pockets. Eat real food, minimally processed to maximize nutrient density. It takes more energy than you may think to stay warm and perform all day.

#2 Practice makes permanent
Movement dysfunction (bad behaviors developed over time due to strength and/or mobility imbalance) will eventually manifest itself as injury. Whether it’s that nagging knee pain or stiff lower back, ignoring it can strengthen the problem. Instead, focus on creating new movement patterns. It’s much easier than breaking bad ones.

There are some usual suspects in the lower body that often need extra attention. A self-massage starter pack can really get the ball rolling: a softball, a hard medicine ball, and a foam roller. Sitting on the ground, massage your calves with the softball, your groin and hamstrings with the medicine ball, and your IT bands, quads, and glutes with the foam roller. Pay attention: is one side of your body much tighter than the other? Do your quads have more knots than your hamstrings? Prioritize those tight areas and iron them out every day. You’ll be on your way to more supple, functional muscle tissue, better joint mobility—and reduced stress—in no time.

#3 Motion is Lotion
Unless you live in a ski community, you’ve got a significant drive ahead before you hit the slopes. (Heading west on I-70 from Denver, it can be two hours in the car on a good day!) We spend hours in the gym and thousands of dollars on gear…and then in our hurry to get on the mountain, we spend ZERO effort on our warm up (especially after sitting for that long!)

Newton said it best: “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.” When you expect to ski all day, you’ll want to clue your body into what’s about to happen—before strapping on your gear. Walking from your car to the lodge—as opposed to taking the shuttle—is a great way to warm up those legs. On the chairlift, squeeze your glutes for 5 sets, 5 seconds each. And once you get off the lift, pop those skis off and start your leg swings: one leg at a time, 15 reps front to back, then side to side (start low and slow, get higher and faster, and use your poles for balance). You’ll definitely see a difference on that first run.