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.