Lovely as it is, skiing can throw all sorts of curveballs at your body. It can be intense on the peaks – days are long, and the air is thin, ramping up the pressure on your cardio. So, if you’re thinking of hitting the slopes this Winter, it’s vital you pay attention to your strength, fitness and flexibility before you go. There’s nothing worse than strains and pains – or worse – putting the kibosh on your winter getaway. After all, you’ve paid good shilling and want the most from your week on the snow. Build your fitness and strength beforehand and not only will you reduce spills, tears and power outages, you’ll perform better and hit the après ski with a smile on your face.
Legs, legs, legs
Although skiing works your whole body hard – and we’ll talk a little bit about core strength below – legs are where the action is. They’re your prime movers. Turning, edging, snow-ploughing, riding the moguls – your legs are doing the lion’s share. So before outlining a few exercises, let’s take a quick look at what muscles are in action.
As every good skier knows, your moves start with feet and ankles. Feet need to be strong and flexible. There are over 20 muscles in your feet, but pay attention to the tibials, extensors and flexors – they are all vital for maintaining control of your movements.
Although most of us think of our butts as a symmetrical pair of muscles, they are in fact three distinct muscle groups – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Your glutes are your body’s workhorses. Strong glutes give you power, balance and stability – critical for keeping you safe and happy on the slopes.
These are the big muscles – four of them, hence quadriceps – on the front of the thigh. They join just above the knee and are vital for knee strength and stability.
These might just be the most important of all. They run down the back of your legs from hip to knee. Essential for knee flexion, shock absorption and protecting that sensitive anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). A torn ACL is among the most common and debilitating ski injuries – so strengthen those hamstrings and quads.
Rock that core
A strong core will help keep you stable on the slopes. You’ll be more confident at speed, turns will be easier, and the moguls won’t completely waste you. A strong core improves balance, helps you maintain a low and supple centre of gravity and supports your back.
Flex that body
If you’re sat at a desk or behind a wheel for most of your working day, hip flexibility is not a priority. But as soon as you hit the snow, that’s where you’re going to feel it. So, start before you go – think about doing some yoga or pilates – anything that gets a burn into your hip flexors. Flexibility helps proof against injury, keeps you fluid, and is great for balance.
Top exercises for leg strength
Squats are a great way to pump those quads – and build serious strength in your legs. Here’s how to do them:
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart
- Look up slightly while pushing your hips back
- Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground – make sure your knees don’t extend beyond your toes
- Stand and repeat
- Depending upon your strength, build up the numbers slowly, looking for three or four sets of 20.
Similar to the above, but tougher:
- Stand with your back against a clear wall
- With your back and bum pushing against the wall, drop into a squat
- Hold for as long as you can
Combine these with some stretches and a cardio workout with high intensity bursts and you’re well on your way to maxing out your week on the white stuff.