If you want to get fit for skiing, we have some expert tips for you. Ski fitness is a big deciding factor between an enjoyable ski trip or a painful one. Poor fitness leads to fatigue which is the biggest reason for injuries occurring. Louise Paley, a Physiotherapist at Alpine Lifestyle and Performance in the Portes du Soleil, explains how you can get fit for skiing.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET FIT FOR SKIING?

Ski preparation should start a minimum of 6 – 8 weeks before you hit the slopes.  It takes this long to start to build strength.  However, even starting two weeks before is better than nothing. The best thing to do is to stay fit year round. You can then add ski specific exercises 6 – 8 weeks before you ski.  

Many ski instructors cycle during the summer and inter-seasons to maintain their fitness levels. A lot of injuries occur in sedentary office workers who do nothing for 51 weeks of the year. Then they expect their bodies to cope with the demands of skiing for a week!

Get fit for skiing
Get fit for skiing

WHAT ARE THE BEST HOME WORKOUTS FOR SKIING

To get fit for skiing, everyone has individual needs. This depends on current levels of strength, endurance and fitness. Previous injuries, current lifestyle and hobbies, level and type of skiing have an impact. Understanding these is key when planning your ski fit program. You should incorporate functional training and tailoring your training program to the demands of your sport.

Some of the main components you need to get fit for skiing:

  • Strength and endurance
  • Balance and proprioception
  • Flexibility and mobility
  • Plyometric (rebound) strength and agility

FIND OUT YOUR TRAINING GOALS

Recreational skiers need to steadily train all of the above.  However, if you are a bumps skier then you will need to focus on lower back, hip and knee flexibility. Plyometric (re-bound) strength is also important.

If you ski off-piste or go ski touring, you need good endurance, balance and cardiovascular endurance.  So, giving out a generic ski fit program is not so simple. There are too many factors to take into account.

However, the squat is the bread and butter of ski training.  It is a full body exercise that trains the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks.  Lunges, planks, side planks, calf raises and lateral bounds are also extremely beneficial exercises. To get fit for skiing, many exercises can easily be done at home.

The squat is the bread and butter of ski training
The squat is the bread and butter of ski training

To get fit for skiing, ensure your gym workouts are progressive.  You can start just using body weight resistance and as you improve, introduce weights or resistance.  Over time, gradually increase the number of repetitions or sets that you do.  Also, try and increase your range of movement, eg. aim to squat deeper, jump higher etc.

As you introduce the concepts of ski fitness, ensure the different components are introduced gradually. Sudden increases in training intensity, load and frequency can lead to injury. We therefore recommend seeking the advice of a professional.  

Ensure you do a variety of exercises in a safe manner. Perhaps consult a personal trainer or join a ski fit class. There are ways to prevent injuries such as warm ups, management of training load, pacing and correct use of equipment.

WHAT EXERCISES AND EQUIPMENT ARE REQUIRED

I think this depends on the individual. Find something that you enjoy is the best advice. Although, to completely contradict myself I often advise clients tin rehab to do the exercise they dislike, the most!

A large focus in the gym will be on leg work. Use of the bike, cross-trainer, leg press and using progressively heavy weights for squats and lunges are extremely beneficial.  Check Alpine Lifestyle and Performance on Facebook for up-to-date advice.

In terms of classes, I am a big fan of pilates.  However classes such as spin, kettlebells and TRx are all great for full body conditioning with a focus on the legs.  In the run up to the ski season, many gyms offer ski specific fitness classes which are designed to strengthen the body for the demands of skiing.

HOW TO AVOID CRAMPS WHEN SKIING

Painful muscles and cramps occur when the body does more than it can tolerate.  The pain is often due to inflammation or micro-trauma within the muscle tissues.  In other words, the muscles are suffering from overuse. In skiers, painful muscles are most often felt in the quadriceps and calf muscles.  

There are not many sports where we keep going for up to seven hours a day. It is very difficult to prepare our muscles for this. To avoid this as much as possible, pace yourself on the slopes.  Factor in lots of rest stops and ski with people who are a similar ability to you.

Once your muscles start to feel sore to take a rest.  Ensure you are well hydrated and stay warm.  Don’t push yourself through the pain.  If your muscles are sore, your reactions will be delayed and injures are more likely to happen.

HOW TO CURE ACHING MUSCLES

Factor in recovery strategies after a day on the slopes. This is something that very few people do but can make a big difference to how you feel. Firstly, think about how and when you re-fuel!  Eat at the right time. Ideally within 20 minutes of finishing exercise as the timing can help replenish your muscles more efficiently.  

Hydrate well and eat both protein and carbohydrates.  Also, consider foods that contain natural anti-inflammatories such as turmeric, ginger and foods rich in Vitamin C.  Beetroot and cherry juice also have beneficial effects when exercising as they help to fight inflammation.

Relax in the hot tub
Relax in the hot tub

HOW TO RELAX AFTER SKIING

Stay active after you come off the slopes.  Don’t just confine yourself to an armchair for the evening.  Try and have a stroll or a gentle swim, even if you are feeling tired and achy. If your legs are particularly sore and achy, try and elevate them. At Chalet la Fontaine, you can also relax in the hot tub.

Lie on your back with your legs up the wall for ten minutes or as long as you can tolerate.  A massage can help to reduce achy muscles. Finally, get a good nights sleep.  This can sometimes be a challenge when sleeping at altitude. Sleep is the best way to allow our bodies to repair and recover.

Ski fitness is a big deciding factor between having an enjoyable ski trip or a painful one.  If you are fit for skiing, it means you can progress your skills on the slopes. Poor fitness leads to increased fatigue. This is probably the biggest reason for skiing injuries.

GET FIT FOR YOUR SKI TRIP

  • You should start getting fit to ski at least 6-8 weeks before your ski trip
  • Exercise should be pain free and progressive. Start just using body weight resistance and as you improve, introduce weights increase repetitions or sets
  • Increase range of movement e.g. aim to squat deeper, jump higher etc
  • Increase frequency
  • You don’t need a gym as many exercises because you can do them at home
  • Ideally try and train at least 3 times a week for the best outcome factoring in rest and recovery strategies can help you make the most of your time on the slopes.
  • www.alpinelifestyleandperformance.com

Looking for a catered ski chalet in the Alps? Check out Chalet la Fontaine in the Portes du Soleil.