Whether you’re a first-timer or a fanatic, snow sports make you ache—in all sorts of unexpected places. And that’s a shame; after all, it’s a tragedy to miss even a minute of fun on the slopes because you’re in too much pain from overworked (and underprepared!) muscles.
Who wants to waste a winter holiday?
The great thing is that skiing and snowboarding are like any other sports—the more you prepare, the more your body will perform like a well-oiled machine.
So…if you’d like to avoid the infamous third-day flop and be the last-lift-home kind of skier (as opposed to the lunch-bunch sort that hightails it home after a few morning runs) it’s time to take some get-fit-fast tips to heart.
Of course, More Mountain guests have it better than most. Our central location means there’s no dreadful trudge to the chalet twice a day loaded up with gear like a pack animal—and if you’re in a catered chalet, you even get a lift in one of our Land Rovers or minibuses. Then again, it’s not such a bad thing to walk off all that apres ski wine and cheese!
That said, however, it’s best to start preparing as early as you can (six weeks or more is optimal)—but you can still see gains with some intensive short-term work. If you’ve left it for the last minute (and trust me, you’re not alone if you did), then it’s time to get stuck in. Ready?
Focus on the muscles you know you’ll be using.
Skiing and snowboarding puts a lot of strain on your knees and your glutes—and like just about any athletic activity, you need a strong, supportive core. So focus your efforts on these areas first.
The experts at Mountain Rehab who have treated our guests with fabulous post ski massage and physio for the last 10 years, have developed a program of five progressively more difficult exercises that build up the muscles you need the most—they’ve taken all the guesswork out of knowing how to prepare. Take a look:
These Pilates moves will build up your core fast—and that’s important, because a strong core will make your leg muscles work more efficiently. Start with the level you’re comfortable with and work up, aiming for three sets of 12 reps.
You can take the burn out of descents by strengthening your glutes and quads—and the best way to do that is with squats, squats, and more squats. Work your way up to holding the squat for a minute and check out these pointers for the correct, most effective way to do these exercises.
Lunge and balance
These two exercises work hand in hand to tone the muscles you’ll need for any downhill snow sport. Don’t worry if your balance is only good for a few seconds right now—that’s a skill that comes quickly if you practice (and comes in handy on and off the slope!).
The Bridge Pose
There’s no delicate way to put this—you’re going to need to tighten and tone your bum muscles (the glutes) if you want to avoid aches and pains in the most embarrassing place. The bridge pose is fast and effective and it even works your core, a two-for-one just made for skiers and snowboarders.
Put it all together and prepare yourself for high-intensity work with a set of plyometric exercises. These plyo series are designed to coordinate and strengthen all the muscles you need for your downhill adventures.
Pro tip: If you’re a gym rat who spends time on the treadmill, try walking backwards to build up your quads and glutes.
No gym membership? No problem. You can get fit anywhere!
If the thought of trudging off to a hot, sweaty gym and grunting away in front of a pack of strangers sends you straight to your couch with your beverage of choice, don’t worry. You can squeeze in some high-quality prep work just by changing a few routines and working out at home.
Give these tips a try—
- Take the stairs as much as possible, stepping two at a time going up. And when you’re coming back down, go slowly, in a controlled manner, working your quads each step of the way.
- Do some wall squats while you’re watching the telly. This works best if you’ve got an exercise ball pressed between your bum and the wall, but no ball, no worries. Start with your feet almost together and your legs extended at a 45 degree angle from the wall and slowly squat and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times and then move your feet apart about a foot, toes pointing forward, and repeat the process. Finally, put your feet at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock and do ten reps that way. If you’ve got hand weights, you can hold them to increase the workload on your quads.
- Ever heard of proprioception? That’s your sense of self, if you will, your awareness of—and ability to control—your body, even with your eyes closed. Along with balance, proprioception is pretty key to a successful day on the slopes. You can improve your proprioception and balance just by standing on one leg with your eyes closed. Sounds simple, but trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Try to build up to 60 seconds or more on each leg.
- Do some simple core-strengthening moves at home, like planking and crunches. Here’s a great video with at-home core strengthening and cardio exercises to try, from fitness man-of-the-moment Joe Wicks (A.K.A The Body Coach). It’s only 20 minutes long and takes you through the complete workout, so don your shorts and do these while your dinner is in the oven.
And don’t laugh—but something as basic as going to the loo has great potential for workouts. Think about it! That position you take as you’re squatting over the loo—extend your arms up and it starts to look a lot like the position newbies take when they tackle a slope! Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.
Everything’s better with a buddy.
If you’re someone who struggles with a commitment to working out (and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing that’s you!), the best way to get going is to get a buddy. As they say, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” and all that.
Not sure where to find a good workout buddy? A great place to start is your holiday party—chances are good there’s another procrastinator in your crowd happy to have a little accountability in their prep work.
If that’s not an option, you can always look for a class at the gym. Pilates have great core strengthening exercises and a spin class works out your quads and glutes. Focus on cardio over strength training once you get to crunch time—most cardio classes give your lower body a great workout that can only help once you hit the slopes.
Just a reminder: Go hard if you’re already physically fit, but take it easy and build up gradually if you’re not. You don’t want to blow out a muscle or ligament a month before your holiday! If you’re truly a novice more at home on the couch than the gym, start on the treadmill with a slight incline and keep increasing the slope and the speed as you build up strength and endurance over time.
Don’t forget these tips from the experts.
Our friends at Mountain Rehab suggest you keep the following tips in mind to make the most of your time on the mountain:
- Always warm up before you hit the slopes. Right after you hop off the lift, do 10 or 15 simple squats and a few tuck jumps to activate your muscles and get them ready for work. Don’t forget to “warm down” after you’re done for the day.
- Wear your own kit, fitted for you—don’t borrow a mate’s. You’re just inviting trouble.
- Remember, injuries are most likely to happen on your last run of the day when you’re tired and cold, so if you’re feeling fatigued, just stop for the day—think of it as a great excuse to hit the bar earlier!
- Have nagging doubts about your readiness? Part with a few pounds for tuition from a qualified instructor. You won’t regret it.
And to finish up, here’s a video of all of the above exercises from the experts…
A final thought…
If you’re not the sportiest sort and your idea of a snow holiday involves being ferried from chalet to slope (preferably with a bar stop or two in between), you’ll fit right in.
In fact, there’s special pre-holiday prep work for you too—build up those wrist muscles for raising your drink and work on your drinking stamina for the Mutzig Challenge at Bar Robinson!