Staying fit for a smooth move into winter sports

SkiPicture yourself out for your first ski of the season. Are you ready to pick up where you left off last year, or are you expecting to feel rusty, with painful muscle fatigue on the first run? With the right physical preparation you can have fun year-round and be ready to jump right into winter sports.

Cross training provides a solid foundation so your body can make a safe and painless transition from the land and water-based sports of summer, to the snow sports of winter. Activities that I use to stay fit year-round include biking (road and mountain), running, and swimming.

In biking an efficient pedal stroke involves applying force to the pedals through their entire rotation. This is achieved by engaging the quads for the top of the stroke, and into the down stroke. The hamstrings provide the majority of the power through the bottom portion of the stroke, and the upstroke. An effective way to practice this is to pedal one foot/leg at a time for 20-30 rotations. A more smooth and powerful pedal stroke, particularly in hilly terrain, will prepare muscles for carving turns, managing moguls, skate skiing or classic skiing (diagonal stride).

Bike rides that keep your heart rate up for more than 30 minutes of sustained effort will prepare your cardiovascular system for a top to bottom run, or a day on the ski trails. Remember to use all your gears, and to pedal with a high cadence as pedalling too slow strains your ligaments and tendons.

Running, particularly on trails, has great potential to build fitness. The trails at Sun Peaks are hilly, requiring your body to respond to the demands of climbing and descending. Climbing requires that you use your glutes, quadriceps, calves and hamstrings. Descending in soft terrain can be an excellent simulation of alpine skiing. I like to simulate classic skiing while running by ensuring that my arm action is parallel with my direction of travel. The prolonged aerobic output from running and biking are helpful with weight control.

Swimming is a whole body workout that builds muscular strength and endurance, without putting excess strain on joints and ligaments. Technique plays a huge role in swimming.  It also has a number of unexpected benefits, such as building strength in the neck and shoulder area and developing body awareness and balance in a fluid environment, as well as helping build the body’s tolerance to cold temperatures.

Stand up paddling has amazing potential to prepare us for winter sports. The core strength it requires prepares the body for mogul skiing and power carves. Staying balanced on the board in waves, and bracing the board on edge to carve turns develops balance, and requires that we hold muscles in position for prolonged periods, building their endurance.

I know skiers who use pilates, yoga, weight training, soccer, hiking, Zumba and other activities to stay fit through the non-snow seasons. Find what works for you, and we’ll see you on the trails!