They’re predicting the best season in a decade, so ensure you make the most of your time on the slopes this winter. Here are our DIY Get Fit to Ski tips.
Sort out your biomechanics – Be your own body’s mechanic by making sure you train it to move in the most efficient way.
Start by standing in front of the mirror in shorts with your feet parallel, in a skiing position. Check the following:
Look at the alignment of your knees. Draw an imaginary dot on the centre of your knee cap and drop a vertical line down to the floor. This line should land in between your second and third toe. In most people the line will drop closer to the big toe or even onto the floor between the feet. This means you won’t be able to carve properly on the slopes and it can cause problems with the kneecap. Correct your alignment (by using your hip muscles not turning out your feet), then do 30 reps of the corrected alignment every day so it becomes the subconscious norm.
Examine your body from the side. Make sure your bottom is not sticking out too much or tucked in too far. You need to find the pelvis’ ‘neutral’ position. With your pelvis in neutral your muscles work best, keeping your upper body relaxed. To find neutral: stick your bottom out and up so that your imaginary tail points upwards – this is one extreme of the movement. Then tuck your bottom right under, taking your imaginary tail between your legs – this is the other extreme. Your neutral pelvis is half way between these movements. Practice bending your knees into a skiing position maintaining this pelvic position – 30 reps every day until it feels normal.
From the side, observe where your hips move when you bend your knees. Most people sit down too much, putting excessive strain through the quads muscles and knees and shifts your weight into the back of the skis. Stand up again and this time as you bend your knees make sure the weight is coming forwards so that you almost feel you are going to tip over. You should not have any body weight on the front of your ski boots but by balancing the weight forwards like this you are ensuring your weight is balanced over the centre of your skis, affording maximum control and ability to turn the skis smoothly.
Strength and power
The quadriceps (front of your thigh) and gluteal muscles (back of your thigh) are the main power muscles used during skiing. These can be trained with exercises such as lunges, split squats, step ups, deep squats and cycling. Try not to use wall squats, which can translate into skiing with weight on the heels.
Eccentric quads training is an often neglected element of strength. The quads work in two ways on the slopes. Not only do the quads straighten the knee but also control the knee from a straight position into a bent position. This slow release is called eccentric strengthening and is a fundamental part of ski training. (The quads are not worked eccentrically in cycling – it is the hamstrings that bend the knee when cycling.) Doing “step downs” off a step is a perfect way of working your quads eccentrically. Make sure your alignment is perfect (refer to the knee section above). Start with 30 reps and then when this is easy, add weight.
Next, lateral hip muscles. There are no sports that rely on external hip rotation as much as skiing so the importance of training these muscles cannot be underestimated. The ‘clam’ exercise is a classic one: lie on your side with your hips and knees in a skiing position. Keep your ankles together and your hips steady as you lift your top knee. You should feel the muscle working in the outside of your buttock. Repeat 30 times and then repeat the same movement in standing so you can use the benefits when skiing.
When you have built up your strength and fitness, move onto propulsive movements. A good place to begin is jumping sideways on and off a step starting with a low step and slowly making it higher – this will particularly help with skiing moguls and steep narrow slopes where fast movements are essential. Always make sure your alignment is perfect.
This is your body’s positional sense and is particularly important for skiing in bad visibility. It’s also one of the best preventative measures to take when it comes to injury. Stand on one leg for two minutes twice a day. If this becomes easy, close your eyes. Then add some small movements while you do it like little knee bends or brushing your teeth. Make sure you hover your hands over a stable surface to grab if you lose your balance.
If your alignment is right your body works so efficiently you can get away with a lower level of cardiovascular fitness. However, for those of us still on the path to perfection, interval training is the most efficient cardiovascular training, and it makes sense to do this using some of the muscles used in skiing, like cycling or a step machine. Remember to build up slowly and incrementally.
You’ll be glad to hear skiing does not need you to be too flexible – you only tend to need flexibility if, or rather when, you fall over. Some people might have particular muscle groups that are tight, often it’s the calves and hips. It’s useful to stretch these areas out but remember never do static stretching before exercise – dynamic stretching is vastly superior.
If you would like a little extra help with these exercises and a whole lot more, we are currently running ‘Get Fit to Ski’ classes at our Next Generation clinic. These classes are specifically tailored to improve the muscle groups and skills involved in skiing and snow boarding. The classes are conducted by trained sports Physiotherapists, and include exercises using a range of equipment including gym balls, wobble boards, Pilates reformers and elastic bands. You will learn ways to warm up and cool down before and after hitting the slopes and ways to manage any aches and pains while you are away. For more information click here or to book a class phone 8221 7000.