Time to get in shape for ski season

Local trainers and coaches give advice on physical preparation

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As the Denver metro area’s temperature begins to drop, it’s that time of year again when the beach bod no longer matters and it’s the snow bod that needs some work.

That’s why the staff at Colorado Community Media decided to go out and find tips from ski/snowboard coaches and personal trainers on getting in shape to hit the slopes.

Those interviewed agreed that some of the most important things to keep in mind are cross training, eating right and taking it easy on the first few days in the mountains.

They offered exercises, stretches, meal ideas and ways to avoid injury.

Exercises to do at home

When trying to decide what exercises and muscle groups to focus on before snow season, Michael Restivo of Colorado Mountain Club, based in Golden, breaks it down into three components: explosive movement, core strength and flexibility.

All these components can be practiced at home or in the gym through different movements and exercises. Restivo likes workouts such as squat jumps, crunches and planks.

Cameron Davis, owner of RockStar Fitness in Castle Rock, recommends squat pulses, which consists of standing, placing the feet just outside hip length apart, pushing the hips back and moving into a seated position then pulsing in that position, he said. This can be done for 60 seconds to three minutes, depending how much an individual’s body can tolerate, he said.

“Ice skaters” are also good for preparing to ski, Davis said. To complete this exercise, one can do a one-legged jump with the opposing leg behind the body and the arms swaying accordingly, as if skating.

For snowboard-specific exercises, Davis prescribes the extension squat, which is like a regular squat but when the person stands up, he or she goes up on the toes to work the calves as well.

If a weight is available, he recommends goblet squats, which is a regular squat while holding the weight at the chest. When standing back up, he suggests squeezing the glutes. This can be done 10 to 20 times, and it’s important to find a weight that feels challenging, he said.

Broc Thompson, the ski coach for Jeffco Public Schools’ alpine ski club, believes it is important to throw some balance and instability exercises into a workout. That means adding tools like Bosu or exercise balls into basic exercises like planks, lunges and crunches.

“Skiing is about reactive balance, you’re always dealing with a bunch of forces in a bunch of different directions,” Thompson said.

The main muscle groups the trainers suggested focusing on include glutes, hamstrings, middle back and core.

Outside of strength building, general aerobic exercises are also vital to avoid exhaustion on the hill.

One way to prepare for the fatigue that comes with skiing and snowboarding is to find a nearby hill and start walking up it a few times a week, Davis said.

Thompson believes the best course of action is to just stay in shape all year. Cross training with activities like tennis, hockey and cycling are his go-tos, he said.

“My feeling is the best plan is to stay active year-round so when the season changes it’s just a little adaptation,” he said, “and not full-on getting into shape for the first time of the year.”

Flexibility

Outside of strength and aerobic exercises, it is also important to keep muscles loose by doing different stretches and mobility exercises, Davis said.

Before doing any workout, including hitting the slopes, Davis emphasizes the necessity of doing movement-based warm-ups such as high knees, butt kicks and just trying to move joints in all directions. This can help prevent injuries.

Another exercise is laying on the back with arms out and lifting the knees so that they’re at about a right angle then allowing them to fall to the right side then left side. This helps loosen the back and allow for twisting while skiing or snowboarding.

Yoga is also a great way to keep up strength and mobile joints, Thompson and Restivo said.

Thompson, who is a stronger advocate of mobility exercises than muscle stretches, believes the hips and ankles are some of the most critical spots on the body to keep mobile for snow sports, he said. He recommends deep squats for hips and using a toe to “draw the alphabet” for ankle mobility, he said.

Nutrition

All the trainers emphasized staying hydrated and making sure to fuel your body during long days on the mountain.

“One of my go-tos is my steel cut oatmeal with coconut oil in and maybe a protein shake on the side,” Davis said. “So you’re getting carbs, fats and protein.”

For snacks on the slopes he suggests peanut butter, power bars and fruit.

Listen to your body

While it may be tempting to go all out on the first few days in the snow, Davis points out how important it is to listen to your body and work up little by little to avoid injury.

“Your body does give you warning signs,” he said. “Be really honest with yourself.”

His top advice for injury prevention?

“Check your ego at the door,” he said.

At the beginning of the alpine ski season, Thompson has his athletes start simple, he said.

“We start out doing basic drills on basic hills,” he said. “There’s so much you haven’t used in such a long time, so we definitely start slow.

Overall, the underlying practice that has worked for many skiers and snowboarders is to enjoy the sport and listen to their bodies.

“Especially for people who aren’t that much of a hardcore skier, I would say don’t get wrapped up in needing to be in the gym every single day,” Restivo said. “Have fun with it, vary your workouts…take care of your body, listen to your body.”

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