The snow season is fast approaching and many of us will be heading to the slopes for an adventure; fresh mountain air, incredible views, and epic pistes full of turns and moguls to tackle. However, it’s important to remember that snow can be a tough arena with a very challenging physical side, cold temperatures, poor visibility and slippery conditions underfoot. This danger is especially heightened if your body is under prepared!
If the body is weak, misaligned and restricted then you won’t have the athleticism to ski/board to your full potential which means having less fun, as well as being more susceptible to unexpected falls, collisions, poor technique and fatigue which are likely to cause first or repeat incidences of common snow sports injuries such as:
- Ligament and cartilage damage in the knee from over twisting,
- Wrists, shoulders and neck problems from falling and trying to catch yourself,
- Pelvis and lower back pain from weak cores and taking falls.
This is where training comes in.
The fitter and stronger you are in the gym, the more fun you’ll have on the slopes, skiing hard and fast all day. There’s no training for skiing and boarding like skiing and boarding itself, but from an athletic movement perspective performance can be developed in the gym by mimicking the movements and abilities you would actually perform on the snow. This creates carryover:
The ability to apply a skill learned in one situation to a different but similar situation. Though the gym may not have 100% carryover, exercises chosen and performed well can be pretty close by considering:
- Movement patterns and complexity level
- Movement chain – Closed vs. Open
- Relevant Reflexes – Righting vs. Equilibrium
- Bio motor abilities
- Energy systems to choose an effective Work : Rest ratio
This is especially useful for snow sports as time on the slopes is limited by season, location and weather conditions. Furthermore it’s important to note that any sport or habitual activity develops muscle imbalances, asymmetries and joint restrictions which often lead to pain and result in potential injury. The gym gives us the opportunity to unwind any imbalances and joint restrictions reducing the likelihood of pain and injury.
To get you started here are some key movement skills that we can mimic and use training to develop.
On the snow – Skiing and snowboarding is full of squatting. To perform well you need the awareness, strength and flexibility to move through different angles of a squat position, at different speeds repeatedly.
In the gym – we can train the squat pattern, mixing slow and fast tempos, focusing on lowering into the squat (eccentrics) and holding the position (isometrics) to develop the flexibility, strength, speed and endurance needed to perform well and sustain a long day on the slopes.
An example squatting movement to master:
On the snow – Skiing and snowboarding is full of twisting and anti-twisting, making turns in control, so you maintain speed, momentum and can stay upright.
In the gym – we can train the twist pattern using exercises to develop co-ordination, speed, deceleration and anti-twisting all designed to develop rotational control of your torso and strengthen your core.
An example twisting movement to master:
Tilting reflexes / balance
On the snow – Skiers and snowboarders need awesome tilting reflexes to stay upright and deal with the sudden disturbances that come with moving at speed across the unpredictable terrain of snow and ice.
In the gym – Using kit like Swiss balls we can replicate and train tilting reflexes and develop the ability to regain and maintain your centre of balance on an unstable surface mimicking the balance skills needed.
An example Balancing Movement to Master:
Finally some general training tips to help you get slick and stay safe on the slopes:
- Start your ski fitness programme at least 8-12 weeks before your trip
- Build your programme around targeting ski-specific movements and muscles
- Focus on good rest and nutrition outside of the gym to support your training
Ultimately skiing and snowboarding are very dynamic, challenging sports with a huge physical component so there is a lot to be gained in performance, fun and safety by training and preparing your body beforehand. So be ready, be safe and have fun!!