With most nights below freezing, the ski areas are busy making snow for skiers and snow boarders alike. There are few better ways to enjoy a crisp winter day than carving your way down a mountain of packed powder. Skiing gives you a wonderful way to work out your legs and challenge your balance and agility while you breathe fresh air.
Let’s look at three aspects of fitness that can enhance any skier’s ability: strength, balance and flexibility. Each area is equally important and the integration of them can both reduce the risk of injury and rapidly advance your skiing ability.
Strength can be divided into two distinct topics. The first, called core strength, refers to strengthening the trunk and pelvic muscles. The importance of core strengthening cannot be overemphasized. You need a strong and stable trunk and pelvis to functionally strengthen the rest of your body and have it all work in a coordinated way. The popularity of Pilates exercises has brought core strengthening to the forefront.
After you have checked with your doctor, do simple core exercises, including sit-ups, pelvic tilts and bridging on an exercise ball. The ball should be sized to allow your hips and knees to position at 90 degrees of bend when you lie on the floor and rest your heels on top of the ball. For instruction in core stability exercises, look for a specific class or check with a physical therapist in your area. These exercises work your abdominal and back muscles and challenge your ability to keep your body stable on the ball.
The second aspect of strengthening includes more specific training to the legs. These include jumping drills, sliding lunges, double leg squats, simple leg squats, and work exercises to strengthen hamstrings and buttocks muscles. The difference between doing these types of strength training exercises and working out on Nautilus equipment or weight equipment is that these exercises incorporate a functional aspect to your training. In many ways they duplicate the position and speed that your body needs to coordinate skiing movements, and therefore they more quickly improve your skiing.
Next, focus on balance. Simply standing on one leg and balancing with your eyes open, then closed, is a good way to start. Then work to balance on a piece of foam, rope or balance board. Try doing some of the squatting exercises while you stand on foam or a pillow. These are different ways you can challenge your balance while you increase your strength.
Last, flexibility must be addressed. In addition to general flexibility of your trunk, arms and legs that can be achieved through yoga, ankle flexibility plays a very important role inside your ski boot. If your ankles are tight, you will have difficulty raising the balls of your feet while your heels stay on the ground. Improve the flexibility of your ankles by stretching your calf muscles. While you stand, bring your knee forward over your toes and keep your heel flat on the floor.
If ankle tightness is a chronic problem, or if you have had ankle or foot surgery, adapting your ski boots may be a good solution while you work on flexibility. Placing a heel wedge in each boot will assist you in staying forward and balanced on your skis.
Women skiers may want to consider custom fitted boot liners. This is because many women have narrow heels and this translates into excessive motion of the heels inside your boots. This motion will prevent you from getting more out of your edging.
Try this quick test: Stand on a flat surface in your skis and ski boots. Look down at your skis. If they roll either inward or outward, you may need some external adjustment to your ski boots. One side or the other may need to be ground down. For people with pronated feet, skis typically roll inward. Have your skis checked by your ski shop.
Skiing is a wonderful way to energize yourself, stay in shape and enjoy the winter. Here’s hoping these tips help to enhance your ability.