Fitness fanatics begin quest to ski strong
October 21, 2007
Steamboat Springs — It’s not hard to find the ski fitness class at Old Town Hot Springs.
They’re the ones stretching.
Gathered in the lobby, a group bundled in layers, leggings, sweat pants and ski hats vigorously prepares for whatever instructor Chris Voyvodic decides to throw their way.
Last week, it was the Howelsen Hill rodeo grounds’ stables. They went over to Howelsen thinking it might be another set of brutal trips up the steps aside the K-90 ski jump. Instead, the longtime personal trainer had the group hopping the stable fences.
“It was hard, and pretty gross to go up in the stables, just seeping in crap,” said Carol Bender, who signed up for what she calls “boot camp” at the urging of her friend Michelle Parra.
Why? Ask any of the 36 diehards signed up for the eight-week, Tuesday/Thursday, 1 1/2-hour outdoor day sessions and they’ll give you a pretty similar response – misery loves company. Voyvodic also offers an indoor, nighttime ski fitness class (both cost $150).
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But both classes fill quickly because once the work is done and the Steamboat Ski Area opens the week after the final Thursday session, the dividends pay off.
“It gets you ready for ski season,” Parra said. “Your legs just don’t get fatigued on the mountain.”
Voyvodic’s goal is simple: “You go into the first day on the mountain feeling like it was the last day of last year.”
OK, that seems simple enough. In reasonable shape, I thought I’d try to join Thursday’s mid-day session.
Members of the group, already three weeks into the training, each grab a dumbbell at Voyvodic’s request and begin the jog over to Memorial Park.
Thursday’s group is smaller, only 15 people are out – maybe because of an intense Tuesday workout or the first taste of real ski weather outside – and they are split down the middle between men and women, mostly middle-aged.
Arriving at the park to blowing snow, Glenn Davis knows what’s ahead. It’s going to be one of the plyometric workout routines they did on the first Thursday – one that left Davis’ legs recovering until the following Sunday.
“I hope you don’t have to walk tomorrow,” Davis warns me before the first sets of lunges. Then it’s squats. Then it’s a star pattern, jumping each direction of the compass to a single-legged squat and back.
“Hey, newspaper guy,” Voyvodic addresses me. He shows me how my form is off. These aren’t typical squats and lunges. You have to always be mindful of your feet, or more accurately, your edges’ contact with the ground. You must imagine there are boots on your feet and skis on those boots. Focus on driving through the hips, landing on the inside edge.
“Look up, there could be trees coming,” Voyvodic reminds the group.
I feel my legs twitch underneath me. Muscle cramps are near.
“OK, 20 more squats,” Voyvodic says.
Then it’s the weights. I’m glad I don’t have a watch, or I would be counting down minutes to the end of the session.
The foundation of most these exercises is a squat or a lunge motion. As Voyvodic describes it, “your hamstrings and glutes control the descent, like you’re going over a roller, you absorb that as the ground comes up and then you drive it back down.
“If you go down fast and your glutes and hamstrings don’t control your descent, then your knee joint just takes a thrashing because your hips aren’t working right.”
But this isn’t just about strength and repetition.
After a water break, I find that out as the lunges become jump lunges, then twisting jump lunges, then jump lunges moving both directions laterally.
The subtleties of motion are what matter most to Voyvodic.
“You can be fit for skiing, but have no finesse, you want to have both,” he said. “It’s coordination in movement patterns.
“Without coordination, strength is useless and a lot of times, can be dangerous. It’s like putting big tires on a Jeep without tuning up the transmission – power, but no way to transfer it.”
By the final round of jump lunges, both strength and coordination are gone. Knees are soaked from hitting the muddy ground, and I’m starting to walk funny.
“It’s crazy to think that that’s just from your own body weight,” Davis reassures as we catch our breath.
And this is an easy day.
I start thinking that only in a ski town could people be out suffering together in a fall snowstorm, pushing one another and burning legs preemptively just to be that much more fit and ready when it starts piling up.
That thought is quickly interrupted.
“OK, 20 more squats,” Voyvodic says.
– To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253
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