Focus on fitness: Off-season exercise key to an enjoyable ski season
As the leaves turn yellow, and some lament the end of summer, many in Ski Town USA are dreaming of powder days ahead. The lifts in Steamboat start turning in less than 10 weeks, and if you want to make the most of your season, there are some important things you should be doing now to ensure your body is ready.
“With any physical activity you want to make sure your muscles are used to that type of exercise before jumping back into it,” said Old Town Hot Springs personal trainer Marietta Roberts. “Being in shape will ensure a more enjoyable early season and aid injury prevention.”
A common experience is almost an immediate soreness in unfamiliar muscles that limit early days to a few runs or less. Roberts explains this soreness is due to the fact that the way we use muscles for downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing is different than how we use muscles for summer sports.
“During the summer, cyclists and runners are using large muscle groups including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves, but they are almost always in a forward motion,” Roberts said. “In the winter we are using these muscles more laterally or side-to-side.”
The side-to-side movements of skiing and snowboarding bring smaller, finer, supporting muscles, such as the adductors into play. These muscles support the movements of larger muscle groups and are found around the knees, hips and ankles.
“Injuries occur more often in people where larger muscle groups are stronger than the supporting muscle groups,” said Old Town Hot Springs personal trainer Danielle Barrett. “This is because smaller muscles help to balance, stabilize and control our movements correctly.”
For this reason, trainers recommend focusing on full-body workouts including weight training, lateral and rotational movements, explosive plyometrics like jumping and lunging, core exercises including the back and abs as well as improving flexibility.
In addition to muscular strength, cardio plays an important role in winter fitness and can help you stay at the front of the pack or have a more enjoyable day.
“A strong cardiovascular system helps your muscles use oxygen more efficiently,” Barrett said. “Your muscles will be less sore, will recover quicker and allow you to have a longer day on the mountain.”
To increase cardiovascular fitness, trainers recommend exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes at 60-to 75 percent of one’s maximal effort. Do this three to five times per week to see endurance improvements.
Roberts adds that having strong overall fitness can also play an important role in injury prevention.
“When you’re tired, you may not be as mentally sharp. You may make mistakes easier and let your guard down. We often see people get injured later in the day because they are tired and are not as aware.”
Both Roberts and Barrett warn that while it’s easy to be healthy during the summer, the off season brings challenges that affect exercise routines. When you travel or take time off as kids go back to school, many don’t realize how quickly the body loses fitness.
“If you’re 25 or older and you stop exercising for two weeks, you are already losing fitness,” said Barrett. “You lose muscle mass very quickly. Labor Day to Thanksgiving is very important. You really can gain a lot or lose a lot in that time period. It’s crucial.”
Old Town Hot Springs offers a ski and snowboard fitness program for anyone looking to get in shape ahead of the winter season. Roberts will lead the eight week, 16-class program that takes place on either Mondays and Wednesdays at noon or Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 am. More information about this program can be found at oldtownhotsprings.org/ski.
Nick Esares is marketing director at Old Town Hot Springs.
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