Tap Into Health: Get ready for ski season

Vanessa Cory
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Are you ready to hit the slopes this year? We have four weeks until the mountain opens, and if you think it’s too late to start training, you’re wrong. It’s never too late, but start now. Old Town Hot Springs’ ski fitness instructor, tri-athlete coach and personal trainer, Joanne Orce, suggests that you don’t stop training after you hop on skis/snowboard in a few weeks but continue your training for at least nine weeks.

Why? Training for skiing isn’t about being able to ski run after run. Instead, it’s critical for injury prevention. Skiers destroy their knees because they spend a significant amount of time in a squat position that requires the knees to hold steady while absorbing intense dynamic forces that change unpredictably due to varied terrain and obstacles.

“Whether you ski or snowboard, your knees take a beating,” says Orce, “so strengthening the muscle groups around your knees makes the difference between a bad turn and a torn tendon.”

And don’t forget your core.

“Think of your core as your stabilizer muscles,” Orce says, “which impact your posture and stance on the slopes.” A strong core allows you to control your position, enabling your knees to hold steady. It takes about nine weeks of consistent focus on your ski fitness to see significant improvements, but don’t get discouraged, as anything helps.

To maintain a stable form, you need all kinds of athletic attributes. Still, Orce suggests focusing on leg strength and power, cardio and endurance, quickness, agility, balance, core strength, and hip and glute strength. You will see significant results if you start focusing on these attributes two to three days per week for one hour each day. While the specific exercises should change, the key to every workout is to focus on dynamic activities.

Dynamic exercises move your muscles through their entire range of motion. Not only do these types of movements improve flexibility, but they also build strength quickly.

Don’t know where to start? Here is what Joanne recommends:

• Start with a 10-minute warm-up that includes all sorts of movement stretches. Instead of holding each stretch for 10 seconds, move from stretch to stretch. Skipping, shuffling and high knees are great, along with lunges and core twists. Get your heart rate up slightly — you should feel warm.

• Spend 15 minutes focused on cardio and core. Break up the time with one minute of a cardio exercise, such as jumping jacks, stair runs or burpees, followed by one minute of a core exercise like bicycle crunches, planks on a Bosu ball or leg lifts. Take breaks and repeat for about 15 minutes.

• Move into 30 minutes of ski-specific movements. These will mostly be lower-body exercises but should include movements in all directions like monster walks with bands, TRX hamstring curls and ski clock squats. Don’t skimp on your squats, but make sure you do different types, such as goblet squats, Bulgarian split squats, single-leg pistol squats and sumo squats. Pick five to 10 exercises and do each three times for one minute.

• Have you never heard of a ski clock squat? Start by standing and stabilizing on one leg. Move your other leg to a 12 o’clock position and squat on your standing leg. Repeat at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, then switch legs.

• End with a five-minute cool-down by walking or stretching.

Once you start skiing regularly, incorporate cross-training into your routine to continue to strengthen your core and stabilize muscles. Orce recommends hiking, biking/spin class and swimming one to two days per week.

We hope to see you on the slopes soon and wish for a healthy, happy and injury-free season.

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