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Exercise for Skiing

Get Your Body ready for Skiing

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Updated April 09, 2014

Exercise for Skiing
Getty Images/David Madison
The first time I went skiing, I ended up on the lift with a veteran skiier. I told him it was my first time and I was having trouble with a couple of maneuvers -- turning and stopping. I asked if he had any tips and his reply was, "Man, you gotta feel the snow." I didn't tell him I'd 'felt' the snow many times as I tumbled down the bunny slopes.

While his advice wasn't that helpful, I did learn a few things that day...namely that skiing involves muscles I never knew I had until the next day. If you plan on skiing this year, learn from my mistakes and prepare your body for the rigors of skiing.

Tips for Weekend Warriors

What makes skiing so fun is the fact that you can only do it at certain times of the year. That's also what makes it dangerous. Because you can't practice skiing before the snow flies, your body is left to fend for itself. On top of that, many of us ski only a few times a year, so we don't have enough consistency to keep our bodies conditioned for it.

To avoid injury and misery, take some time to prepare your body before your trip. If you don't already have a regular exercise routine, it's not too late to start one. Plus, knowing you're doing it in order to enjoy your ski holiday will help keep you motivated. Start at my Beginner's Corner for general information about getting started with exercise.

If you already exercise, you may need to tweak your workouts to make them more effective.

Build Your Endurance

If you want to get your money's worth out of that expensive lift ticket, you'll need plenty of cardio endurance. Most of us hit the slopes and plan on skiing all day, even if it's been months or years since we last skied. By afternoon, you're so tired that your legs feel like jello, a prime time for injuries and accidents happen.

To prepare your heart and body for long-term skiing, your cardio program should include:

  • 3 to 5 days each week of your favorite activity. The best for skiing include running, the stairmaster, step aerobics, elliptical trainer and rollerblading.
  • A variety of workouts at varying intensities lasting from 20 to 45 minutes.
  • One long, slow workout each week for 60 or more minutes to condition your legs and lungs for long days of skiing.

Below is a sample schedule of workouts:

Workout 1: Interval training, such as this Elliptical Interval Workout, 20 to 40 minutes
Workout 2: Medium-pace workout, 40 minutes - Cardio Medley Workout
Workout 3: Short, intense workout, 20-30 minutes - Sprint Interval Workout
Workout 4: Medium-pace workout, 45 minutes - Basic Endurance Workout
Workout 5: Long, slow workout, 60+ minutes

For cardio workout ideas, visit my Cardio Index.

Build Your Strength

What makes skiing such a great exercise is that is uses all of your muscle groups. However, some muscles are used more than others. Those are the ones you want to concentrate on when it comes to your strength workouts. Skiing involves:

  1. Quadriceps. Probably the most used muscle in skiing are the muscles of the quads. These muscles hold you in position as you ski and they also provide protection for your knees. Great exercises for the quads include squats and lunges.
  2. Hamstrings and Glutes. When skiing downhill, you typically hold your body in a flexed position -- meaning you're leaning forward from the hips. This requires great strength from your hamstrings and glutes as they help stabilize your body. Work your hams and glutes with deadlifts, one legged deadlifts, pull throughs, step ups and hamstring rolls. More hamstring and glute exercises.
  3. Inner and Outer Thighs. Your inner thighs work like crazy to keep your skis together. Your outer thighs keep your body stable and help you steer. Work these muscles with side lunges, sliding side lunges, inner thigh leg lifts, inner thigh squeezes, side step squats and leg lifts.
  4. Calves. Because your knees are bent as you ski, your calves (specifically the soleus) help you stay upright so you don't fall over (your ski boots help too). You can work this muscle by doing standing calf raises or machine calf raises.
  5. Abs and Back. Because you're in a flexed position, bent over, your back has to work like a maniac to hold your body in that position. Your abs help in that endeavor while also protecting your spine. Your lats get involved as you ski on a flat surface or uphill, using your poles for leverage. Work these muscles with exercises like bicycles, woodchops, back extensions and dumbbell rows.
  6. Arms. Along with your back, arms help push off with your poles while stabilizing your shoulder joints. Be sure to work your biceps and triceps along with the rest of your body.

If you're ready to try some of these exercises to work your 'ski muscles,' this Total Body Ski Workout targets strength, endurance, stability and overall fitness. Don't forget to get plenty of stretching in as well -- being flexible is another way to keep your body safe from injury.

This year, make it a point to get in the best shape you can for skiing, starting as soon as you can. Building strength and endurance will keep your body strong and help you avoid injuries while making your skiing much more fluid and effortless.

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