Snow sports are by no means an easy sport. Asides from acute concentration and mental endurance, you need to be physically fit.
If you aren’t ticking these boxes, the chances are you’re putting yourself at risk when it comes to the slopes.
Unlike cyclists, cross-fitters, or for that matter, 90 per cent of other sporting disciplinarians, most skiers and snowboarders can only practice for two or three months a year.
Therefore, when they do finally get the opportunity to return to the mountains, both their body and mind take an initial battering.
Now, for many enthusiasts, with the ongoing pandemic, it seemed almost certain that a holiday to the likes of Andorra or Chamonix was off the cards both this year and next.
However, with the effects of the virus in Europe beginning to curtail, it appears that the chances of winter holidays could in fact be considerably larger than we first anticipated. While many of us let the prospect of our ‘summer bodies’ go out the window, now is surely the right time to get winter ready.
Here, we take a look at what you can do to get yourself in shape ahead of your reunion with the snow.
Whether you’re skiing or snowboarding, the chances are you’ll be up completing a high intensity daily schedule, with an early morning start and a late afternoon finish.
There is no denying that this is physically taxing on the body and for this reason you need to be able to enhance your capabilities in regard to endurance.
Cardio, despite the fact it is often overlooked by various non-runners, is by far the best method of developing your endurance. Mix up your short runs with longer alternatives, in a two-days on, one-day off style format.
We’d recommend committing to a few 20 to 45 minute runs each week, accompanied by one longer run that eclipses an hour. This will allow you to improve your cardiovascular health, something you can directly apply to your skiing or snowboarding.
Keeping track of your heart rate during these sessions is important when it comes to aerobic activity – on these runs try to keep your heart rate between 50-60% of your maximum effort.
Former Olympic skier Graham Bell notes that he enjoys dipping in to cycling when he doesn’t have the opportunity to embrace the slopes.
It’s all in the breath
Regardless of what sport you’re doing, breathing is crucial. Former pro slopestyle skier Ashley Battersby notes that “it helps calm everything down… and brings more oxygen into the body to help the muscles recover and chill out.”
How to improve your breathing techniques we hear you ask? Yoga is the answer.
Yoga is, as Battersby suggests, one of the most closely related things to skiing, in that the breathing exercises we conduct when we’re on a mat are so similar to those that we’ll be exposing our bodies to when we’re transcending a new terrain at high speeds.
If you’re looking for some motivation, why not call upon the help of Dutch Athlete and Youtuber, Wim Hof. The record holder for a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow focuses his attention on breathing and how it helps us adapt to uncomfortable situations and environments — mind over matter if you will.
The Wim Hof technique, as it is affectionately known, is 30 quick deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, followed by a deep breath and then a long exhale — until you need to breathe again. Follow this by inhaling and holding your breath for ten seconds. Keep doing this as many times as you wish, and you will begin to witness the benefits.
While from the outside world it might appear that skiers and snowboarders need nothing more than strength in their legs, it is in fact a discipline that requires considerable upper body strength.
While lunges and squats should be the main focus of your efforts, exercises which engage various body parts should also receive attention. Small sets of heavy deadlifts can be particularly beneficial – try splits of 3×3 or 3×5. Similarly, Olympic-style training exercises that you may have witnessed cross fitters carrying out can also help with the functional movements necessary for success on the slopes.
Strengthening of the core is paramount when it comes to snow sports. The core, as a whole, is made up of various muscles, including the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm.
Crunches, hip abductions, leg bridges, Russian twists, and, of course, planks are all simple yet effective ways of developing your core strength at home, without any equipment. How do they translate to the slopes, though?
Well, the core is the centre point of the body and not only will it allow you to be more agile when you’re cascading down the mountainside, a strong core will maximise stability.
So, there you have it, if you’re looking to prepare for the timely return to the slopes or you’re considering doing a gap year ski season, but are confused about how to improve your fitness, these are just some of the ways you can better yourself.