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Take the Time to Prepare Before Hitting the Slopes

November 27, 2000|STEPHANIE OAKES

Each year, my family takes a ski trip to visit my brothers in Big Sky, Mont. In the past, this has been quite a challenge for me and my sisters, who are still of the competitive-sibling sort but are all urban dwellers used to pampering ourselves with worldly comforts in December.

Though we liked to consider ourselves proficient skiers, to my brothers, who live practically in the mountains and can easily ski or snowboard almost every weekend, we were really just dabbling in this physically demanding, yet loads-of-fun sport.

There's no doubt that skiing or snowboarding brings out two distinctive personality types, and my family is no exception. My brothers, the Type A's, bomb it down the mountains, ignoring the groomed slopes, opting to set their own course through the trees, over the moguls and into the deep powder. The rest of us, the Type B's, take a slower, more deliberate approach to each run.

Regardless of the type, however, everybody is sprightly on the slopes the first and second day. But by the third day, even the daredevil boarders drag their bodies (and their egos) along, groaning with sore muscles.

That's when the fitness plan my sisters and I now work on every year really pays off. It enables us to keep going.

Beginning in early November, we start getting in "ski-worthy shape," following the sports-specific routine I've put together below.

If you hit the slopes without developing these strength, endurance, balance and coordination skills, you might be in for more than a little soreness--you could be injured.

So to ensure you've got an extra edge on the slopes--with strong, supple and hopefully injury-resistant muscles--start this plan at least a month before your ski vacation begins. Soon you'll be sailing past those other hot dog ski bums on your way down the slopes.

Skiing and Boarding Workout

To begin this program, add several of these new exercises to your regular workout schedule (you are working out, right?). The squats and lunges will build lower-body strength, which is needed to ski tough terrain or moguls. The crunches will create a solid "core" to maintain balance and agility. The plyometric exercises will train your body to withstand and absorb impact. And the extensions will give you postural strength and balance.


This is a great all-over leg toner, working the front and back of the thigh simultaneously.

Take a giant step forward with your right foot, bending your right knee. Your left leg should be behind you, with a slight bend in your knee, and you should be on your toes. Slowly lower your left knee straight down, while keeping your right knee fairly stationary. Your front thigh should be parallel to the ground. Then lift back to starting position. Do one or two sets of 12. To maintain the best form, don't allow your back knee to touch the ground or your front knee to slide past your front toes.


A squat works your entire leg--the quadriceps (front of the leg) on your way down and the hamstrings (back of the thigh) when you push back up.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, looking straight ahead. (You can hold light weights on your shoulders or by your side, or just use your body weight for resistance.) Slowly bend your knees and lower your hips toward the ground (your upper thighs should ultimately be parallel to the floor). Hold briefly, then straighten your legs. Do three sets of 12 repetitions to avoid straining your knees.

Abdominal Crunch

You probably know this exercise. But are you doing it right? Abdominal work is important for back support and stabilizing strength for skiing and boarding.

Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands behind your head for support. Slowly lift your head and shoulders using your abdominals (not your neck), curling your trunk about 30 degrees. Now lower your head and shoulders back to the floor. Hold the movement at the top for a second before uncurling. Move slowly and with control through this movement (two seconds up and four seconds down). Do three sets of 15 to 25 repetitions. Resist moving too quickly. Make your abs do the work here, breathing through each rep (exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower) and avoiding momentum.

Lateral Plyometric Hops

This will help train the lateral muscles of the legs and knees--muscles that don't get usually get much focus in traditional gym workouts but will need that extra conditioning for lateral sports like skiing.

Start by standing on one leg and tuck the other leg behind you as you squat down slightly to prepare for a jump. Then, hop to the side, landing softly on the other leg, and resume your starting position on this (opposite) side.

Tip: This movement should move fluidly from side to side, just like taking a run fluidly down the slopes. Pause for a few seconds between hops, and focus on leaping upward and outward as you leap from side to side.

Trunk/Hip Extensions

This exercise will strengthen your lower back. (If you suffer from lower back pain, pass on this exercise.)

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