As we eager skiers dig out our equipment at the turn of the season, we usually envision ourselves flying down majestic snow-covered mountains with the grace and stamina of a professional. But without proper preseason conditioning, out-of-shape partakers may find a totally different reality: an icy experience filled with injuries and fatigue.
If you are excited to hit the slopes, but not sure if your body is as ready as you are -- here are five fitness components that will help you stay strong from your first run of the morning to the last run of the day.
Component One: Aerobic Conditioning--Aerobic conditioning falls into two types: machine-based and self-stabilizing. Machine-based conditioning involves using stable gym equipment such as stationary cycling, stair machines and cross trainers, while self-stabilizing brings the individual outdoors into a more unstable atmosphere, running, biking, hiking. I always recommend utilizing both forms for variety.
Component Two: General and Core Strengthening--General and core strengthening can be completed using general weight machines or exercise equipment in the gym. To do a general circuit routine, set up 10-15 exercises covering the whole body, do one exercise for 12 to 15 repetitions, then move on to the next for the same number of reps until each exercise has been completed.
1. Leg press--Perform either in the seated press machine or on an incline bench. The important component is to make sure that the knees do not go past the front of the feet and that the focus of the press is through the entire foot and not off the balls of the feet.
2. Leg curl--Perform either in the prone machine with legs in extension or on the seated machine. The motion should be smooth. Emphasize the available range of motion. Do not over flex.
3. Squat--Stand with feet shoulder-distance apart and hands either out in front or holding a bar on your back. Keep weight back on heels, back straight and hips level. Move up and down smoothly between about 30 to 90 degrees and without pausing on the way down or the way up.
4. Alternating Front Lunge--Standing, step forward a big step with one foot, then lower your body to perform a lunge (make sure to keep hips level). Stand back up and alternate sides. The focus of the body weight should be on the heel of the front foot (not on the balls of the foot). Do not let the knee go past the front of the toes.
5. Straight arm lat pull down--Standing with arms straight out in front, pull machine toward the waist.
6. Overhead triceps extension--Sitting on the bench, hold the end of a dumbbell with each hand. Raise the dumbbell above the head, lower it behind the head, and then raise it above the head again, all the time moving at the elbow.
7. Wall Sits--Standing, lean against wall. Flex knees to 90 degrees. Keep both feet on floor. Hold for two minutes. Do three reps.
8. Abdominal crunches--Lying on back with knees bent, feet flat on the ground and arms behind the head; pull up toward knees with abdominal muscles tight and the small of the back still flat on the ground. To increase in difficulty, place legs up on a bench or chair. For more difficulty, hold legs in the air.
9. Double Leg Lift--Lying with back flat on floor, lift both legs. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 5 to 10 reps.
10. Back extension--On all fours, lift the opposite arm and leg at the same time, then repeat using other arm and leg. Spine should be in perfect neutral position (to make sure, balance a stick on back).
Component Three: Plyometrics- converting strength and endurance into "explosive power.” The following exercises should be repeated until the muscles begin to feel fatigued: Goal at first is 30 seconds without rest, adding 10 seconds increments each time until you can do for 90 seconds.
1. Lateral box hopping--Standing on a box, cinder block, or object of equal height, use both feet to jump to one side, jump back on object, then jump to other side. Feet should be in a flexed, ski-ready position.
2. Box leap-overs--Like the lateral box hop, stand on a box or other object. Use both feet to jump to one side, then jump completely over the box to the other side. End on top of box.
3. Zig-zag drill--Using open space like a sidewalk or other area, stand in a ski-ready position with arms extended in front and knees bent. Leap forward to one side, landing and balancing on one foot; then leap forward again, landing and balancing on other foot, for about 10 yards.
Component Four: Balance and Proprioception--Both balance and proprioception are critical for staying on the skis. Though simple, these are great exercises to challenge your balance and get our proprioreceptors ready for ski season.
1. Standing on one foot--Stand with equal weight between heels and toes, with knees slightly bent and with arms tight against side. Lift one leg and hold for 15 seconds. Then, bend leg several degrees more, and hold again for 15 seconds. Repeat four to five times, each time dropping body lower.
2. Standing on one foot on uneven surface--To increase difficulty, perform exercise on an unstable surface, such as on a pillow on a bed, on a balance board or on a foam roller. Use the same reps as #1.
3. Standing on one foot with eyes closed--To further increase difficulty, close eyes and perform exercise on an unstable surface. Use the same reps as #1.
Component Five: Flexibility- - the more flexible we are, the more mobile, resilient and less likely to suffer an injury we are. Flexibility exercises should be performed daily, but especially after exercising or being active.
1. Hamstring Stretch--Lying with back flat on floor, lift heel to the ceiling while keeping leg straight. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Do three reps.
2. Quadriceps Stretch--Standing with back to chair, lift foot from behind and place on chair seat. Tighten abdominal and gluteus muscles. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Do three reps.
3. Lower Spine Stretch--Lying with back flat on floor and arms out to the sides, lift leg up in the air, then bring down toward the opposite hand (if there is discomfort, bend the leg). Keep upper spine straight and face toward the ceiling. Do not hold. Repeat 15 reps with each leg.
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