It takes 66 days on average to develop a habit, so with ski season three months away, it’s time to think about getting fit. Skiing and riding are demanding sports that require building muscle strength and endurance.
A strong core (abdominals, quads, glutes, obliques, etc.) works to stabilize the body and is developed through exercises like squats, lunges, crunches, and weight training. Various activities like swimming, jogging, and cycling develop cardio/aerobic capacity and endurance.
“But what people may not think about in developing a fitness routine in preparation for the slopes are balance, flexibility and agility,” Oliver Blackman, a ski instructor at Smugglers’ Notch told SnoCountry.com.
“Balance starts with the feet. The feet, ankles, and lower legs move while the upper body needs a strong core to remain stable and still. Balance comes from moving your feet under you, and we exercise to promote that agility and activity in the lower body,” Blackman said.
One exercise is to stand on one foot and raise the other in front of you. Doing this gives a good feel for ankle and feet muscles firing, and it can take lots of practice to do it for a minute without wobbling.
Blackman advises his “serious and motivated clients to build balance with a Bosu ball.” The Bosu ball has a flat side and a rubber dome shape side. In adding instability to whatever exercise is being done, it forces you to use your core to stay steady, thus helping with balance and strength development. “Standing on it and feeling the ankles firing allows you to see how balance starts with the feet,” Blackman noted.
He also recommends a Vew-Do board. Balancing on the board as it moves over a specially shaped roller in multiple directions, helps build balance and muscle memory — skills that transfer to skiing and snowboarding.
“Hiking downhill on rough ground is a good way to develop agility because the uneven ground forces the feet and ankles to adjust to the terrain.
“Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a fun way to work on agility and balance. You can feel a lot of the same muscles firing as in skiing — there is good transfer to skiing,” Blackman said. There’s even SUP yoga for those looking for more challenge.
Stretching exercises promote flexibility and help prevent injury. Yoga and Pilates help develop flexibility and a strong core.
Tennis, where good footwork and constant movement are key to playing well, and roller blading are excellent ways to develop agility and balance as the feet move laterally from side to side. Similarly, skateboarding has a high degree of transfer of skills to snowboarding, Blackman noted.
“Past the mid-forties, fitness has to become a conscious choice… as one ages, a degree of effort is involved,” Blackman advises, explaining that muscle tone and balance both decrease with age.
“Seniors in particular should be sure that an exercise regimen includes rest days so that one builds strength and not exhaustion,” he said.
“It’s important for everyone to listen to their body so as not to risk injury. It is less important what the program is than doing it on an ongoing basis. Pick something you will do and don’t look for a perfect exercise — just have fun and make a commitment.
“Exercising with a partner or friend can help by making it a social activity, which can help you stick with good intentions,” Blackman added.
If new to exercises or equipment mentioned, consult a professional, and check with your doctor if you have any conditions that might restrict activities or exercises.
Getting fit will help prevent fatigue, lessen the chance of injury, and increase the fun factor this snow season.
Top photo: Karen Dalury and daughter Suki enjoy stand up paddling yoga (Kip[ Dalury); Lower right: Ski instructor Oliver Blackman works out on inflated disc. (Jenny Blackman)