Skiing holidays make for a pretty unreal adventure – raw nature, expansive views, epic ski runs, warm fires and unintentional yet highly welcomed thigh, butt and core strengthening each day. However, skiing can potentially lead to unexpected injury if you are not sufficiently prepared.
Skiing injuries generally occur through falls, collisions, poorly fitting ski equipment, poorly designed ski bindings which increase torsional (twisting) stress on the knee, fatigue (skiing at the end of the day, and on consecutive days without the necessary prior training), weather conditions affecting core temperature and vision, slippery or icy snow conditions and poor technique. Knee ligament and cartilage injuries are popular; most commonly torn are the medial collateral ligaments (MCL), anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) and the medial meniscus. However, landing on your hands to catch a fall can easily target the wrist and shoulder girldle.
For safety you need to have the strength, muscular endurance, agility, reflex & motor control to be able to maintain the classic parallel squat position and stabilize yourself from sudden disturbances in terrain. Your ski specific workouts should incorporate exercises for improving your eccentric quad strength ability to absorb forces (plyometrics), reflexes, balance and rotational control of your trunk.
Examples of Ski Workout exercises include full or partial range squats, skater-curtsy squats, “drinking birds” and crossed single leg squats such as shown in the videos below.
Full-range Squat for correct knee alignment in squatting, leg strength and glute strength.
Skater to Curtsy Squat for multi-directional leg stability and strength. Sitting your hips back strengthens the glutes more than if you were to shift your knees further over the toes.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (“Drinking Bird’) for stability and strength in the legs, hips and core.
Crossed Pistol Squat (Advanced) for multi-directional leg strength and the strength to resist rotational forces acting on the knee.
An example of a core exercise which targets rotational control is the russian twist.
Warm-up before you train. An example warm-up can be viewed in the video below.
Stretching of muscles that are short and tight (front of the thighs and lower legs are good areas for skiing), and performing guided self-mobilisations for joint restrictions.
TIPS TO GET YOU READY FOR YOUR SKI TRIP
- Start your ski fitness program at least six to eight weeks before your trip. Target ski-specific muscles. Make sure you get a program that really works the thighs, butt, and core stabilisers. The legs will predominantly be working eccentrically throughout skiing to maintain your squat position and stabilise throughout uneven terrain, so ensure your training incorporates eccentric leg extensor exercises. To get started, check out my online strength and conditioning coaching.
- Keep up the ski lessons on the snow to ensure correct technique.
- Warm up with some easy runs and stretches before challenging yourself further when out on the slopes.
- Allow time for rest and refuelling. Schedule in regular drink (high quality water) and food breaks. Watch the quality of food on the mountain. You may want to travel with home-prepared snacks.
- Keep in mind that although the slopes are enticingly less crowded at the end of the day, fatigue can set in and cause some grief. Monitor your energy levels and focus on maintaining good technique.
- Aim for 8 hours sleep each night, which is actually hard not to do since you’ll be quite exhausted from a day’s skiing, and avoid late nights of drinking. Becoming intoxicated hammers your neuromuscular system which will not be in the best shape to provide adequate support the following day and your ski trip could turn fairly expensive medically!
- Find good quality and correctly fitting boots, skis, bindings and consider clothing that breathes, conserves heat or cools by evaporation.
- Have fun!