Shape up for ski & snowboard season with these exercises


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If you want to hit the slopes this year, you might want to work on your own set of curves first to avoid a chilling injury.

Since high altitudes can take a toll on the body, building cardio, increasing flexibility and adding strength to your routine may go a long way in avoiding downhill washouts from the all-too-common blameworthy case of "wobbly legs" or weather-beaten knees.


Essential exercises

Before hitting the mountain, your main goal is to achieve better balance, coordination and endurance. By emphasizing central exercise components for more effective skiing — like agility, flexibility and leg strength — you’ll be better prepared to tackle the toughest declines on your next ski trip, be it downhill or cross-country.

So, where’s a good place to start your descent into ski-season training? The core.

Targeted strength-training exercises, like crunches and sit-ups, and specific balance-training workouts will help reduce your risk of falls, improve your posture and enhance your performance. Also, workouts that require a stability ball or a balance board will help you gain the steadiness and core strength that skiing (and snowboarding) rely on. Some easy at-home ab workouts are a great way to kick your core training into high gear too.

The next focus is strength training, especially for the lower body. Think hamstrings, quads, glutes and calves — your prime movers. Repetitive use of the knee and hip joints means these muscle groups need to be strong and have endurance. As for upper body strength, strong triceps, shoulders and back muscles will help bolster your ski pole mechanics.

Now, when you’re racing down the face of a bank, get ready to eat a lot of wind. That’s why it’s important to remember that skiing is an aerobic exercise that requires a strong heart and robust lungs. Luckily, there are endless ways to build aerobic endurance, from running and swimming to jumping rope and kickboxing. The longer the sessions, the better prepared you’ll be for the endurance skiing demands.

Lastly, don’t forget to stretch, stretch and stretch again. Proper stretching helps reduce muscle tension, boost range of motion and protect joints that are used often in skiing. Find some good beginner flexibility workouts specific to skiing like this set from SparkPeople.


Unconventional approaches

Strength is a prevailing principle to successful skiing. Some professional skiers like Olympic gold medalist Bode Miller have modified their routines to include some old-school methods of training and conditioning like rock hopping and wheelbarrow pushing. So, if you can’t make it to a gym, look no further than your backyard.

According to National Geographic, U.S. ski team downhill coach John McBride has worked for years to develop creative and effective workouts for snow sports athletes like Miller that help underscore ski-specific balance and agility work, as well as including elements of unpredictability in order to simulate what really happens on the hill.

Overall, integrating aspects of nontraditional ski-season training like the aforementioned could keep your body going a lot longer during a multiday or week-long ski trip.


Make it count

As you know now, the key to keeping your stamina on the snow without wiping out — or worse, getting injured — is to build muscle mass, endurance and balance. Ideally, six to 12 weeks of preparation will really make it count. If you have the time and resources, look for ski-specific classes that will help get you in tip-top form for the slopes too.

Just remember, while we all know that winter makes us a little lazier than usual, it’s a warming reminder that cold-weather sports like skiing do provide a refreshing way to appreciate the frigid outdoors.