Warming Up for Winter Sports: Sure-Fire Ways to Get Fit
BY MARLAINA DONATO
Whether skiing on fresh powder on a mountain slope, ice skating or snowshoeing, winter recreation offers new opportunities to get in shape and a specialized focus for fitness.
“Preparing your body should be on top of your list of vacation details,” says physical therapist Linda Scholl, of the University of Utah Orthopedics Center. Her ski fitness classesin Salt Lake City focus on developing four muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, glutes and core. “Ideally, you should take six to eight weeks to prepare for a ski vacation, but three weeks’ prep is better than nothing,” she says. That goes for most winter pursuits.
Sean Sewell, founder of Mountain Fitness School, in Denver, concurs. “People tend to think that these sports are mostly quad-dominant, but it’s not necessarily the case. I believe the body works as a unit, and is therefore only as strong as its weakest link, so all muscle groups are important in the big picture.”
Lunges, single-leg dead lifts and lateral-motion exercises are all well-suited for tailored training. Winter fitness prep classes offer ideal benefits, but simple walking or running up stairs can also do wonders. “Stairs are the closest thing to a hill, and you can get creative with stairs—skipping a stair or hopping. It also has a cardio component which helps you adjust to the altitude of a ski destination,” says Scholl.
Maggie Lehrian, ownerof Roots Yoga Studio, in Hawley, Pennsylvania, attests to yoga’s benefits for conditioning, “The standing sequences in yoga practice, especially hatha yoga, are tremendously effective at increasing balance and strength in the legs and glutes needed for cross-country and downhill skiing, skating and snow shoeing.”
She recommends adding 30 minutes of cardio, such as walking or running, three times a week to a balanced yoga practice that includes components of strength-building and stretching. Yoga fosters concentration and endurance and offers unrealized benefits. “Breathwork can be extremely helpful when traveling to higher altitudes,” says Lehrian. Yoga also scores high for attaining a confident, healthy beach body for a winter Caribbean getaway, with strength-building, core-focused styles such as vinyasa or power flow.
Experts agree that the body’s core muscle groups are not only key in getting fit, but play a major role in preventing common injuries. “The core should always be activated during heavy exercises. This keeps the back safe and allows for better power output,” says Sewell. “The core is not just the abdominal muscles. I like to think of the core as an area from the shoulders to the knees and both the front and back of the body.”
Proper alignment is paramount. “Skiing involves absorbing a lot of force. It’s literally controlling a fall downhill, so leg alignment is everything,” says Scholl. This applies to all winter sports—including skiing, hockey and ice skating—to avoid injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, which stabilizes the knee.
Being winter-ready also means eating well and staying hydrated, both on and off the slopes. “Eat well and take recovery seriously,” says Sewell. “If you are serious about performance and recovery, then do not skip out on eating.”
Scholl recommends drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol before hitting the slopes and consuming a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, especially post-workout or after a day of skiing.
Perks of Winter Sports
Choosing a winter sport is ideal to help combat cold weather blues and the all-too-common winter rut. As a bonus, skiing and snowboarding burn a surprisingly high number of calories. In essence, getting outside just makes winter more enjoyable. “Whether it is a solo powder day or a mellow spring day, being in the mountains is empowering and rejuvenating,” says Sewell.
Scholl agrees. “It’s important to stay active, regardless of how cold it is outside. Enjoy winter and where you are.”
Marlaina Donato is the author of Multidimensional Aromatherapyand several other books. Connect at AutumnEmbersMusic.com.