5 Tips For Staying Fit in The Off-Season
Your skis are lovingly stored for the summer and you find yourself reminiscing about every turn from last season. As you escape the summer heat beside the air conditioner, you're filled with regret. On that last warm spring day, you could still have gotten in just a few more turns.
You long for the snow. The endless pow days and sick lines you know are waiting for you next season. But before you can click into your bindings again, you must suffer through the dreaded off-season. The time of year when staying fit seems more challenging than climbing out of bed on a cold winter morning.
Summertime is often associated with relaxation and vacations. A time to let your body recuperate from the previous season's stresses. But if you're not careful, it can be too easy to fall out of shape and arrive at the hill next season out of breath and overweight. Here are five tips for keeping fit in the off-season, so you're ready to shred pow come next winter.
Backcountry skiing is a physically challenging sport. To be successful and have a great time, you need to be in good physical condition. It's not simply a question of hitting the weights in the gym; you should consider your general fitness and mobility as well.
Most articles that discuss training often skip the idea of general fitness. Sitting all day is the norm for many people. Gone are the days of working full-day labor jobs. At his peak Arnold Schwarzenegger as working a full day as a bricklayer before heading to the gym. We have forgotten the benefits of being generally fit. Increasing your base fitness level requires that you live a more active lifestyle. This means more movement throughout the day, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and going for a short walk every couple hours.
You don't need to do an intense workout every day; in fact, this can actually lead to overtraining and injuries. But you should be active every day, even just going for a light jog or playing with your kids at the park.
Skiing and boarding in the backcountry requires endurance. You need to be able to sustain a moderate level of activity for long periods. When training for endurance, you should focus on activities that will get your heart rate up and keep it there for an extended period.
Some great exercises for endurance training include running, biking, and our favorite, hiking.
You need to be strong and mobile to ski and board well. This means having a good range of motion in your joints and the muscles surrounding them. When you're training for functional mobility, the goal is to improve your ability to move efficiently and prevent injuries. A good training program will include functional mobility that simulates ski movements.
Strength training is essential for all athletes, not just skiers, and boarders. Stronger muscles mean better performance and reduced risk of injury. When you're strength training in the off-season, it's essential to focus on exercises that target the large muscle groups used in skiing and boarding. These include the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core.
Putting all of these ideas into a program can be challenging. However, you don't need to spend hours in the gym to stay fit for skiing. A few hours per week of dedicated training will help you arrive at the mountain next season in better shape than ever before. And who knows, you might even enjoy summer a little more with all that extra energy.
5 Tips on How to Stay Fit in The Off-Season
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Mobility is King
Don't Forget Your Core
1) Enjoy the Great Outdoors
The summer months offer some great outdoor opportunities in the sun. Take advantage of it. Activities that challenge your heart and lungs will build endurance and get you in better shape. During the summer, I am a big fan of hiking. We are lucky to have some great hikes a short drive from our house, and I like to hike the mountain behind our house once a week. Hiking is excellent training for touring. It keeps your legs in shape for skinning come wintertime.
If hiking isn't your thing, consider biking, swimming, or even heading out to play with your kids in the yard. I'm a big fan of just getting outside and moving. Working out and fitness don't need to be inside a gym; the world around us is a great playground. I would much rather go for a hike or a walk than spend half an hour on a treadmill.
Playing with the kids
Get out there and have some fun; your body will thank you for it come ski season.
2) Mobility is King
Functional mobility can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for skiing. A good mobility routine will keep your joints healthy, increase your range of motion and help prevent injuries. It will teach your body to move more effectively and overcome strength imbalances. When you move more efficiently, you will have more power and control. This translates into safer, more energy-efficient skiing. Despite being non-ski specific, yoga is excellent for your body and mind. For a skiing mobility routine, consider Big Picture Skiing by Tom Gellie. He has some excellent pre-season programs that focus on ski movements and strength.
Ski Mobility Routine
Mobility will make you a better skier, plain and simple. So get out there and move.
Calisthenics is bodyweight exercises that build strength, power, and muscle endurance. They are a great way to train as you can choose activities that target skiing-specific muscle groups. They also force you to improve functional movements that overcome strength imbalances. Any calisthenic program will be beneficial, but my favorite (dreaded...) are leg blasters. Leg blasters are great for skiing because they train eccentric strength. Unlike squats, which are primarily a concentric exercise, leg blasters train your legs the same way you use them when you ski. The result is a more effective routine that builds ski legs of steel. Be forewarned, leg blasters are not for the faint of heart. You will be sore the next day!
Full Leg Blasters
20 air squats
20 alternating lunges
20 alternating jump lunges
10 jump squats
You can perform leg blasters 2-3 times a week and slowly work yourself up to rounds. If the full leg blaster is too much at the beginning, start with a mini leg blaster by cutting the number of exercises in half.
I use leg blasters as a conditioning exercise during the summer, combining them with a high-intensity interval training protocol. As fall approaches, I train leg blasters more often to give my legs that last push before the season starts.
4) Weight Training
When most people think about working out, they automatically assume you mean weight training. The gym has become synonymous with fitness, but that doesn't mean it's the best place to train for skiing. Skiing is a sport; training should be more about athleticism. However, weight training does have its place. Lifting weights will help improve bone density, increase joint stability and build muscle.
Focus on exercises that target leg strength and core, but don't neglect the upper body either. The real key with any program is consistency. Any general program that focuses on total body training will do the trick. It doesn't have to be fancy, as long as you stick to it.
Don't get me wrong, I train with weights regularly. I've realized, though, that it's not about the specific program but whether you stick with it. I recommend looking for a relatively simple total body program. It should include compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, chin-ups, etc., and you don't want to focus exclusively on the lower body. Your goal should be to build muscle and strength over your whole body.
A total body program that includes compound lifts
Consistency consistency consistency!
5) Don't Forget Your Core
Core strength is essential for skiing; it keeps you stable when carving turns and resists the centrifugal force that wants to send you flying out of your turn. A strong core improves your balance. The key to a strong core is variety. You want to target all the muscles in your trunk. Exercises like planks, side planks, situps, Russian twists, and flutter kicks are all great for building a solid core.
To really give your core a challenge, try adding some resistance. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell while you perform exercises like situps, Russian twists, and flutter kicks.
As with any routine, the key is consistency. Incorporate core work into your weekly routine, and you'll see a difference in your skiing.
Putting it All Together
I've thrown a lot of recommendations at you, and it's easy to get overwhelmed. Trying to fit all of this advice into your weekly routine may seem daunting. How can you train consistently throughout the summer without spending hours and hours in the gym? Below is a weekly schedule of workouts.
15 minutes yoga
5 minutes core
45 minutes Full Body Routine
15 minutes Leg Blasters
5 minutes core
45 minutes Full Body Routine
15 minutes yoga
5 minutes core
45 minutes Full Body Routine
1-hour Outdoor Activity
Finding a routine you can follow and stick to is key to making this work. Start slow and add or subtract as needed. The goal is to have fun and stay injury free, so find something you enjoy and stick with it.
How often should you lift in the off-season?
There is no definitive answer. Each person is different and can manage a different number of workouts per week. A general rule of thumb is 2-3 times per week. Base the number of workouts per week on how quickly you can recover without overtraining.
How much weight should I lift?
The key to muscle growth is progressive overload. You should be lifting sufficiently heavy to hit the target rep range for a given exercise while ensuring that you can adequately lift the weight without using momentum. It's better to start light and do more reps than required. You can also do warmup sets to get a feel for the correct range before beginning your work set.
How do I maintain my fitness in the winter?
During the ski season, it can be challenging to motivate yourself to train. I reduce my weight training significantly during ski season and focus primarily on mobility and corrective work. I have a morning mobility routine of 15 - 20 minutes that includes stretching and corrective exercises, a core routine that I perform daily, and I train weights no more than 30 minutes 3x per week. Anything beyond this, and I find I can't recover. My goal is muscle maintenance and injury prevention.
What is an off-season workout?
An off-season workout is any type of physical activity to stay in shape while not skiing. This could be anything from weight lifting to running to yoga. The important thing is that you find something you enjoy and stick with it.
Nutrition can be a very personal and complicated dance between calorie intake and expenditure. This article is not a comprehensive guide to nutrition, but there are some key things to keep in mind when training for skiing.
First, you need to make sure you're eating the right amount of calories. It's easy to think that because you're working out, you can eat whatever you want. However, consuming too many calories will lead to weight gain, which is not ideal for maintaining healthy body composition. Use a calculator to determine your recommended calorie intake and monitor as you train. Be sure to stay hydrated and eat healthy natural foods that will help you recover faster.
The off-season is a great time to strengthen and improve your body. A consistent routine will ensure you're in top form for the upcoming ski season. Stay safe and have fun!