Getting Physical

Getting Physical

It’s funny to see what motivates people to exercise. In my experience, it’s varied from wanting to keep off the freshman 15 to wanting to keep up with my kids. But for many of us, a sure fire way to kick start an exercise regime is the pending ski season.

Recall the thigh burning feeling of your last attempt to tame Winter Park/Mary Jane’s bumps, or the aching leg syndrome that came with sliding down Telluride’s steeps, or the sucking wind sensation that accompanied the hike to Crested Butte’s extremes – there’s motivation for you.

Over the summer, ski legs can turn to mush as fast as a home made hot air balloon. With two resorts open in Colorado, there is no better time like the present to get in ski season shape. For some tips on where to start, we asked our resident ski technique guru, and Colorado Ski Country USA’s 2009 Ski Instructor of the Year, from Winter Park, Julie Pierce.

In the two years that Pierce has been employed as a full time instructor at Winter Park Resort, she achieved her PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) Level 3 Certification and Trainers Accreditation in alpine skiing. She also has her AASI (American Association Snowboard Instructors) Level 1 Certification in Snowboarding.

Julie had a very successful Jr. USSA/FIS Ski Racing Career for 10 years prior to coaching, placing in the top five in the Junior Olympics many times. As a result of her experience ski racing successfully at such a high level, Julie has many well-developed skills that she translates into her career as an instructor and trainer.

CSCUSA: What type of physical preparation should people be doing to get ready for ski season?

JP: A lot of people forget about core strength. They lift weights to strengthen their legs and upper bodies and neglect their core. Having a strong core really pays off during ski season. You need a strong center when you ski.I can’t squat as much as some strong guys, but I can hold a turn as well as they can because I have a strong core.

CSCUSA: What types of exercises can people do to strengthen their cores?

JP: There are lots of exercises that people can do. If you do a lot of exercises without good form, you’ll get hurt, so I would say that, in any exercise, people should focus on a proper form.

‘Planks’ is a good exercise for the core. To do this exercise, you balance on your elbows and toes and stabilize your body above the ground. This one is good for many ability levels because you can strengthen yourself by balancing on your knees first and then move on to stabilizing yourself on your toes as you get stronger.

It’s easier to maintain good form in doing an exercise such as planks vs. doing sit-ups. It’s certainly easier for me to keep up my form with planks.

People also forget about strengthening their backs. Doing exercises such as ’supermans’, where people lie on their front and raise their arms and legs above the ground, are great to work on overall back strength.

People who go skiing with weak backs tend to compensate by relying too much on their hamstrings and leg muscles. The best option is for people is to use their core strength, but in addition to that, leg training in quads and hamstrings together could help to prevent knee injuries.

CSCUSA: Are there any good quad and hamstring exercises that you would recommend?

JP: Squats are good to do, but you need to make sure that, if you do squats, that you do something specific for your hamstrings too, in order to balance out the strengthening. This will help to stabilize your knee too.

CSCUSA: Are there any exercises that people should do closer to the season vs. farther out?

JP: Closer to the season people should add fast-twitch aerobic exercises to their workouts. (Fast-twitch means muscles that help you with short bursts of energy.) Skiing is quick and then you get on the chair. Going hard with aerobic exercises is good, and then rest. That is more like how skiing really is—short bursts of a lot of energy.

The week before going skiing should be a lighter week. Otherwise, you may get too tired while skiing because your body is worn down from your workouts.

CSCUSA: What about flexibility?

JP: Flexibility is really important. When people get tight, that’s bad. People underestimate stretching before skiing. Stretching is not just something you should do in the gym, you should do it before you ski every time.

I’ve also found that people don’t like to warm up before skiing. Even if you’re cold, it’s good to walk around in ski boots to warm up. I recently saw a study of a ski school in Japan that showed that stretching before skiing helped to prevent injuries on the mountain. There really should be an emphasis on warming up in the morning.

CSCUSA: Are there certain foods people should be eating as they get ready for skiing or during the day when they’re skiing?

JP: People should drink lots of water when they go skiing. Even though people may want to eat differently than they normally do when they’re on a vacation, they should drink a lot of water no matter what.

Eating plenty of carbs is important too. When it gets cold, your body needs to burn carbs to stay warm. Your body doesn’t digest heavy foods as fast, which can work to your advantage. Combine fast and slow digesting foods so you have energy when you need it. Having a good base of health and exercise of course helps too.

A lot of people only come for vacation for a week, but it takes a week or two to get in shape for that week. Being a little sore after skiing is normal, but without prior training, you’ll be a lot more sore than you should be.

CSCUSA: Should first-time skiers take a lesson? What about people who have been skiing for a while?

JP: You can’t ski in a gym! Beginners should definitely take a lesson. They will have a more successful day and be less tired. The instructor will teach how to stand up when you ski and move in a way that will make you less tense at the end of the day.

Advanced skiers sometimes get bad form ingrained and can use a lesson to help correct that
and save their bodies in the long run. Even an hour or two can help an advanced skier quite a lot. Sometimes a long-time skier will see one new thing in a lesson that can really help them for a whole season.

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