Getting ready for a new year
Can you feel it? Skiing is coming! At least on the Front Range, we had the first proper autumn-like days after a scorcher start to September, and the aspens are showing off. With that, it feels appropriate to start thinking about skiing again, not that you would have stopped in the summer!
What better way to prepare for the upcoming year than to make sure you are in good ski shape? I know, eye rolls, right? We all know the most fun part of the year ahead is debuting our new gear, and of course taking pictures of it to put on social media. So aside from that, the next most-exciting thing you can do is get those legs and lungs ready for another year.
Now, if you are like me, you will try to avoid doing any sort of formal working out in a gym, with weights, on an exercise bike, and so on. You can knock yourself out and get one of those mogul-skiing machines if you want, but that’s rather limited if you don’t plan on competing in the Olympics someday. If you’re going that route, talk to some gym bros, but let me recommend any combination of biking, yoga, Pilates, climbing, soccer, or heck, rowing if you feel up to it.
Why not start with the basics? Biking works most of the same muscles as skiing, and it’s a mellow way to get around, if you are lucky enough to live in a place where you don’t have to fear for your life on a bike, that is. Even if you do, you can consider dodging cars, trains and pedestrians as excellent reflex training, that should translate directly to tree skiing. Aside from that, it’s the easiest way to keep up your cardio and keep those thighs the nice tree-trunks they need to be to survive on a long, chundery day. While you’re at it, why not just use the bike to get to another one of the activities mentioned above? Biking to yoga is an especially good combo, as you are nice and warmed up by the time you walk into the studio, letting you get deeper into poses.
Along those yogic lines, any sort of balance practice is excellent for those long periods of time where we might find ourselves traversing a steep tree cut. It’s been years since your author last snowboarded, but the pain in the calves still lives in the memory. Take your pick between the various disciplines of yoga and pilates, they’re all beneficial so long as you don’t overdo it. Any of the balance poses – tree, dancer, airplane, standing leg raise – are excellent to help build up the external hip and leg muscles and keep you stable when the terrain gets steeper.
As for climbing, all you need to do is look at someone who climbs regularly to see the benefits it has to your physique. Seriously, they’re all ripped. And for good reason, given that they are regularly levering themselves up a steep rock face. It may be that you prefer, like me, to jump off things rather than climb up them, but aside from becoming chiseled like the rocks themselves, there are a ton of crossover skills that translate well into mountaineering and overall situational awareness. There’s basically no limit to how challenging you want to make it, though if you have a strong fear of heights, there is always climbing indoor or bouldering, both of which have their own height limitations.
Not everyone’s favorite, running, but if you throw a ball into the equation, suddenly everything changes. Soccer, basketball, tennis, any ball-related sport (sorry baseball, not you) is a great way to build and keep cardio during the offseason. If you’re a bit older, make sure to stretch beforehand. Nothing worse than a tendon tear to end your hopes of skiing for the year.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you are doing some form of physical activity prior to getting on the mountain. Even adding 15-20 minutes of walking per day will make your muscles ready for when you unexpectedly eat it. Healthy, active lungs will help you stave off the sometimes-debilitating effects of altitude sickness, and if you want to get the most of those precious powder days, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be in decent shape, does it?