How to survive the slopes.
Noticed that the office is starting to get a little quieter?! That’s because everyone is off skiing. But what has your training been like for a few days on the powder?
Skiing and boarding are incredibly demanding and, physically, they’re all-encompassing. It’s crucial to head out with a decent level of fitness. Most people are going from sitting behind a desk and doing half an hour of exercise a day, at most, to then going out and doing more than five hours a day on the mountain. The more you do to prepare, the more fun you are going to have, and the less likely you are to come back on a stretcher!
We recommend starting a fitness regime at least six weeks before you go. However if you have left it late here are our top tips to focus on before you depart.
If you’re skiing and you’re not out of breath, you’re probably not pushing yourself (or you’ve got your face in a fondue). It’s a demanding sport, and when it comes to improving the state of your heart and lungs, any preparation is useful. Just do what you enjoy, cycling, running, swimming or even walking – anything that gets you out of breath will work your cardiovascular system.
Doing weights can be useful but there are vain ways of doing them and effective ways. It’s no good going to the gym and working on your biceps or developing huge bulk. We suggest targeting legs, back and core instead. If you’re a fan of the gym, one of the best ways to work the thighs (which are always the first to burn while skiing) is squats. Try three sets of 12.
A classic home exercise for the thighs is the wall sit, which involves placing your back against a wall, bending your knees to 90 degrees, and holding the position. Look to do this for two minutes every day, it’s a perfect exercise for beginners. To take it to the next level balance on one leg and bend that knee slowly down to 90 degrees. Do 20 of these and then stand on the same leg and close your eyes while trying to balance for 20 seconds. This is better because your muscles are constantly having to adjust as you try to stay steady – just like skiing.
Skiing pulls on your limbs in a way few other sports do, and being supple will not only improve your technique but reduce the chance of injury (anyone who has seen the wipeouts on Ski Sunday, from which racers invariably walk away having cartwheeled like a rag doll at 80mph, will appreciate this).
Even a good skier going at it in powder can expect to fall regularly. To increase flexibility, look to do a lot of stretching to increase the range of movement. Try a couple of yoga classes to get your body moving as one in preparation for the slopes.
If by the second day you can barely walk, never mind ski, then you’re probably not warming up properly. It’s very important to limber up before you get started. We recommend lateral lunges with one leg outstretched and the other bent to work the upper legs. Anything that loosens the hips is also good.
However, you can take stretching too far. Try to avoid really stretching the hamstrings. If it gets strained in a fall, it’s going to tighten up and rip. Don’t overdo it.
Skiing can be the best way to warm up. Try to do a gentle first run on a green or blue, and focus on being balanced over the centre of your skis. Then, slowly build up a range of movement. You can do a few stretches on the lift on the way back up, and by the second run, you’re flying.
Eating and drinking
Mainlining mulled wine and eating vast quantities of cheese, bread and chocolate is all part of the pleasure of skiing. It’s not the time to be eating salad. You’re out in the cold at altitude doing physical activity every day for a week. You need carbohydrates like pasta, although it’s probably best to go easy on the cheese.
We also recommend holding back on the alcohol. A lot of people go up to altitude and forget. They drink like fishes and get dehydrated. Staying hydrated is crucial. Always take water out on the mountain – don’t wait until lunch. When you’re dehydrated, your sense of balance is affected and your joints don’t work as well. You’re also more susceptible to injury.