Getting Mountain Fit - Do I Need to Get Fit to Ski or Board and if so, how?

Getting Mountain Fit

Do I need to get fit to ski or board and, if so, how?

This is a difficult question to answer.  Every one of you will have individual needs depending on your current levels of strength, endurance and fitness. Factors such as previous injuries, current lifestyle and hobbies, muscle imbalances, level and type of skiing or boarding that you will be doing will also need to be taken into account when planning your mountain fit program. 

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There is no 'one size fits all'.

However, one thing for certain is that ski/boarding fitness is a big deciding factor between having an enjoyable trip or a painful one.  Being mountain fit can make a difference as to whether you can progress your skills on the slopes or whether you have a high risk of injury. Poor fitness leads to increased fatigue, which is cited as probably the biggest reason for injuries occurring on the slopes.

You wouldn't attempt to run a marathon without training and, whilst you may take regular breaks on the slopes, often you will be spending 4 - 6 hours a day on your skis or board and asking huge demands from your body.  A large proportion of the injuries we see have occurred in people who have rushed into skiing and boarding without being fully prepared.  An audit we carried out a few years ago suggested that less than 10 % of people seeking treatment for injuries had worked on their leg strength prior to their skiing holidays. 

One of our roles as a physiotherapist is education and injury prevention. We regularly lecture to trainee ski instructors to help them train effectively and to help them become better informed teachers. However, when we ask for a show of hands as to who has prepared physically, again less than 10% has done any ski fit training. 

It doesn't matter if you are a regular runner, gym-goer or cross trainer.  It doesn't matter if you are a professional couch potato for 51 weeks of the year then aim to ski the one other week or whether you are a sedentary office worker or a professional athlete.  Ski preparation that starts 6 - 8 weeks before you hit the slopes is the best way to enhance your enjoyment, improve your performance and decrease injury risk on the slopes.  Of course, you can usually get fixed when you are broken, but how about avoiding getting to that point in the first place!

Injury prevention - perform better for longer  

Overuse injuries are generally caused by overloading, in other words asking too much from unprepared muscles.  So many of these injuries could be avoided. Getting fit to ski or board involves functional training. This means tailoring your training program to the demands of your sport. 

Let’s look at some of the main components you need for skiing.  These include (but are not limited to):

  • Strength and endurance
  • Balance and proprioception
  • Flexibility and mobility
  • Plyometric strength and agility

Of course, the type of skiing you do will also dictate your training needs.  For example, if you are a recreational skier, you will need to steadily train all of the above.  However, if you are a bumps skier then you will need to increase your focus on lower back, hip and knee flexibility along with a large emphasis on plyometric strength.  If you ski off piste or go ski touring, you will need good endurance, balance and cardiovascular endurance.  So you see, giving out a generic ski fit program is not as simple as there are too many factors to take into account.  However, we will be giving you ideas for training though our exercise blogs/factsheets that you can incorporate into an overall training regime.   

As you introduce the concepts of ski fitness, make sure that the different components are introduced gradually.  Sudden increases in training intensity, load and frequency can lead to injury themselves, therefore we recommend seeking the advice of a professional.  A great way to ensure you are introducing a variety of exercises in a safe manner is to consult a personal trainer or join a ski fit class. There are ways of preventing injuries such as a structured warm up, management of training load, pacing and correct use of equipment.  Our ‘Getting Mountain Fit Series’ will introduce ideas for exercises. 

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When you are about to get started ask yourself a few questions:

  • How much exercise do I currently do / what are my current fitness levels?
  • How much skiing will I be doing - am I preparing for a weeks holiday or a whole season?
  • What is my current level of skiing?
  • What type of skiing will I be doing? 
  • What hobbies and activities do I currently do that may influence my skiing?

For example, if you spend a lot of time sitting you are likely to have tight and weak hip flexors (the muscles in the front of your hip and thigh which flex your hip and work a lot when you ski).  If so, your training plan may need to address this.

Follow our ‘Getting Mountain Fit’ series over the next few weeks to learn how to introduce various components of ski or boarding fitness into your training program.

And if you are really keen to improve your performance and style, book in for a Biomechanical Assessment with us to help identify your training needs!

 

Disclaimer:

The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and educational material relating to exercise, physiotherapy and injury management. Bonne Santé Alps has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

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