Ski season is in full swing, but your body may still be in post-holiday recovery. Whether you’ve kept up your fitness routine or spent the last few months everywhere but the gym, use these easy exercises — recommended by experts from the Professional Ski and Snowboard Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors — to get strong for the slopes.
The last thing you want is get tuckered out by your midmorning hot cocoa break. You’ve probably waited too long and traveled too far for fresh powder. Do these nine moves before, during and after being on the slopes all day, so that you can swoosh or shred with better balance, complete more runs without fatiguing and recover faster with less muscle soreness.
BEFORE HITTING THE SLOPES
In the weeks leading up to your trip, try to cycle daily for 30–60 minutes, suggests Amy Gan, a snowboard instructor at Mount Snow Resort in Vermont and AASI snowboard team member. “This cardio workout will build your endurance and keep your legs strong so you will be able to perform all day,” she says. Gan also recommends doing 2–3 sets of 10 squats and 10 burpees with 30-second breaks between sets to get your quads, hamstrings and glutes ready for action.
The morning of your mountain adventure, get your blood flowing with functional movements. “Work your joints through a full range of motion to get your muscles and other soft tissue warmed up and geared up for the demands of the day,” says Robin Barnes, a certified personal trainer and PSIA Alpine team member. Turn up the (body) heat before you step out in the cold with these three moves.
1. THE WORLD’S GREATEST STRETCH
Step your left foot forward into a low lunge position. Put your right hand on the ground about 12 inches from your left foot. Keep your left knee behind your toes, and your right leg mostly straight. Bring your left elbow to your big toe (or as far as you can comfortably go) and hold it for 3–5 seconds. Then twist your torso to the left, raising your left arm up toward the ceiling. Focus on rotating from your torso and not letting the arm go behind you. Hold for 3–5 seconds. Then place both hands on either side of your left foot and extend your left leg as much as possible in front of you. Hold that for 3–5 seconds. Return to standing. Step forward with your right leg and repeat the movements. Do this 4–5 times per side to loosen your hips, knees, ankles, spine and shoulders.
2. FANCY FOOTWORK
Walk around on your tiptoes. Then walk on just your heels. Next, walk on just the left sides of your feet (inside of right foot and outside of left foot) and then on just the right sides of your feet. Take 20–30 steps for each move to warm up the muscles in your feet and lower legs.
3. HIP OPENERS
Stand on your left foot, and raise your right knee to the level of your right hip. Keeping your foot flexed, move your knee out to the right side as far as possible. (Try not to move your torso; keep it stable.) Return the knee to center. Step forward with the right leg and bring the left knee up, repeating the movements that you just did on the right side. Each time you put a foot down, you should be walking forward. Do this 10 times per side. For bonus points, keep your elbows and hands out in front and out to the side to emulate skiing.
ON THE SLOPES
Keep drinking — water, but not the fizzy stuff. High altitudes can dehydrate you and may cause other problems if you’re not careful. Also, skip the nachos and pizza at lunch, and opt for a sandwich on whole-grain bread or a salad with lean protein to stay energized for an afternoon on the mountain. When waiting on long lift lines, perform these three moves to stay nimble, fresh and warm.
4. SKATE EVERYWHERE
Skiers: Skate to the lift, the restaurant and whenever you can. It is a great way to warm up in the morning and after lunch. It also lengthens the front half of your body (hips, shoulders, abs), which tends to stay flexed when skiing and sitting on the chairlift.
5. DOWNWARD DOG
Boarders: Stretch your hamstrings whenever you’re starting to feel stiff and cold, especially after long runs. Start on your hands and knees (no need to unstrap if on a flat surface), and exhale as you lift your knees off the ground. Keep your knees slightly bent and your heels lifted away from the snow. On the next exhale, push your thighs back and stretch your heels down toward the ground. Straighten, but don’t lock, your knees. Keep your head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Repeat as needed.
6. POLES ACROSS HIPS
Skiers: Hold your ski poles together horizontally across the front of your hips (not waist). Use this as a guide to make sure that you’re keeping your hips slightly flexed and not turning your hips excessively. Keep your hips relatively still while your legs do the turning. Do this for one or two runs to begin your day.
AFTER THE SLOPES
You want to beeline it to the bar or the hot tub, but, first, focus on recovery. Your body will reward you with rejuvenated legs tomorrow. “Taking the time to stretch tired muscles at the end of the day will feel good and help reduce muscle soreness,” Barnes says. If you have no more energy to roll out, consider splurging on a massage (perhaps halfway through your trip) to ensure more smooth carving on the slopes for days to come.
7. BALL ROLLING
Always stash a tennis or lacrosse ball (the latter’s rubber exterior will grip the floor or wall better) in your backpack and use it to massage tender spots (e.g., your calves, hamstrings and glutes). Sit on the floor in your hotel room and place the ball under the achiest body part, and apply slight pressure while rolling back and forth. This will help to relax tired and tight muscles. A foam roller is great, too, if you have one handy.
8. CHEST OPENER
Lie on the floor with your backpack, a pillow or a foam roller underneath your upper back. Spread your arms out to the sides, and relax on the floor. This will open up and stretch your chest and the front of your shoulders, which may have been rounded while skiing.
9. CALF STRETCH
Find a wall and stand facing it. Put the sole of your right foot against the wall as much as possible. Gradually try to move your hips toward the wall, stretching your calf muscles, which worked really hard all day to help keep you balanced in your boots. Hold it for 20–30 seconds, and repeat 2–3 times per leg.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN