By Ollie Martin

First published on ‘Where to Ski & Snowboard’

Although general fitness can be helpful in preparing for a ski holiday, such as walking, running, cycling, if you actually want to get better, it is best to undertake a periodised conditioning programme, unique to your needs.

Periodised just means ‘stages’ but more on this later. A generic programme, or just skiing itself, does not change any postural problems, weaknesses or compensations that you have in your body, in fact it will just exacerbate them. A conditioning programme will identify the weak links in your chain of movements and strengthen them enabling better performance, quicker recovery and a reduced chance of injury.

Myth: The best way of getting fit for skiing is to ski – WRONG

The best way to get fit for any activity is firstly, to become a fitter, stronger, better aligned ‘human athlete’ and secondly, to tailor your training specifically for your activity/sport.

Fitness is very specific – you get what you train for. The winner of the Tour de France may be the fittest man on the planet, but he could not win the London Marathon and probably could not even ski down the Hahnenkamm, let alone win it. This is why stationary cycling, pilates or squats with a ball behind your back are not the best for ski training as you do not ski with such support (sitting, lying or being pushed from behind).

If you were going to concentrate on just one aspect of fitness for skiing it would be best to concentrate on strength training rather than aerobic training. This is because lack of muscle strength and stability ‘haemorrhages’ aerobic energy i.e. you burn up aerobic energy at a much quicker rate. This means you might be able to cycle for hours but you can only ski at the level you wish for bare minutes! Also downhill skiing is predominantly a power/endurance sport, involving short, interval bursts of energy rather than long, slow aerobic exercise.

A great conditioning programme includes (in order) rehabilitation, corrective postural alignment, core stability and then core strength, functional strength, power and then power/endurance. The key to this is periodisation.

Periodised Programming

This basically means starting at the correct level for you and steadily progressing in complexity, hardness (intensity) and ski-specificity. Most skiers start their ski-specific training somewhere in the middle in terms of complexity and hardness. They then complete the same programme week after week for the whole ski training period and they do this year after year!

However, I’m sorry to say there are no actual any ski-specific exercises and there is certainly not one ski-specific programme. Instead, by following a tailored periodised programme, you endeavour to condition the body to be fitter, stronger, more aligned, injury-proof and powerful in order to deal with the many and varied rigours a ski holiday throws at the body. You do this by a undertaking a number of different phases of exercise for a period of time – say four to six weeks – each with differing objectives but, generally progressing in terms of hardness and complexity.

Unique to you

The greatest and quickest benefits from training can be made by strengthening the weak links in your movement chain. To do this you need to identify your weaknesses which generally needs a little help from a professional. However, you can use a mirror to see misalignments when you move in a specific exercise such as a squat. Your past injuries will also give you a clue of you weaknesses, but be careful, the injured area is often referred pain from another area – nine times out of ten this will be your core not functioning properly.

So, if you want to take your skiing to the next level and not be the last in the group, have an assessment from a fitness professional and then start a strength training programme that involves tailored progressions, culminating in power/endurance.

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