No Train, No Gain: Tips for Fall Conditioning
Getting in shape for that arduous first descentby John Aalberg
Exercise in most any form will generally improve your physical health and make you feel better. Although we all appreciate the extra benefits of exercise, the main goals for those of us that call ourselves skiers are normally more specific, namely to ski stronger, faster, and with better form than last year. This article will give you some guidelines for reaching your goal.
Here are some common skier goals:
How to achieve your goals…
Start early Improving your physical condition takes time. It’s your own work, dedication and perseverance that brings success. If your season starts in December, you need to start exercising now, and obviously, the earlier you start a training regimen, the better. A proper training regimen for improving your aerobic capacity includes sequential steps or phases of base training, aerobic training, specific training and competition training. A good aerobic capacity is crucial for all types of skiers. Once you’ve begun specific training, you can fine tune your routine based on your preference of sport. For example, alpine skiers may focus on additional strength and weight training.
Be smart Your training program can be based on a weekly cycle. With most of us working or with family commitments, a week’s planning at a time seems most practical. To improve in an aerobic sense, you need to exercise at least 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week, with your heart rate (HR) above 70 - 75 % of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Your MHR can be measured by taking your pulse immediately after a second or third 2-3 minute uphill run or hike.
Optimally, one of the 3-4 workouts should be a long, continuous and relatively slow workout (mountain hike, bike ride, etc.) of 2 hrs or more. Another of the weekly key workouts should be a faster pace, interval-type workout (running, rollerski, uphill hiking or biking etc). The other 1-2 workouts should focus on specific areas in which you need to improve. For example, if you feel your upper body is weak compared to your legs, you should lift weights.
The long or continuous workout improves your ability to transport blood to working muscles (as well as improving metabolic factors), while the faster workout improves the ability to pump blood out to the same muscles. To make an analogy to highway construction, it’s like adding lanes (long workout) and then buying yourself bigger, faster cars (fast workout). Spread out the two key workouts over the week, e.g., Saturday and Wednesday.
Weight or strength training should also be done about 3 times per week, with a rest day in between each workout. The principles used for aerobic training are also true for weight training, where you first build muscle mass, “adding lanes”, then build the strength, “add fast cars”. Dry-land or summer drills of ski imitation, specially designed balance and strength exercises, as well as repetitive motions that invoke the muscles you use to ski are important elements of off-season conditioning.
Recover properly The recovery after your exercise is almost as important as the exercise itself. In general, exercise wears or breaks down the body in some fashion. The body then reacts to the wear and tear by naturally building itself back up. This is why proper nutrition and rest are so important. The relationship between exercise and recovery (or rest) is more important than you might realize. Without proper recovery, the exercise may end up being a waste of time. Exercising one muscle group while letting another recover is one way to accomplish this goal, e.g., a weight program alternating days of upper and lower body exercises will let you exercise more frequently.
The speed and duration at which you exercise are also very important for long-term results. Each workout should be designed around improving one of the three parts of your overall aerobic capacity. So in general, most workouts should either be long and slow, short and fast or include some type of strength or repetition drill to improve skiing technique. Bearing these tips in mind and putting effort into designing your weekly workouts will produce optimal results.Maintain
It only takes exercising about 3 times per week, at about 30 minutes, where your HR is about 75 % of your MHR most of the time. Any type of aerobic activity works: swimming, running, biking, stair-stepping, etc.
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