No snow no ski training, right? Wrong. Your off-season ski training is arguably as important, if not more important, as your on-snow training. Many people tend to switch off during the summer (unless you’re off to the opposite hemisphere for another winter season – lucky you!). However, the summer is a crucial time to prepare your mind and body for the upcoming winter ski season. Use the mountains on your doorstep in the summer to cross-train for skiing. Start the ski season strong and it is manageable to maintain and improve performance, however start the season off weak, and your performance goals become a little more difficult to meet.
If you live in the mountains, like yours truly, you have a considerable advantage as you are surrounded by the world’s biggest gym. Literally. Fresh air, the great outdoors, nature and high altitude. Training at high altitude is basically legal doping. Although it feels harder than training at sea-level, your body produces extra red blood cells to compensate for the decrease in oxygen and to aid in oxygen delivery to your muscles (which is what the synthetic version of EPO – the type that sports organizations are concerned with – does). Plus, if where you are is anything like British Columbia you have a couple of bears and cougars thrown in for good measure, just to keep you on your toes and running that little bit faster… (that’s really bad advice – I do not advise running from either – probably best to get in touch with Bear Grylls on that one).
So what can you do? Below I introduce various activities and how they can be modified to enhance your ski fitness so that you’re ready for the winter. Again, these are summaries and in the future I may write full blog posts on each with specific workouts that can be done but for the meantime, these are simply introductions.
Running, Walking & Hiking
Without stating the obvious, you can run or walk up and down the mountains on your doorstep. Fancy more of a bootcamp style workout? No problem – carry logs, fallen branches and/or rocks up the mountain. Hill sprints are an option too for an excellent interval-style workout. You can even set up a mini gym at the top of the mountain. For example, you can do step-ups or box-jump style exercises using tree trunks or flat rocks (excellent for torching fat, easy to scale, good for balance and coordination, and great for building lower body strength). Just please make sure you find a steady surface to jump/step onto…!
If you’re like me and need a bit of motivation (other than your skiing performance), signing up for an obstacle course challenge such as a Spartan Race is a good little (not so much ‘little’) goal as well. The Spartan Race at Sun Peaks is usually held at the end of the summer so it is a great event to spur you on. Spartan Races have several options ranging from a Sprint (5km+) to the Ultra Beast (40km+). They also do Junior races, so the entire family can join in. Personally, I did the Beast (20km+) in September 2015 and it certainly is that – I definitely earned my wine that night!
Mountain Biking & Downhill Biking
As well as being fun and a great cardiovascular workout, mountain biking requires dynamic fitness – varying between quick bursts and maintained cardiovascular output – and uses many muscle groups. You use and engage all your muscles to adapt to the terrain and work with it (very much like skiing, making it an excellent cross-training activity), as well as core strength. It’s also fantastic if you’re recovering from an injury as it is a non-load-bearing sport. If you find yourself mountain biking regularly, you’ll notice a drastic improvement in leg strength as riding a mountain bike tones your quads, calves and glutes, as well as strengthening your tendons. It is also great for body coordination as you are using numerous parts of your body while riding.
If you’re blessed enough to have a mountain lake near you, it can double up as an excellent swimming pool. Swimming builds strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness, as well as being low-impact and so it takes any stress off your body – great if you’re recovering from an injury.
Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Again, you kind of need a lake or a significant amount of water for this one. I always knew how much of a good workout stand-up paddle boarding can be. Recently my mind was blown when a friend, who runs Paddle Surfit at Heffley Lake, introduced me to a handful of the different types of workouts you can do on the board. They included interval training and strength training, all excellent cross-training for skiing. All the different workouts could fill a blog post on their own but for the main part stand-up paddle boarding is an excellent for your abdominals, strength and balance.
Yoga (and SUP Yoga)
Yoga on its own is an excellent cross-training tool for skiing (see my previous post on why every skier – and athlete – should practise yoga). All you need is yourself, a mat (although, you don’t always need that), time and some space. As well as having the obvious stretching benefits, yoga strengthens and tones your muscles, providing stability, balance and coordination. In the mountains in summer, it is particularly lovely to practise outside.
If you have a lake near you and access to a paddle board, SUP yoga is an excellent strength and balance building activity to take outdoors. The board is not as stable as the floor or the mat so your balance is tested and poses you find less taxing on the mat can provide you with a welcomed challenge on the board.
If you’d rather not head out on your own, summer is a great time to find a SUP yoga class near you. You get a great workout, and it is a unique and peaceful experience to practise amongst nature – a nice change from practising inside with a music playlist.
There are many activities that can be used as cross-training tools for skiing. The list above is not exhaustive but provides an introduction to using the mountains as a cross-training tool to prepare you for your winter ski season.
I’d love to know what other activities and tools you use to train during the off-season.