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home : health : health July 19, 2018

10/24/2017 1:14:00 PM
Get prepared for ski season
By Andrew Loscutoff

The mountains are beginning to see snowfall, season passes are on sale, and ski shops are getting stocked with the 2017/2018 latest and greatest.

Central Oregon is ready for ski season. Are you?

Skiing requires more than skill and gear; it requires fitness. The demands of skiing are harsh: repetitive bouncing on the knees, tests of your balance, stability, and resilience to twisting forces. There's plenty of opportunity for an injury.

To prepare for ski season, keep the law of specificity in mind. The body adapts to the specific demands placed upon it. This means if one wants to ski better, train the body like it's skiing. It is common to see someone who is training to ski on machines and on the ground doing core exercises. However, the body doesn't use supportive muscles or stabilizers on a machine, and if you are on the ground sitting up on the slopes, you've fallen.

Six-pack abs or not, having to curl oneself off the snow after a fall isn't part of a sound ski program.

Stability of the lower body is a product of balance and strength. If you can hold a flexed leg, balance, and resist the forces of the undulating terrain, you'll be successful. This can be trained with single-leg squats, lunges, side-steps, and box step-ups.

Core strength is important for skiing because the middle of the body is a pillar, which all other strength is derived from. Without a strong core, the balance and strength of the lower body is compromised. Since skiing is performed upright, with the feet on the ground, the core can be trained in a similar position. Using a cable machine or bands, you can do cross-body chops and lifts where you're pulling across the body in a diagonal fashion either up or down. Bracing the core and having the resistance come across the body is very effective to learn how to use the core muscles to produce strength and stability.

Balance is another key to success on the slopes. Again, it's important to train the body to the specific demand. Standing on one foot, turn the head to the left and right. This challenges the vestibular system of the inner ear, which is effective to skiing because vision is not fixed. An advanced balance exercise would be standing on one foot, and bouncing a ball off the wall. This reactive exercise benefits the dynamic nature of skiing. One does not know where the next bump will come from and it's important to have fast reaction.

Conditioning is the final piece. Many people can ski well, but once the day runs long, they're tired - and this is where injury is most common. To overcome this situation, look to put in some cardiovascular training this fall. Running, fast hiking, and stair climbs are all adequate; but think about making it more specific to skiing. The nature of the ski runs is a few minutes of activity followed by resting while riding the lift. These intervals can be performed in training as well. A 3- to 5-minute interval followed by a few minutes of rest at a higher intensity will get the legs in shape for the slopes.

The ski season is too short to spend half of it getting into shape. As fitness improves, add complexity and resistance to the exercises. Always expect some soreness, but if soreness persists to pain, seek out a professional assessment. Often, undesirable form is the culprit and can be fixed with corrective exercises. Any of the physical therapy clinics or certified personal trainers can help.

Beyond the DIY approach, there are opportunities in Sisters to join a group of skiers at Sisters Athletic Club for a conditioning class. The class is Tuesday and Thursday evenings and will touch on each of the above aspects. The class is at 5:30 p.m. and will last 30-45 minutes. Send me a message at to sign up!

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