Falling into Shape

Philosophies on pre-season training.

Lunges. Squats. Wall sits. Lateral jumps. Tuck jumps. Cardio. Plyo. Intervals.


Ski season is coming, and for many motivated souls, that means pre-season or “dry-land” training. As soon as the mountains see a dusting of snow, you’ll find them lunging, jumping, and skipping around town like a giddy, fleece-clad orchestra of Jiminy Crickets.

I love skiing—it’s directed the course of my entire life—and did my share of training when I was a ski racer. And it worked: I was a stronger skier, earlier in the season. No doubt about it. But my philosophy has shifted a little. Some might call it distraction; I call it prudence. Maybe I’m just getting old.

I don’t sit against walls or jump up and down stadium stairs anymore. I grow into ski season like a hermit crab into a larger shell—it’s gradual, natural, and happens only when necessary. If hermit crabs drank a lot of dark beer and cheap whiskey, the simile would be perfect.

Rather than jump and skip and lunge and stretch, all the while thinking about the good times that are yet to come, I try to embrace the season. Fall is almost as bountiful as spring for recreational diversity, and it’s ALL training. Biking helps with balance and cardio; rock climbing with agility; ice climbing prepares me for the cold and keeps my core strong; hunting hones the senses; and there’s simply nothing better for cardio and leg strength than early-season kicking and gliding in the backcountry.

When I’m ready to charge on the slopes, I charge… but not before. Not anymore. By then, the mountain has grown into itself as well: fewer rocks; fewer surprises; greater joy. As someone who’s trained early and “gone for it” (and paid for it with injuries), I ease into the season like it’s a scalding hot tub—by the time I’m fully immersed, it feels just right.

I’m not saying training is bad—it almost never is. But for me it’s worth slowing down and taking winter as it comes. There’s plenty to do in the meantime. And plenty of beer to drink, too.