Weekend Warrior Workout

Most skiers and boarders come to the slopes after months away. Although some may have stayed in shape for the slopes, most have not. And the folks who work all week may have an eye toward putting a week’s worth of ski action into a mere weekend. If you’re one of these slope warriors, here’s what you can do during the week to keep fit and avoid nasty—and potentially season-ending—injuries.

Mix it Up
Maximize your workouts by training in intervals. It’s rare that you’ll lollygag on the slopes for 30-60 minutes at a time; more likely, you’ll hit it hard for short periods of time throughout the day. That’s why intervals make sense. Work from 30 seconds to a minute doing high-intensity cardio (trail run, mountain bike). Follow this up at lower intensity for the same amount of time. This shortens workout times while keying in on the specific demands required on the slopes. As your conditioning improves, shoot for a two-to-one ratio. Work hard for two minutes, followed by one minute at lower intensity.

Make it Functional
Pressed for time? Then choose exercises that mimic your activity—thus the name “functional exercise.” The neat thing with these exercises is that they work important, multi-joint muscles. Start with squats, as they work the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Do steps and lunges to key in on your quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Add deadlifts; they strengthen your back and build power in the trunk and lower limbs. And don’t forget to work the upper body. You can work on your arms and shoulders using light weights while standing on a compliant surface or BOSU ball (half ball on a platform). This gives you the double benefit of working your upper body while challenging your lower body and torso.

Get to the Core
The “core” is all the buzz in today’s world of strength and conditioning. Yet as much as they tout the core, most people haven’t a clue what the core is or how it works. More than just the abs and back muscles, true core strengthening involves working the tiny muscles along the back of the spine, the multifidus muscles. These small but powerful stabilizers work in tandem with the muscles that run like a big belt or corset along the sides of the abdomen, the transverse abdominal muscles. Pilates, once considered a passing fad, has become an established, proven method for quickly and effectively developing a powerful and sport-ready core.

Blend Strength and Balance
Strength training is a key factor in enhancing sport performance—and in reducing injuries for slope warriors. But strength first requires balance and coordination. Using a mind-body approach such as Pilates can improve muscle balance—and in turn improve muscle strength. (For additional practice, try the balance exercises listed in the sidebar.)

Jump to It
The Russians knew what they were doing when they invented a unique form of jump training, called plyometrics. These exercises develop reflex speed in nerves, along with power and strength in muscles. They rely on a muscle being stretched and then quickly shortened, much like what happens in your thigh muscles if you squat down and then quickly jump as high as you can. Plyometric exercises that mimic actions on the slope include side-jumps and zigzag jumps.

Getting and staying in shape is a must for improving your performance on the slopes. It’s also a vital step toward reducing the chances of injury. If you have questions about your conditioning program or have been hampered by problems in the past, you may benefit by getting some extra assistance. Talk with your physical therapist, personal trainer, or Pilates instructor about ways to customize your conditioning program.

Brent Dodge, PT, owns Alpine Physical Therapy in Missoula (251-2323; alpineptmissoula.com) and is a nationally certified orthopedic clinical specialist in physical therapy and a certified strength & conditioning specialist. Samantha Schoeneman, PT, CPI is an internationally certified Pilates instructor and physical therapist at Alpine Physical Therapy.

Here are some helpful exercises for getting and keeping yourself prepped and ready during the week for hitting the slopes on the weekends.

Side Jumps: With both feet together, jump from side to side, allowing your knees to bend slightly as you land. Then jump back to the other side. Start with 10-20 reps and work up. Then start with a lower number of reps and doing the jumps on one leg.

Zigzag Jumps: Begin by jumping forward to one side with both legs together and then forward to the other side. Again, work up from 10-20 reps and progress by doing the zigzag jump on one leg.

Basic Chest Lift: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Inhale to prepare. Exhale as you lift your head, tuck your chin, and reach your hands to your heels. Inhale at the top of the lift, with your shoulder blades off the mat, then exhale to lower. Emphasize controlled movements. Re-engage your deep abdominal muscles with each exhale. Do two sets of 12 reps each.

Chest Lift with Rotation: Stay in the upright and lifted position described above. Exhale as you rotate your chest to one side. Inhale to return to the center. Then exhale as you rotate to other side. Keep your arms relaxed. Avoid pulling on your neck. Rotate from waist as though your ribs connect to your opposite hip. Once you can complete 12 reps without fatigue or poor form, try this exercise with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. Be sure to keep your low back stabilized by further engaging your deep abdominal muscles each time you exhale. Do two sets of 12 reps.

Alternating Leg Lifts: Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and your low back pressed into floor. Don’t lose this position during the exercise. Inhale to prepare. Exhale while lowering one leg to the floor, keeping your knee bent. Only the hip moves. Inhale as your bring your leg back to the starting position. Then exhale to lower the opposite leg to the floor. Your pelvis should remain still as your abdominal muscles support your spine as you raise and lower your leg. Do two sets of 12 reps.

-Brent Dodge