By Genie Jennings, PSIA Master Teacher, Alpine Level 2
One might think that it is early to be preparing to ski, but one would be wrong. Skiing is a physically demanding activity, whether you’re a professional racer or an occasional slider. The Professional Skier Association of America identifies four areas of physical preparedness: (1) Cardiac function; (2) Muscular endurance; (3) Core strength; and (4) Agility. I will add a fifth requirement — water, and slip it in between numbers 1 and 2, because it is that important.
Cardiac function is concerned with our use of oxygen. We breathe in, our lungs separate the oxygen and insert it in the blood; then, the heart sends the oxygen-rich blood around the body to be used as necessary. We have an ability to alter the percentage of oxygen that we use. Athletes require a great deal of oxygen, because they need to not only use a lot of muscles, but also must have oxygen available to the brain in order to make good decisions. All skiers are athletes. We want to be working at 70% of our maximum volume of oxygen. To achieve an increase, we have to move more and faster. Increasing our rate of speed will influence how hard our hearts work. Walk, run, climb stairs, dance, any movement that gets you breathing hard. That is the first training.
Most adults need about 8 glasses (32 ounces) a day. The energy released by cell oxygenation has by-products that need to be cleaned out of the body. When we first increase our consumption, we can find it inconvenient, because we will also need to eliminate it. Our bodies will adapt to the amount we are drinking, but we want that to be well before we are out on the snow.
Endurance & Strength
Muscular endurance and core strength are self-explanatory. I would like to throw in balance as well. Our goal is to maintain balance as we slide down varying terrain on changing pitches. We want our legs strong, because they will be keeping us going where we choose. We want the core muscles, in our torso and buttocks, strong to keep us upright and able to continually stay in balance.
We are built to work with whole segments of our musculature. The core needs to learn to steady us when we are moving. It will not do so by performing crunches and sit-ups in a stable position. The muscles will strengthen, but they will not be cued to use their strength when needed. We move in a scissor-like pattern: right leg with left arm for example. The fundamental movements are most appropriate for this stage. Squats, lunges, bird-dogs, sideway moves with resistance bands. Practice lots of them with all their variations.
Agility is quick movement, and change. Any movement on uneven ground will suffice. Walk along a curb; walk with one foot on and the other off the curb. Playgrounds offer many devices to encourage agile motion. Bike riding, hiking, climbing hills, both up and down, and, once again, dancing will work the right combinations.
Think snow…but not just yet!
See this Section as it appeared in print here