Get Fit for Ski Season


Elements of a Ski Specific Training

A strong and powerful body will mean you’re less likely to get fatigued. To prepare for a great skiing season you need strength training, core training, flexibility training, plyometrics, aerobic training and anaerobic interval training. These are the key components for a comprehensive program. Give yourself at least four weeks to build up a great strength foundation and consult a master personal training for personalized instruction. 

Because skiing is a whole-body sport, you’ll want to do whole-body strength workouts. Skiers will sometimes mistakenly omit upper body or back exercises from their routine thinking that just the legs are needed for skiing. That’s a big mistake. All muscles are needed for skiing. The latissimus muscles of the back, for instance, do some of the work of pressing down on ski poles. The lower back does most of the work of keeping your upper body erect. Target the following major muscle groups in all your workouts: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, chest, back, abdominals, shoulder, biceps and triceps.

Incorporate core training into your workouts by focusing on the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques, external obliques, psoas major & minor, illiacus, lumbar musculature, and rectus femoris making sure you include core training on the ball to challenge your balance and stability and stabilization exercises such as the forearm plank and lateral plank.

Before starting your workout, warm up for five to ten minutes with your cardio exercise of choice. The ideal ski-specific full body workout starts with legs, as they contain the biggest muscle groups and thus get the heart pumping and blood flowing quickly. At the end of your workout, stretch for five to 10 minutes. Lift twice per week, with a full body program with 48 hours of rest in between each session. When you have completed your workout, your muscles should be fatigued but not debilitated. You should experience no joint ache. If you do, the weight you’ve chosen is too heavy or you are not using proper form. I recommend that you consult a certified personal trainer when first starting a strength-training program—even if you’ve lifted in the past.

Flexibility is also paramount. Creating the angles necessary for carving requires flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body. Flexibility exercises should be done at least 3 times a week. Choose stretches that target the entire body and focus mainly on the shoulders, glutes, hips, quads, thighs and calves. Perform stretches 3 days a week or more if you feel you need to. Hold each for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat two or three times.

Aerobic endurance helps your body to efficiently distribute oxygen to your muscles. Doing endurance aerobic training now will help you stay out on the slopes longer this winter, and keep you energized. Activities you can do to help include running, swimming, and hiking.

Skiing is a series of sprints of various lengths, so train your body with anaerobic sprint training methods. To improve your ability to repeatedly sprint from the top of a chairlift to the bottom in a few minutes, train like a sprinter would. This means working on intensive exercises that trigger lactic acid to form. Doing so promotes power, speed and strength, and leads to a better performance. Anaerobic cardio training should include 3 personalized interval programs a week.

Build explosive power and quickness in the legs by performing plyometrics. Plyometrics are perfect for anyone who wants increased endurance for harder slopes or moguls. Plyometrics are an excellent way in which to increase explosive power and muscular strength. However due to the fact that it will aid in increasing your performance, you will need to be in reasonable condition, both with regards to your fitness level, and motor skills, especially your balance. These ski-specific, functional exercises demand not only strength, but balance and quick reflexes, too.

Plyometric Techniques
Start slowly, gradually increase the length of time you do your plyos or do them more quickly to increase intensity. Consider starting with 20 to 30 seconds of work, rest that length of time and repeat. Gradually increase time working.

Avoid plyometrics if you are either unconditioned, or suffering from injury, especially knees or other lower body joint problems.

The following key points should be remembered:
• Always warm up.
• Think springy. Power is strength in relation to speed, so the goal is to move quickly from one jump to the next.
• Aim to land softly on the ball of your foot, whenever possible, avoid landing on your heels or side of your feet.
• Do all jumps on a soft surface. Use sprung floors, dry grass or an athletic track.
• Land softly. Absorb shock by bending sequentially at the ankle, knee and then hip.
• Keep your glutes and abs slightly contracted.
• Use your arms to help you power through the jump.
• Use only your body weight when performing plyometric exercises.
• Adequate recovery between reps cannot be stressed enough.

Feet-Together Lateral Ski Hops
Stand sideways to a jump rope or other marker on the floor with arms bent in front of you as though you’re holding ski poles. Quickly hop sideways over the marker, keeping both feet together constantly. Think “featherlight”, and explode up and over the marker. As you improve, try to increase the speed, distance hopped to the side, or height over the marker. With hops, try to be explosive and light on your feet. Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

VARIATIONS: try the hops over yard markers on a floor where you can hop side to side while at the same time moving forward. For increased intensity, hop over something soft like a pillow, a sweatshirt, cone, or other soft object (so you don’t hurt yourself if you fall).

One-Foot Lateral Ski Hops
Stand sideways to a jump rope or other marker on the floor and bend your arms in front of you as if you were holding ski poles. Quickly hop on one foot (sideways) over the marker and hop right back. Then, to complete a rep, repeat with the other foot. As you get comfortable with the movement, try to hop higher and faster. With hops, try to be explosive and light on your feet. Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

2 Legged Dots Drill
Phase 1: Make 8 dots on the floor with tape in an asymmetrical pattern. Keep your hands quiet and in front of you. Jump with both feet in no particular order to every dot. Land softly and spring to the next dot. You must absorb the forces by bending your knees and hips. Jump for 1 minute as quickly as you can with a minute rest. Repeat twice. Don’t forget to bend the knees! (Picture a deer bounding in the woods-boing, boing) Vary your pattern of jumping.

1 Legged Dots Drill
As before but now use only one leg!


Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Having a heart attack increases the probability of having another because coronary artery disease can progress over time. Certain interventions or treatments such as angioplasty, artherectomy and bypass surgery decrease the probability by improving the blood supply but do not cure the disease. In order to attempt to slow down this process, it is very important to reduce risk factors associated with the development and progression of coronary artery disease.

Extensive studies have identified certain characteristics or risk factors, which have been demonstrated to increase the risk of developing heart disease. These risk factors can be grouped into two classifications: 1) major risk factors and 2) contributing risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance of developing heart disease.

MAJOR RISK FACTORS Major risk factors are those factors that medical research has shown to be definitely associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Can be changed or modified:

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, cigars
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood cholesterol (greater than 200mg/dl), high LDL and low HDL
  • Lack of regular exercise


Contributing risk factors are those associated with increased risk of heart disease, but their significance and prevalence have not been directly determined.

Cannot be changed or modified:

  • Male gender
  • Heredity (inherited traits)
  • Increasing age (greater than 65 years old)

Can be changed or modified:

  • Obesity (greater than 25 -30% of ideal body weight)
  • Diabetes
  • Stress

SMOKING (Cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars and second-hand smoke)

Why is Smoking Dangerous?

  • A smoker’s risk of having a heart attack is more than twice that of a nonsmoker.
  • Nicotine increases oxygen demand by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Carbon monoxide from the smoke decreases the oxygen supply by taking the place of oxygen in the blood. One cigarette increases the carbon monoxide level for about 4 hours making it difficult for the heart muscle to get enough oxygen.
  • The heart has to beat faster and harder to pump more blood to deliver the same amount of oxygen.
  • Smoke damages the inner lining of the artery walls, causing small abrasions or rough spots to develop on the artery wall. This rough surface attracts cholesterol resulting in a buildup called plaque. This leads to a narrowing of the artery which decreases blood flow.
  • Smoke may trigger coronary artery spasms, which can cause the vessel to constrict and decrease blood supply to the heart muscle.
  • HDL levels, the good cholesterol, can decrease.
  • The possibility of having irregular heart beats increases.

What Can be Expected After Quitting?

The beneficial effects are apparent almost at once, regardless of the number of years or packs/day smoked.

  • Heart rate and blood pressure will be lower.
  • The heart muscle receives more oxygen.
  • The risk of having another heart attack is reduced to almost that of a non-smoker within six months!


What is Blood Pressure?

  • Blood pressure is the amount of pressure the circulating blood puts on the artery walls.
  • Each time the heart contracts or beats, blood is pumped out and creates pressure in the arteries. This surge of pressure is known as systolic pressure and is the top number of the blood pressure reading.
  • Each time the heart relaxes between beats, the blood pressure will go down. This is known as the diastolic pressure and is the bottom number of the blood pressure reading.

What is High Blood Pressure?

  • High blood pressure is a reading higher than 130/85 mmHg.
  • It is called the “Silent Killer,” as there are no warning symptoms.

Why is High Blood Pressure Dangerous?

  • It increases the workload of the heart, causing the heart muscle to become enlarged over time.
  • It increases the heart’s need for oxygen.
  • The constant increased pressure damages the inside lining of the arteries and causes small rough spots that attracts cholesterol resulting in a build up of plaque. This leads to a narrowing of the artery which decreases blood flow.
  • It is a contributing factor in:
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Congestive heart failure
    • Kidney failure

How is High Blood Pressure Treated?

  • Low sodium (salt) diet
  • Medication
  • Weight loss
  • Exercise


What is Cholesterol?

  • Cholesterol is the fat that is found in atherosclerotic plaque. It narrows the artery, reducing blood flow.
  • Age, gender, heredity, and diet affect cholesterol levels.
  • Refer to section on Cholesterol.


  • Lack of regular exercise decreases the efficiency of the heart’s vascular system (blood vessels) blood vessels.
  • Exercise can help decrease other risk factors such as high blood pressure, stress, obesity, and high cholesterol levels.


  • Chronic stress of an intense and negative nature can have a detrimental effect on the heart.
  • See section on Stress

OBESITY (25 – 30% over recommended weight for age, sex and height)

  • Makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout a larger body
  • Increases the heart’s need for oxygen
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Increases cholesterol levels
  • Can lead to diabetes


If there is a family history of coronary artery disease, it is more likely that future generations will develop coronary artery disease.

  • Genetic makeup determines the way the body handles cholesterol and other fats.
  • Family habits and traits such as eating high-fat meals, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, overweight, and hypertension can contribute to the development of heart disease.


  • People with diabetes are at greater risk for developing heart disease at an earlier age and it is also likely to progress at a faster rate.
  • It negatively affects cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • The risk is lessened when diabetes is controlled by observing dietary restrictions and/or taking prescribed medications.


  • About 5% of all heart attacks occur in people under age 40, and 45% occur in people under age 65. Of those who die, almost four out of five are over 65. Atherosclerosis is part of the aging process, but its progression and severity depend on family history and lifestyle factors.


  • Men are at greater risk for heart attacks, and they occur at an earlier age in men than women. Female hormones protect women in their younger years. After menopause, women’s death rate from heart disease increases because of decreasing estrogen levels. Yet, in today’s society, women are also exposed to additional stressors e.g. careers, and they are more likely to smoke, thus increasing their risk of heart disease.



Train Your Body to Move and Stabilize in All Directions

Split-Stance Low Cable Row

Outside the gym in your everyday life you twist, you turn, you bend. You move in all directions: forward, backward, side to side and rotationally. A common mistake that many gym-goers make is in not training their body to move and stabilize in all directions.This can lead to injury.

A short lesson in movement planes. There are three directions, or planes, that we move in. Most people do the majority of their training in the Sagittal plane. Think forward-and-back as in a squat, bicep curl, triceps pushdown, front lunge, walking, climbing stairs; frontal plane, think side-to-side, like in a side lunge, side bends, side shuffle, side plank, lateral shoulder dumbbell raise; and transverse like in a trunk rotation, throwing, golfing, swinging a bat or a racket.

You need to be strong in every plane of motion to help prevent injury when moving in everyday life.

Gym-goers typically spend most of their time doing sagittal plane exercises and don’t do enough exercises in the transverse plane and this can lead to injury, particularly to the low back.

Some low back problems occur because the abdominal muscles are not maintaining tight control over the rotation between the pelvis and the L5 to S1 spine vertebrae.

Transverse plane exercises can help prevent injury as they develop your ability to resist and control rotation. These types of exercises are called anti-rotational.

Anti-rotation exercises train your body, particularly your core, to stay aligned and keep your pelvis and low back stable as you resist an outside force that is attempting to pull you out of position.

The Split-Stance Low Cable Row is an excellent transverse plane exercise that stabilizes the pelvis and fights rotational movement which trains you in an anti-rotational manner. Obviously this row exercise is going to strengthen the upper back (specifically the scapular retractors).  And, by bending over at a 45-degree angle ( which you don’t do during a typical cable row) the spinal erectors get quite a bit work trying to prevent shear loading. There is major glute activation in the front leg and a fair amount of glute activation in the trailing leg. Also, there is multi–planar stability in the front leg, as the hip muscles (glute max and med, deep hip rotators) have to fight the torsional forces placed upon the body. In short, there’s a lot of “return on investment” exercise, which makes it one of my favorite exercises.

Here is Caroline demonstrating proper technique. And if you are curious about Caroline’s Success Story, you can read it here along with her review of her experiences with me.

  • Set up a low cable with a single D-handle, grab the D-handle and face the stack.
  • Bend the front leg, the back leg is straight with the back foot flat. Shift most of the weight to the heel of your front foot. Keep that leg bent and you should feel the front leg’s glute contract to stabilize.
  • Bend forward from the hips, not the low back, about 45 degrees. Keep your back straight and your chin tucked in throughout the exercise.
  • Pull the handle towards your torso with a vertical palm grip, performing a row, pausing at the top for a one count. Engage your back muscle and pull your shoulder blades together and down towards your low back. Think “back-and-down”. Do not allow the elbow to be pulled further back than the line of your back.
  • Keep the shoulder blades pulled back throughout the movement. Brace through your core and do not allow your hips or lower back to twist at any point during the movement.