My advice is, long before hitting the slopes, get serious about a pre-season conditioning program.
When to start a program is the next question. In a perfectly fit world, we'd all exercise regularly and maintain a high level of fitness. On planet earth, we don't. So the time to get into shape for snow sports is now. You'll want to exercise at least two or three times a week for at least four weeks before you tackle the snow. Skiers should hit the slopes after completing a conditioning program that improves their flexibility, balance and stamina and strengthens muscle groups used mostly frequently on the mountain sticks.
Flexibility is very important to a skier because it reduces the risk of injuries such as back problems, joint sprains and muscle strains. Put together a routine that addresses the body's major muscles and hold each stretch 10 to 60 seconds without bouncing. This will not only increase your muscle flexibility, but will also increase your range of motion around the joints. Never stretch a cold muscle.
Make sure you warm up with some light cardio before you begin a stretching routine. A muscle is like a piece of rubber. When it is cold it does not stretch very far before it breaks. A warm piece of rubber will stretch further and more effectively. It is very important to stretch all parts of the body, upper and lower, before you ski or start any type of demanding exercise.
Balance is best addressed by cross-training activities. Inline skating, running and mountain biking are forms of conditioning that improve balance and stamina and work the same muscle groups that are used for skiing. Your pre-season workout program should include as many exercises as possible that resemble the activity for which you are training. These activities do not require a fitness center or equipment to be part of your pre-season conditioning program.
Strength training ski-specific muscles is vital. Here are some exercises to turn you into a sleek, fast, ski machine.
This exercise helps to strengthen the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.
The raising arm movement works the deltoid muscle in the shoulder. When doing Skier Squats, keep your back straight, raise your arms high in the air on the way down and squat without letting your knees go past the front of your toes.
Jump from side to side, landing on both feet. These help with the ability to absorb shock going down the slopes. This exercise strengthens the lower body and improves balance and mobility.
This exercise mimics the movement of inline skating. Skaters are done by jumping from one side of an imaginary line to the other, landing on one foot. This exercise improves balance and strengthens the muscles of the feet and ankles. These need to be particularly strong to cope with the constantly changing terrain on the mountains.
Snowballs are a great way to increase hamstring flexibility while strengthening the trunk area. With a slight bend in your knees, reach for a handful of snow on either side, alternately. The trunk rotation will strengthen the oblique and lower back muscles. A strong trunk will increase your stability and mobility on the slopes.
In addition to the muscle development part of your pre-season conditioning program, you will also need cardiovascular conditioning to improve endurance and stamina. This is particularly important for flatlanders not accustomed to dealing with lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes.
Cardio conditioning overloads the system and increases the muscles' ability to absorb oxygen and dispose of waste byproducts. Cardiovascular training also improves the heart and lungs ability to send oxygen to the muscles and remove waste product. The key to good cardiovascular training is maintaining a Target Heart Rate or THR between 70 to 80 percent of your Maximum Heart Rate.
Use this formula to determine your Target Heart Rate.
Maximum Heart Rate = 220 - Age
Target Heart Rate = Maximum Heart Rate x desired percentage
This is an example for a 25-year-old person:
220 - 25 = 195. A 25-year-old person`s MHR is 195 beats per minute. 195 x .70 = 136. 70 percent MHR is 136 beats per minute. 195 x .85 = 156. 80 percent MHR is 156 beats per minute.
When you start a cardiovascular conditioning program, your current fitness level will determine the amount of time that you can maintain your THR. Eventually, you will want to maintain this rate for 20 minutes or more at least three times per week.
The muscular development exercises - Skier Squats, Slaloms, Skaters and Snowballs - will help to improve your cardiovascular conditioning as well. Start by doing each exercise for 20 seconds without stopping and try to work your way up to doing four sets of each exercise for one minute without stopping. That will give you a great 16-minute workout.
Don't do too much, too soon. Set safe goals for yourself and remember, when starting any exercise program, to check with your doctor first to make sure your program is safe for you.