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One of the first questions that people ask is, When do I start?
This depends entirely on how fit you already are and your normal activity level, but in order to make any significant improvements it is suggested that you allow for a minimum of three months; during which you should concentrate on three fitness areas:
Endurance & Stamina - Mobility - Power & StrengthENDURANCE, is the ability for your muscles to absorb and use oxygen and then dispose of the waste bi-products. STAMINA, is the ability of your heart and lungs to supply the oxygen to your muscles and also to remove the waste products.In working to improve this area we must consider two factors. The first is that we will want to condition the muscle groups that we want to develop and second, in working that group of muscles it will be necessary to overload them to get results. So what area is important for skiing? Yes! The most important group of muscles are the leg muscles and that is where our focus should be (see how mountain biking fits into the big picture?), but having said that, we must not forget to also work on our trunk, back, shoulders and arms (remember? Pole plants!). Basically, to overload our system we will need to raise our pulse rate into what is commonly known as the TRAINING ZONE. The zone is determined by your age. It is a simple calculation to come up with your personal MAXIMUM PULSE RATE (MPR), 220 minus your age. So for a person who is 30 years old (220-30 = 190) 190 beats per minute is their MPR. Now your training zone rate is 70 to 85 per cent of your MPR, thus for the 30 year old, their TRAINING ZONE RATE (TZR) would be between 133 to 160 beats per minute. Thus if you are mountain biking or running you need to raise your heart rate to your TZR, it is important not to exceed this rate because at a higher rate the conditioning will be less effective. It goes without saying that any physical activity aimed at conditioning the body should have a warm-up and warm-down period.
How often do you have to do this? Well a good rule of thumb in the beginning of your training program is 3 time per week. The reason for this is we are physically changing our bodies and our bodies need time to both adjust and recover. Warm up and cool down exercises, this will help to prevent injury.
Once you have warmed up it's time to work on the muscles, especially those related to the skiing activity. Using a slow and gradual approach, stretch the muscles to the point where you feel some discomfort. At that point hold the stretch, initially at the start of your pre-season training to a count of 5 and then as your mobility increases, increase the hold count in increments of 5 until you get to 15.
As shown in dark blue color, muscles sollicitated by skiing are:
Calf muscles - Hamstring - Shoulders - Back
This last area that we will look at becomes more and more important as your level of skiing increases, one could say they go hand in hand. To put it in very simple terms STRENGTH is the ability of your muscles to exert a force against a resistance. In terms of skiing we do this all the time, such as when we are performing a turn. As we all know the faster you go in that turn the forces that come into play are also much greater and therefore your muscles need to be stronger in relationship to how fast you are going in the turn. POWER on the other hand, relates to how fast you can apply (exert) a force, which in turn causes movement to take place. Power is very important to a skier as it affects the speed with which your muscles can react. For example, to be a good mogul skier, you must have powerful muscles to be able to react to the constant change in both the terrain and the speed at which you travel through the moguls.
To work on conditioning your Power & Strength, you should concentrate on your legs and your trunk area. After those two areas have improved you may also look at working on your rotational muscles between the shoulder girdle and pelvis.
The best way to improve your Power & Strength is again mountain biking, running and roller-blading! All of these types of pre-season activities will help to improve your leg and trunk area. But even more important, these types of activities will over-lap with mobility, endurance, and stamina. This means that by doing them you will improve in all three areas that are vital to skiing. But once again the most important factor to keep in mind, make your activity enjoyable! By doing this you will stick with it and by the time ski season rolls around you and your body will be ready for a great season filled with bumps, turns and powder 8's in the snow!