All-Year Strong

Instruction
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Instruction

(SKIING Magazine by Kim Wong) World-class skiers are focused, but they don't have one-track minds: Later in the season, they'll often take a break from their sport. And when they're not clicked into their bindings, they still improve their performance on the slopes-the U.S. Ski Team actually encourages its athletes to put skiing in the backseat every so often just to stay strong. Adding other sports into regular training routines, whether it's ice hockey, cycling, tennis, or soccer, hones skiing skills and boosts skiing power.

Mixing it up helps the body to fine-tune its balance and its ability to adapt to changing conditions and unexpected situations. "Skiers have to react quickly," explains Andy Walshe, sports science director for the U.S. Ski Team. "It's the same with sports like ice hockey or soccer, where you have to react to the flick of a puck or a pass. These sports help you anticipate movements in response to an action, and keep you focused on always looking ahead."

Sports that incorporate plyometrics-jumping, twisting, and leaping motions-are crucial for increasing explosiveness and enhancing reaction time. "It's important to keep up with plyos when you're not on the mountain," says Laura Keller, a physical therapist who works with U.S. Ski Team members at The Stone Clinic in San Francisco. "The pathway from the brain to the body and joints needs to stay open so the brain can have quick reaction times. It has been shown that your responses can be faster when you practice. With plyometrics, either you use it or you lose it-so you've got to keep it up."

Dabbling in other sports allows you to develop different muscle groups that get ignored and rest the ones that get abused on the mountain. "Skiing puts a lot of force on the body, and by going to another sport, it can take the pressure off joints and bones that get a pounding during the season," says Walshe. "Basically, it gives the body a chance to heal nagging injuries or relieve muscle groups that get overused in skiing."

We asked six pros how they exercise on those off-slope days-and asked the experts to shed light on how their second sports give them a leg up. Here's what they had to say.

The Talent's Take
DARON RAHLVES: MOTOCROSS
Claim to Fame:
Two-time Olympian and four-time downhill World Cup winner
"If I can't ski, then I get the same rush and intensity from motocross," says Rahlves. "Cornering on my bike is like arcing a turn on my Atomics-weight up on the front tire, pressure on the outside peg, and shoulders level so you're running a smooth, clean line. If you ride correctly, you're standing up a lot and the legs get a serious beating. Coming up to a big jump, it's all about being confident and attacking. I need that same approach on the ski hill. There are risks in skiing and motocross that demand intense focus or else you'll pay."

The Expert's Opinion
"To stay up on the bike, you need a strong core," says Keller. "It really works the abs and glutes as you try to stay upright. These lower muscles are so important in skiing."

The Talent's Take
SHANNON BAHRKE: SOCCER
Claim to Fame:
2002 Olympic silver medalist
Late in the season, mogul skier Shannon Bahrke takes her workouts to the soccer pitch. At least once a week, she gets together with friends for a pickup game. Bahrke says the dribbling, fakes, and lateral movements in soccer are great for her footwork on the hill. "In soccer, you're always looking ahead for the next pass or play, and that's exactly what you have to do in moguls-constantly anticipate what's coming up," she says.

The Expert's Opinion
"All of the cutting, twisting, and agility make for a great lower-extremity workout, and it's excellent for improving quick reaction times," says Keller. "The more you challenge your reflexes, the more accurate they're going to be when you get back to the slopes."

The Talent's Take
SETH MORRISON: DOWNHILL MOUNTAIN BIKING
Claim to Fame:
Professional skier (18 films, 10 extreme comps)
Freeskier Seth Morrison is a daredevil in the mountains, snow or not, often clicking out of bindings and into pedals. "Going fast through the woods, taking jumps and dropping off cliffs, correlates with skiing," says Morrison. "It takes a lot of concentration when you're going downhill hard. It's mentally exhausting to have to concentrate for so long. You're trying not to crash so you can make it home in one piece."

The Expert's Opinion
"Downhill mountain biking takes things to another level," says Walshe. "You're flying down at higher velocities, so choosing your line becomes critical or you'll end up in a tree. It really gives skiers that mental edge and an adrenaline rush."

The Talent's Take
GORDY PEIFER: ROAD CYCLING
Claim to Fame:
2000 U.S. freeskiing champ
"Usually, when the weather's good, I ride my road bike for a couple of hours just to keep my legs loose and my knees strong," says Peifer, who hammers up the canyons outside Salt Lake City. "Skiing is tough on my knees. A year and a half ago, I had knee surgery, so it's critical that I get on my bike to give myself a break. I really notice the difference in my skiing when I don't work out on my bike."

The Expert's Opinion
"Not only is cycling a great cardio workout, but if you add intervals and hills, it will increase your strength level as well," says Keller. "Biking is at the top of our list for the most effective non-impact sports that skiers can do."

The Talent's Take
CASEY PUCKETT: HOCKEY
Claim to Fame: 2002 24 Hours of Aspen winner and former U.S. Ski Team member
Puckett got a taste of hockey six years ago, and he's been hooked since. He plays with other Ski Teamers, and sometimes they take on other teams on the skiing circuit. "Hockey challenges your balance," says Puckett. "It has a lot of similarities to skiing. There's the resisting forces on the edges. You make the same types of arcs on skates as you do on skis."

The Expert's Opinion
"Gliding on skates uses muscles in the lower body that are similar to those used in skiing," says Walshe. "Making transitions and shifting balance are also similar elements." Plus, Walshe points out, playing hockey involves a lot of lateral movements. And, like in soccer, you need to adapt to the plays unfolding on the ice.

The Talent's Take
CHARLOTTE MOATS: ROCK CLIMBING
Claim to Fame:
Two-time winner of the Rip Curl World Heli Challenge Chinese Downhill
Since choppers regularly plop her down at gut-wrenching altitudes, it's funny that skier Charlotte Moats is afraid of high places. "Rock climbing is a great way for me to feel comfortable with heights," says Moats. "It exposes me to steep areas, and at the same time, it's a great core and strength workout that forces me to work on my balance. I feel really cat-like when I climb."

The Expert's Opinion
It may seem like rock climbing is all about upper-body strength. Not so, says Keller. "Most successful rock climbers know how to get the most out of their legs," she says. "You use your arms for place holdings and hanging, but you move vertically with your leg strength. Rock climbing increases your flexibility and it's forgiving on the joints. Plus, it's non-impact, so your back and knees get a break."