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Many skiers take the crash-diet approach to fitness: They train like mad for a few weeks
before the snow flies, then retire their workout routine until the following October. You can do better. Build a strong foundation this fall, then fine-tune your fitness throughout the season, and you’ll easily leave your fair-weather fitness buddies in your tracks. “In general, skiers see life in terms of preseason and season,” says Dr. Kevin Stone, owner of The Stone Clinic, a San Francisco-based sports medicine facility that has trained skiers such as Olympian Jonny Moseley and X Games star Boyd Easley. “We’d like to teach them instead to look at the sport as a year-round event, focusing on different aspects of fitness during different times of the year.”
To guide you in this approach, we’ve mapped out an October-to-April itinerary that incorporates the five key ingredients of ski fitness: strength, power, cardiovascular stamina, balance and flexibility. Stay on target through the spring, and you may very well be looking back on the best ski season of your life.
This will likely be your
toughest month, especially if you slacked over the summer. But the effort you expend now is the foundation on which you’ll build all season. “You want to establish a high benchmark,” says David Ellis, director of sport science for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. “That will make it easier to maintain your fitness level all year.” It will also ensure that your first turns of the season leave you feeling joy, not pain.
For each strength exercise,do two or three sets of 12 reps, unless otherwise noted. Use a weight just heavy enough that the last rep or two in each set is a challenge. Rest one minute between sets. After every workout, stretch for 10 minutes, targeting the quads, hamstrings, glutes, hips, back and any other muscles that feel tight. For specific stretches, visit skimag.com (keyword: stretching).
Now that you have a good fitness base, it’s time to fine-tune your body for the unique demands of skiing. “As you approach the season, you want to add more anaerobic interval training to your workouts,” Ellis says. “Also, you should start moving from general strength training to even more ski-specific strength training.” That means building muscle endurance, cranking up your power, strengthening your smaller stabilizing muscles and making sure both legs are equally strong.
For each strength exercise, again do three sets of 12 reps, but decrease your rest between sets to 45 seconds. Stretch for at least 10 minutes after each workout. On the weekends, continue cross-training and aerobic activities. Or better yet, go skiing and see how your newly tuned muscles respond.
Your goal now is to maintain what you’ve got, with extra emphasis on flexibility and core strength-two components of ski fitness that aren’t enhanced by time on the hill. You’ll notice a few new exercises mixed in: That’s to stave off boredom and to keep your muscles challenged. “Once your body adapts to a certain exercise, it starts to plateau,” Ellis says. “It’s good to change it up so you can get a different physiological response.”
For each strength exercise, try doing more reps (15 to 20) with slightly lighter weights, and do two to three sets of each. Boost your stretching time to 15 to 20 minutes after each workout, especially if you’re logging a lot of time on the hill. Muscles often tighten up and cause trouble later. Modify the workout to suit your needs if you’re skiing daily or if you discover any weaknesses that need attention.
The temptation now is to bag your workouts altogether. Fight the urge, and not only will you sail successfully through spring, but you’ll also be ready to jump on your mountain bike or slip on your hiking boots come summer. Focus on flexibility and core strength, and ramp up the cross-traininng to keep yourself motivated.
Do three sets of 15 reps for each of the strength exercises. Follow each workout with 15 to 20 minutes of stretching, and you should finish the season strong and injury-free.
Click the links below for detailed fitness plans and photos of the exercises.