GETTING OUTSIDE IN THE SUMMER IS A GIVEN. But sports like golf and mountain biking will take your ski fitness only so far. This summer, keep yourself slope-ready by moving not just your cardio workouts outside but also your strength, power and agility training. Dynamic workout environments, like uneven terrain and unpredictable weather, will boost your balance, coordination and reflexes—and ultimately make you a stronger skier. Plus, you'll be in good company: America's top ski racers often train outdoors with unorthodox exercises like bounding over rocks and pushing loaded wheelbarrows uphill. With the help of Tina Vindum, founder of Outdoor Action Fitness and a former professional skier, we've assembled off-season exercises that will keep your interest intact and your body primed for the slopes.
Finding the ideal site for an outdoor workout may not be as easy as driving to the gym, but there are possibilities everywhere. "I just go to the places I love, says Vindum, who started San Francisco—based Outdoor Action Fitness, in 1995 after discovering how much outdoor exercise improved her skiing. She suggests looking for texture (grass, sand, pine needles) and props (benches, trees, low walls). "You could even slalom parking meters, she says. Be creative and add variety to keep your workouts fun and interesting so you're more likely to stick with them.
Depending on where you choose to train, the timing of your workout could be as important as the location. Don't attempt a strength session at a popular beach at midday or agility work on a rocky trail at dusk. And for best results, don't call off your workout because of inclement weather. "You don't always have perfect conditions on the ski hill,Vindum says. "If it's windy or rainy while you're training, you'll learn how to be strong regardless of the environment.
ROUGH AND READY
Whether you wrangle with summer storms, uneven ground or obstacles in your path, you'll be prepping for the unpredictability of the slopes.
Use the following strength, agility, balance and power exercises as a springboard for your own fresh-air workout program, but always be on the lookout for others you can mix in. Nearly any exercise you can do in the gym can be adapted to the outdoors. With the next snowfall a good five months away, there's no need to follow a rigid training regimen, but the more committed you are now, the stronger you'll be this winter.[NEXT "Strength Exercises"]
Walk or run down a hill or staircase, emphasizing soft landings. Walk back to the top and repeat. Continue for 15 minutes. >Step it up Wear a loaded backpack.
Stand at the bottom of a hill or staircase. Take a large step forward with your right foot and drop into a lunge position, aligning your right knee above your right ankle. Bend forward slightly at your hips, but keep your back straight and your abs contracted. From that position, lunge forward with your left foot. Continue alternating for 20total steps or until you reach the top of the hill or staircase. Walk or jog to the bottom, and repeat twice. >Step it up Increase your speed or the number of times you ascend the hill.
Stand with your right foot next to a low (12 to 15 inches high), flat rock, bench or stair. Cross your left foot in front of your right and step onto the rock. Bring your right foot across and place it on the other edge of the rock. Cross your left foot behind your right and step down to the ground. Then step down with your right leg so that you're standing next to the rock on the opposite side from which you started. Reverse to finish one rep. Do 10 to 12 reps. >Step it up Hold a moderately heavy rock in each hand. Bend at the elbows, and lift your arms so your hands are at ear level. Keep your arms steady throughout the exercise.
Hang from aa bar, sturdy tree branch or elevated ledge with your palms facing forward. Keeping your arms extended, bend your knees and draw them slowly up toward your abs until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Slowly lower your legs to the starting position. Do two sets of eight reps. >Step it up Increase the number of sets or reps. You can also add an upper-body component by alternating crunches and pull-ups.[NEXT "Agility and Balance Exercises"]
Find a patch of trees, fence posts or other closely spaced objects. Weave around them at a quick jogging pace, visualizing glades or gates. >Step it up Find a place where you can slalom downhill.
Kick a soccer or playground ball straight up to about waist height. Without letting it bounce on the ground kick it up again with your other foot. Continue for as many kicks as you can. A game of Hacky Sack with friends is also a good exercise. >Step it up Increase the speed of your kicks.
With arms straight out from your sides to help you balance, stand on the point of a rock or stump that fits under the arch of your left foot. Lift your right leg in front of you and balance for one minute. Repeat while standing on your right foot. >Step it up Continuously move your free leg in a half-circle pattern in front of you (think of tracing a rainbow with your foot).
At the end of a workout, when you're fatigued, walk back and forth along a low-lying log, curb or narrow wall. >Step it up Time how quickly you can walk the length of the object.
Find a narrow surface such as a rock, log, stump or ledge. Drop as low as you can into a ski-tuck position, ideally with your thighs parallel to the ground. Keep your abs tight and your weight on your heels, and hold the position for 20 seconds. >Step it up Increase the hold time or balance on one leg (you probably won't be able to squat as deeply).[NEXT "Power Exercises and Workout Tips"]POWER
>Incline Diagonal Hops
Start at the bottom of a hill or set of stairs. Push off your left foot, leaping upward to the right at a 45-degree angle. Land on your right foot, then explode upward again immediately, jumping diagonally to the left. Do three sets of six to eight jumps, resting for one to three minutes between each set. >Step it up Increase the number of sets, but only if you can maintain quick explosions.
Find a stretch of sand or another soft, loose surface. Drop into a squat position, then bound forward, pushing off of and landing on both feet. Jump again immediately, although you may feel like you're in slow motion. Do three sets of six to eight jumps, resting for one to three minutes between each set. >Step it up Bound on one foot instead of two.
DID YOU KNOW?
Need more incentive to get outside? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air, thanks to a variety of contaminants such as dust and mold, is often more polluted than the ambient air of even the largest, most industrialized cities.
The key to building power is to think about quick reflexes. Don't pause between jumps; focus on exploding upward immediately after you land.
Rocks serve as good dumbbell substitutes; use them to add weight to lower-body drills or for upper-body exercises such as biceps curls and shoulder presses.