Ski season is well underway in the Alps, and with the Winter Olympics just around the corner, it’s time to talk about how these incredible athletes train and recover every day.
Elite ski racers like Marcel Hirscher, Lindsey Vonn, Dave Ryding, and others train year-round on and off the snow. While you might not have your eyes set on an Olympic gold medal in the Super G (but you can dream!), you can take a page from their training book. Skiing is an intense sport, and with the right training and recovery methods, you can take your skiing to the next level, so that you can get the most out of your time on the slopes.
Why You Need to Train for Skiing
Skiing is a sport that requires strength and endurance. The better shape you’re in, the less likely you’ll get hurt. Plus, you’ll be able to ski longer and harder on your days on the hill. Alpine skiing has a range of races from the speed-based Super G to the more technical slalom races. An elite ski racer needs to have incredible physical, physiological, and mental skills to speed down a mountain at speeds of 80 miles per hour (129 KPH). And, a lot of confidence!
The world’s top skiers train year-round. They chase the snow from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and back again. In between intense sessions on the slopes, athletes are often found in the gym working on their core and leg strength. Since skiers are prone to knee injuries, many athletes focus on preventive exercise drills, myofascial release, and other specialty treatments by physiologists and massage therapists.
Skiing is an extreme sport, and you need to train for it in advance. Of course, you can always just hit the hill without training, but you’ll be quite sore and tired afterward. Mike Davison, the Managing Director of Isokinetic London, suggests “you’ll enjoy skiing if you are physically fit. Try to use the cross trainer or Stairmaster for at least 30 minutes, four times per week to sweat.” Isokinetic is a Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation group with locations in London and Italy. They specialise in working with skiers of all ages and abilities, so they know a thing or two about training for skiing.
Skiing is leg-intensive. That’s why you see so many Olympic skiers hitting the weights at the gym doing front squats, deadlifts, loaded lunges, and more. In the strength and conditioning world, coaches will use the terms concentric and eccentric strength. Alpine skiing requires eccentric leg strength, which is the strength you need to lower yourself to the bottom of a squat or the hike down a steep hill.
There are many different ways to train in the gym for skiing. Strength coaches at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado use stationary bikes built for nursing home patients. These bikes pedal against the athletes, forcing them to push against the bike to work their legs.
The Norwegian ski team uses a pneumatic squat machine, which allows the athlete to lower a heavily-loaded barbell and the machine lift it back up for them. For the everyday skier, you don’t need a ton of fancy equipment to get a good leg workout at the gym. Eccentric leg exercises that you can do anywhere include air squats, jumping lunges, and jump squats to name a few.
Recover Like a King
While it’s tempting to hit the slopeside bar after skiing for après ski, you should spend some time recovering and stretching after your day of skiing. It’ll help you get out of bed faster the next morning and feel better on the hill.
Yoga is great for stretching and working on your mobility and flexibility for skiing. If your legs are fatigued, then an ice bath is the best thing to reduce inflammation. However, if that doesn’t sound appealing after a cold day on the pistes, then a warm bath with Epsom salts is the next best thing. Of course, a little time in the hot tub will help relax your tired muscles, too.
Always drink lots of water and focus on eating healthy. This is especially important if you’re struggling with the altitude change. Foam rolling and a massage will help work out any muscle aches. At Momentum Ski, we are always happy to help you find a nearby yoga studio or hire a private yoga instructor or masseuse for all your recovery needs in your ski chalet.
Focus on Injury Prevention
Skiing is an extreme sport and injuries can happen even to the fittest skiers. Knee injuries, especially torn or bruised meniscus and ACL or MCL ligament injuries are common in skiers. Mike Davison recommends stretching before you start your first run of the day. Focus on your hamstrings by putting your ski upright and stretch forward. Repeat on both sides. For safety reasons, always wear a helmet and listen to your body. Most people get hurt on the last run of the day.
Mike also recommends practice falling before the start of your ski holiday to remember how it feels. Falling is part of skiing, so it’s good to recall the feeling and know how to get back up again without any assistance. Foam rolling or using a golf ball to get into the smaller muscles is a great way to release tension. If you’ve ever had an injury, visit one of the Isokinetic locations to see a specialist who can create a customised rehabilitation programme for your needs. Nigel Boshy Brook-Walters said, “literally the best rehab facility in London. Treatment as if you were a pro athlete.”
Train Hard, Ski Hard
Even though you may not be skiing in Pyeongchang this winter, it’s important to take the advice of Olympic skiers, train and recover hard! Not only will you feel better after a day of skiing, but you’ll also be able to ski longer and stronger. If you’re interested in trying alpine ski racing, possibly for next winter, read about our City Ski Championships and perhaps, you can take home a gold!
If you want to take your training to the Alps, get in touch to start planning the ultimate ski holiday. If you’d like to find out more about how to plan your ski trip, sign up to our free email course.