By Dan Little, Digme's Head of Fitness
With the Oxford University Ski & Snowboard Club, who we sponsor, off to Val Thorens this week for their annual varsity competition against Cambridge, it’s a good time to look ahead to the ski season and see how you can physically prepare to maximise your enjoyment and minimise the risk of injury.
People often make the mistake of believing a few minutes of wall squats during the week before your trip will do the trick, but if you want to be stronger and less likely to suffer an injury on the slopes, you need to be thinking about strength work from about a month out.
It’ll also help you not feel so horrendously sore after the first couple of days on the pistes, leaving you fresher for the après ski.
A couple of Ride or THREE classes a week in the few weeks leading up to your trip will be amazing preparation, but the following moves can be done anywhere if you can’t commit to that. A couple of rounds of these, two to three times a week, will make a huge difference.
A key movement for me. Grab a kettlebell (or hand weight), stand with your feet a little wider than hip distance apart and bend forward allowing the kettlebell to move between your legs. Then thrust the hips forward, maintaining a neutral spine and activating your glutes so the kettlebell lifts up to chest height. Repeat the swing action for 20 reps.
Another key exercise for developing lower body strength and conditioning as well as improving mobility. Place your elbows on the inside of your knees and, maintaining this connection, let the hips drop down to your heels. Then extend your legs to the top end range and repeat 15 times.
Single leg deadlift
One of my favourite moves for strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and activating your core. Stand on one leg. Keeping that knee slightly bent, bend over from the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance. Lower until you are parallel to the ground, then return to the upright position. Make this harder by holding a weight or kettlebell on the same side as your standing leg, or one in both hands. Do 10 on each leg.
A great total body movement. Hold a kettlebell at chest height, squat down as low as you can, making sure your knees stay in line with your toes. Squeeze your glutes on the way up and finish the movement by driving the kettlebell above your head. Repeat 10-15 times.
This exercise works the adductors (the muscles on your inner thigh) which need to be strong to keep your skis close together. It’s the same as a normal lunge, but straight out to the side, keeping both feet facing forwards. You can hold a weight to make it more challenging. Do 10 on each side.
Plyometric single leg jumps
These help with explosive power and strength in your glutes, quads and calves. With one leg on the bench, drive the other leg up and return back. Complete 10 reps then switch legs.
Grab a mat and get into a full body press-up stance (don’t panic, you won’t be doing any press ups!) with your hands and feet together. Lift your right hand and right foot and place them out to the side. Then move them back to the beginning and do the same on the left side. This is a steady movement which will not only engage your core, back, arms and legs but will also elevate your heart rate. Do it for 30 seconds at first and build up to 60 seconds of continuous movement.
Bonus move: Backwards walk with resistance on a SkillMill if you’re in a THREE class in Oxford.
Great for improving leg strength – ask your trainer to include this in your session!