Title: Getting fit for Snowboarding!
First day riding today, over in Courmayeur, with Blue skies and fresh powder!
A massive powder avalanche on the Aiguille Noire de Peutrey today.
Its been dumping massively the past week or so putting the snow depth here in the valley from 10cm to about 150cm in just a few days and winter has definitely rushed in and settled.
My first courses kicks off in about a weeks time over in Tignes, If I'd known we'd have this much snow over here I'd maybe have run it in Cham, its always nice to go ride different spots though and Tignes has the same snow as we have here, if not a little bit more!
Should be good
.A great view of the CHamonix Aiguilles
Riding today was great, amazing powder everywhere and super quiet. A great first day and my legs felt good and strong. I was surprised though, as is the case everyyear, by the power needed to drive those deep heel turns, especially on the piste when sitting deep into a heelside carve or cutting sharp on a steep face to control some edge speed…Feels great!
Anyway, a short time ago I was asked to write a piece on fitness for Skiing and Snowboarding and I came up with the following essay.
You'll all most likely be Snowboarding as soon as you can so it's definitely time to push up the fitness and power levels if you want to get the most out of your riding this winter and if it carries on snowing like this it'll definitely be worth the effort.
Have a read and see what you think, get inspired, get strong and ride hard…This is my advice to you and here's how to do it.
Once you get past your teens fitness starts to become a choice rather than a gift. The older you get the more you need to work at your fitness making it a lifestyle choice rather than something taken for granted. I always find it impressive and encouraging that most of my older Snowboarding clients these days are, more often than not, also my fittest.
Skiing and Snowboarding are both very dynamic, active and physically demanding sports that require a good level of overall fitness including strong legs, solid core strength and in case of mishap, good flexibility. Most alpine descents are long and the movements required to ski or ride them with speed and at a good level are continuous and relentless requiring repeated fast acting short burst power endurance muscle movements both for balance and control.
Whilst not massively aerobic, so not requiring the endurance fitness of a long distance runner or cyclist, both Skiing and Snowboarding are a lot more physically demanding than most enthusiasts appreciate and today’s often inactive lifestyles don’t always offer the best form of preparation.
Winter is fast approaching and the time to slide and ride is near, so if you’ve not already begun your preparation and you’re serious about your performance on the hill, now is the time to get busy.
Both skiing and Snowboarding require similar muscle movements of the legs with big flexion and extension movements, more often than not loaded on one leg at a time, the outer leg when turning a ski and the front then rear leg when executing a turn on a Snowboard. In both cases the upper body is used for balance, with core strength being used to counterbalance the movements of the center of mass towards the inside of the turn, with the arms, which should remain relaxed, needed for fine tuning balance adjustments requiring fast acting extension and flexion movements from the muscles of the upper arm and shoulders.
In effect then as well as an good general overall level of fitness to gain the required stamina and effective muscle recovery whilst on the move, we also need to target three excessively used muscle groups, which are the legs (thighs and glutes/buttocks), the core and arms/shoulders.
Your legs are going to do the brute amount of the work, without strong legs you have no foundations from which to control your skis or power your snowboard.
For me, the key to gaining strong legs are the big power exercises such as squats, powerlifts and the leg press. This is not to say that you should rush into the gym and get stuck into lifting big heavy weights, but the exercise that you should focus on should build up to mirroring the movements of flexion and extension that are used for both skiing and Snowboarding with or with out the use of weights. (Bare in mind however that the forces applied to your legs during a turn on the mountain are greater than the forces applied by only your body weight when completing your exercises).
Lets start with some preparation…
Cycling provides a great preparation work out for the legs using very similar flexion and extension movements to skiing and Snowboarding whilst keeping the movements flowing and smooth, it is also an aerobic endurance sport and so is great for overall fitness. Running also targets the leg muscles and whilst being more impact orientated, prepares the leg muscles for the impact movements that we might have to endure when skiing or riding on bumpy terrain.
Both cycling and running are great key exercises for gaining overall fitness and for preparing the relevant leg muscles for Skiing and Snowboarding. Either one should be included in your pre winter slide work out, either as a 30 minute warm up before a muscle specific work out or working up to an hour as your full fitness session. If an hour on the treadmill or exercise bike doesn’t fill you with enthusiasm try looking for a spin class, a running club or simply get out on your bike. If you’re pushed for time find a set of steps and run up and down them 2 steps at a time or two feet at a time (but be carefull!)
To make the best fitness gains you need to build up slowly but surely and not over do it during the first couple of weeks. Try to target 3 hour sessions per week and build from there. Don’t work to hard but hard enough to get a sweat on, to feel your heart rate and your breathing build and to feel some effort in the relevant muscle groups. Recovery is key, so reward your-self with some well earned rest in between training days.
Initially focus on overall fitness with cycling or running until you feel ready to progress to the specific muscle groups exercises, the legs, core and arms.
Always warm up with half an hour of aerobic activity such as running or cycling and then get stuck in…
The most important thing when performing your specific muscle group exercises is to hold the correct form, this means using the correct movements.
For legs I personally target the forward and sideways lunge, the squat (narrow and wide stance) and deadlift movements. All these exercises need great form so unless you’re familiar with them seek out supervision from an expert. No weight is needed at first, look to move smoothly and dynamically.
If you are going to use weights start light and build up. It is more important to hold the correct form than it is to lift heavy weights, so start light and build up slowly. Very light-weight, hand held dumbells or even 2 bottles of water are great for starters, remember focus on the form of the exercise and look for 8 to 10 perfect repartitions.
As you increase the weight lower the number of reps. As a target, a good athlete should be able to squat their own body weight with out too much trouble.
For your core stability look at floor exercises such as straight leg raises, crunches (sit ups) and oblique twists (twisting sit ups). Work with big set repetitions until you feel the pain and the gain and recover fully between sets. Try to flatten your stomach as much as possible before performing these exercises this will help develop the smaller side stability muscles surrounding your core.
Your arms don’t need the power of your legs, as the movements used for dynamic balance are quick but light. Focus on the shoulders and the muscles of the arms with dips, press ups and the bicep curl, the straight arm lateral extension/raise and a simple shoulder press.
You can make your press ups harder or easier by adjusting your hand width or arm position or assisting with your knees, to work your core at the same time try raising one leg off the floor.
Warm down with some easy stretching, spinning or even a walk and go recover and re-hydrate.
Set yourself some goals each session, how many miles you’ll do, how long you’ll run or ride for, how many repartitions you’ll make. Remember you’re working towards that goal of a higher performance on the mountain but as you begin to feel the benefits of your efforts in your day to day life, also remember that fitness is a lifestyle choice and definitely not a gift!