Snow! We haven’t seen any of the white stuff yet in the UK but chances are, you may be booked to head out to the slopes within the next couple of months (or weeks!). Here’s how you can get yourself ski fit. It’s never too late to start!!
Well, yes. It’s good to have strong legs and you certainly need endurance for those long schuss flats. But skiing is anything but a linear sport. You constantly need to adjust your position to the terrain, use lateral stabilisation to balance you and deal with progressing forces of gravity on your downhill edge.
So you can get into a good parallel leg squat position, flexing at the hip, knee and ankle joint and engaging your upper back and abs and then play around with your movement. Envisage a long track- shift your weight from one leg to the other, as if you are cornering. Lift your position up a little- then down a little. Rock forward to the toes- and then backwards to the heels. Do a few quick swerves. Hold this for a timer set to at least a minute, have a break and then do it again!
Beware- avoid the infamous A-frame knees. Don’t let your knee-caps fall in to your midline. Squeeze your bottom to hold a strong leg position with your knees in line with your toes.
When we are on the Pilates machines, with the feet in the springs on the Cadillac towers or in the straps on the Reformers, we work this powerful flexion action in Bend&Stretch exercises through full-range in the hip joint and we never let the knees cave in!
Contrary to what you may expect, skiing bumps is far less about pushing your feet onto the snow and much more about lifting your feet (and heavy boots and heavy skis weighted down possibly by heavy snow) up away from the ground underneath you. In fact, riding moguls is one of the fiercest ways to challenge your hip flexor strength. The best way to try and simulate this in training is by jumping and pulling your legs up underneath you.
We do this on the Jumpboard on the Reformer (watch a Jumpboard video in this link) by adding in tucks to your jumps around the surface of the board. You can do this at home by practising tuck jumps. Try them landing and pulling up in different directions as if you were picturing a mogul run underfoot.
Balance is key. If you are starting out, you are likely to be either a) rounded too far forward- looking down at your ski tips attempting to keep them uncrossed or b) leaning back- bracing through your legs to slow yourself down. To avoid falls, you want to be somewhere in the middle: balanced, relaxed and neutral. You will need to engage across your upper back to keep an open collar bone and draw in your tummy to stabilise your spine.
At home, stand with your back to a wall, arms bent up in a ‘w’ shape and then try and pull your shoulder blades back to flatten against the wall, simultaneously drawing in your tummy. Now, memorise this upper body sensation for when you get to the mountains. You will be bent at the waist on the slopes but you should keep strong in your upper body.
This is our bread and butter in classes- there’s not a moment in our Mat or the Equipment classes when we aren’t getting you to consider your posture! Our Arcuses- unique to our studio in Gloucestershire- are exceptional for upper body strength and placement practice.
Enjoy playing around on the half-pipes and the jumps in the snow-parks? You’ll need to work a bit more on explosiveness for faster directional changes and a bit more on core stability for holding positions on the slider rails. Oblique muscles are super important for counteracting the G-force effect, too.
Nearly every exercise in the full Pilates repertoire challenges the Oblique muscles in some way. Standing in our Slings from the Tower- an import we have brought over from US Pilates trainers- is a brilliant way to train oblique control. Plus we use our rotational discs to add in to your leg work on the Reformers to practice holding stabilised leg positions.
The most common ski injury is ACL/MCL rupture (the ligaments of the knees) due to the twisting force of a caught ski and/or hamstring weakness. Snowboarders are more likely to fracture ankles, collar bones and wrists by the way. Because both skis and snowboards rely upon good foot control for directional movement, having strong and agile feet is extremely important for snow sports.
If you have worked on the machines with us, you will know that Footwork is a whole section of our repertoire that works the deep foot stabilisers through every angle. Barre classes are another great place to work both foot strength and gluteal strength to guard correct knee alignment.
At home, practice lifting and lowering yourself on the edge of the stairs using your feet. Squeeze your bottom as you lift and feel active in the knees.
Hope that helps- Happy Skiing!!
written by Lucy Whitehead, Owner and Lead Instructor, One Grove (& Oxford Blue in Varsity Alpine Skiing!)