Conditioning tips

1. It's never too late to start

Fitness for Living director David Clair says even if you can only do a few reps a week the before you hit the backcountry, do it.

"There's no such thing as too late, or no such thing as doing things too early as long as people don't burn out," he said.

2. Run in a zigzag

Even if you've been running all summer and fall, chances are you haven't been working on lateral conditioning.

"Snow sports tend to be doing a lot of lateral, side-to-side motions that you don't have in cycling or running," Clair said.

The simplest fix? Jog like a running back trying to dodge a defensive lineman.

3. Incorporate your workout into your workday

You don't have to commit hours to a gym to train for ski season. Clair suggests step-ups while pumping gas, squats before showering and jumping up the stairs.

Alpine Fitness Center owner Connie Sciolino recommends calf raises while cooking dinner, wall sits anywhere you can find a blank wall, lunging to the mailbox and squats at your desk.

"Take a quick break and rip off 10 squats so that you glutes hit your chair and then come back up," she said. "You can easily get in 100 a day without putting in much effort."

4. Don't forget nutrition

It's easy to get psyched about new ski gear, fresh powder and short lift lines -- but not until you drink a few bottles of water.

"Hydrate before, during and after," Sciolino said. "It will help you last longer and recover better for the next day of skiing."

Sciolino warns against nomming on a huge lunch and suggests small snacks instead -- otherwise you'll end up wanting to take a snooze in the parking lot, which just isn't ideal for anyone.

I t's that time again.

You've been running/cycling/climbing/hiking/(insert summer or fall sport here) for the last six months.

Annette Bray, right, leads the group in a boot camp ski conditioning class at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder. For a video and more photos of the workout,
Annette Bray, right, leads the group in a boot camp ski conditioning class at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder. For a video and more photos of the workout, go to www.coloradodaily.com. (CLIFF GRASSMICK)

But that doesn't mean you're ready to hit the slopes or the backcountry as hard as you want without injuring yourself or sitting in the ski lodge exhaustedly nursing a Tuaca and apple cider.

You've been hitting your sport hard, but is it enough?

Tricks and tips

"Most of those, certainly running and biking, all build the aerobic system, and while skiing is not aerobic in nature, you do need an aerobic base in able to (ski)," said Connie Sciolino, owner of the Alpine Training Center in Boulder.

So you're in luck. Without an aerobic base, she said, training for ski season won't get you very far. During her eight-week ski season prep course, Sciolino encourages athletes to run, bike, hike or perform some other form of aerobic exercise during their off days.

But the key to preparing for a hardcore ski season is strength, she said. Sciolino's athletes first work on leg and core strength, which goes beyond basic crunches and squats.

Core strength exercises focus on the lower back, gluteal muscles, abdominal muscles and anterior core, which stabilizes the pelvis and spinal column, she said. These muscles bend and twist while you're carving it up.

In the second month of the program, Sciolino's athletes work on plyometrics, exercises that require quick, powerful bursts of energy. These include jumping, Olympic lifts and other dynamic movements that help skiers absorb bumps and build powerful lower bodies.

Caitlin Marahan, left, joins others in a boot camp ski conditioning class at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder.
Caitlin Marahan, left, joins others in a boot camp ski conditioning class at Scott Carpenter Park in Boulder. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

David Clair, Fitness for Living's director and trainer, said he encourages athletes to take plyometrics slowly. Only once they have a core base of strength, flexibility and balance would he advise working on explosive jumping strength, which can lead to injury without a proper base level of fitness, he said.

He also emphasizes both muscle and cardiovascular endurance for spending a full day on the slopes or in the backcountry. If it's your first run of the season, don't push it, he advised, until you know your limits.

"How long can you keep going?" he said. "Some people have a lot of those (strength) areas covered, but they poop out after half a day."

Finally, he encourages athletes to attempt exercises on one foot or the other to mimic the natural shifting of weight to one leg while skiing or boarding.

 

Injury-prone no more

Without proper training and conditioning, the chances that you'll find yourself a ski patrol escort down the mountain increase greatly.

Sciolino urges ski bums to concentrate on mobility and their posterior chains -- hamstrings, gluteals and lower back -- if they don't plan to commit to an intensive ski season exercise plan.

"People get hurt when they get out of their normal range of motion and their body is not strong in that position," she said.

Skiers and boarders are also more prone to ACL injury if they are quad dominant, she said, which most people are. To correct the imbalance, Sciolino advocates for loads of hamstring and gluteal reps.

And while it may sound painfully obvious, Clair recommends starting slowly to anyone who hasn't been training.

He added that working extra hard on any weak or problem muscle groups is key to avoiding repeat injuries.

"Each person has some idea of where they've had issues," he said. "It's really important to work all those areas because skiing is really dynamic. If you've got a weak link, that's what's going to give out for you. No matter what the sport you have to think about the stuff you haven't been working on."

Telemark -- the other white meat

Drew Wyman, current vice president and soon to be president of the telemark club at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said he encourages club members to lunge constantly.

"Telemark is all about the lunge, so lunge to class and lunge at class," he said. "Basically don't stop lunging. On an average ski day you are doing 500 lunges, so anything that gets your heart pumping and strengthens your legs is good."

The club has a loose exercise schedule that consists of yoga, trail running, biking, stretching and volleyball to keep the heart pumping.

Wyman said he does CrossFit three times a week and rides his bike everywhere on off days. He emphasized stretching to prevent injury, especially gluteals, groin and quads.

"Stretch as much as you can," he said. "IT (iliotibial) bands and hamstrings get extremely tight early in the season and can lead to injury if one neglects them. Finding a steam room or sauna helps muscles relax and rebuild."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.