No one wants to spend their mountain getaway laid up on the couch icing strained muscles, but it can end up that way for those who aren’t in proper shape for the slopes. We asked exercise physiologist Gregory Cloutier, project manager at Northeastern University’s Human Performance and Exercise Science Laboratory, for tips on getting fit for ski season without having to hit the gym. Cloutier says performing this exercise routine daily, or at least as often as possible, for at least a month before a ski trip will strengthen core and lower-body muscles and enhance neuromuscular coordination, reducing risk of injury.
Before any workout it is imperative to start with a low-intensity cardiovascular warm-up. Spend 5-10 minutes jogging in place to raise body temperature and loosen muscles.
Begin standing with feet shoulder-width apart. Step backward with one foot and lower your hips so your front knee is parallel to the floor. Your back knee should be pointed downward, almost touching the ground. Keep your back straight and your weight over your front leg using your core muscles to maintain balance. Then return to standing position and repeat with the other leg.
Perform three sets of 8-10 repetitions. When you’ve gotten the hang of it, add resistance by holding 5-10-pound free weights at your sides. Lunges can be combined with squats for what Cloutier refers to as a “super set” — alternating between the two exercises with each repetition.
Planking builds core strength and enhances coordination and stability by engaging multiple muscle groups at once. Lying on your stomach, lift your body off the ground so it’s resting on your toes and forearms. Hold this pose, with elbows at 90-degree angles, for 30 seconds. Improve strength and coordination by doing a set of extensions from the plank position. Extend your right arm and left leg so they are parallel to the ground and aligned with your torso. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the opposite limbs.
Do 2-3 sets of 5-6 repetitions for basic planks. When doing extensions, alternate sides for 2-3 sets of 5-6 repetitions.
Crunches help build abdominal strength with lower stress on the back. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Exhale and lift your chest and ribcage toward your knees. Cross your arms against your chest or behind your head for support, whichever feels more comfortable. Crunches only require a limited range of motion — do not bring your chest all the way to your knees. Focus on tightening the abdominal muscles without straining your neck or back.
Repeat 15-20 times for two to three sets, with rests in between.
Squats build lower body strength and core stability. With feet shoulder-width apart, bend until your knees are aligned with the tops of your toes and the backs of your thighs are parallel to the ground. Keep your body weight evenly distributed. Keep your back straight, let your chest lean slightly forward over your ankles, and push your buttocks outward as you bend your knees.
Perform three sets of 8-10 repetitions, taking 45-60 second breaks walking in place to stretch out between sets.
This is a sport-specific exercise, as it mimics the demands on the body of hitting moguls or sharp turns. Mark a line on the floor. With feet parallel and arms and hands in position as if holding ski poles, jump laterally from one side of the marker to the other at a moderate pace. Lean in to the direction of the jump and stabilize for a clean landing.
Do two sets of 10 jumps. As you build endurance, increase the number of repetitions to 24 per set and add intensity by jumping higher and faster. Create make-shift hurdles by stacking books up to 12 inches high.
After your workout, cool down and prevent muscle injuries with a series of static stretches that focus on lower body flexibility. Hold stretches for 20-30 seconds each, targeting hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hip-flexors, gluteals, and the lower back.