It’s happening! You’ve arranged your holiday in Val Thorens! You can already see yourself hurtling down the slopes of your favourite resort, the cool mountain air making your cheeks tingle … So much fun in store! Even if your holiday is still a few weeks away, there’s nothing to stop you ticking off a little check-list to make sure that everything is in order:
- Accommodation: OK
- Skipasses: OK
- Ski equipment: OK
- Warm clothes: OK
- Car snow tires and chains: OK
- Physical fitness: ... OK ?
Whether you ski just for fun or take it more seriously, skiing is a sport unlike any other. We met up with François, a physiotherapist at the Val Thorens Medical Centre, who shared some pro advice for the best way to physically prepare for your ski break.
The following series of exercises are aimed specifically at preparing your muscles for skiing. Chiefly, to give you better endurance on skis, and fewer aches and pains in the evenings, as well as reducing the risk of injury. And because we know that you’re going to take our advice seriously, a summarised printable version is downloadable at the end of this article so you can carry it with you wherever you go!
Ready? And we’re off!
Before you start this series of exercises, make sure you always warm up properly. Spend at least 10 minutes either cycling, rowing or running: these three sports, as well being good all-round preparation for exercise, are also a great way to improve your cardio.
Once you’ve warmed up, have a little drink of water, and now it’s time for the main event!
Step 1: Work the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes: squats and ‘the chair’
Who hasn’t experienced stiffness in the thighs after a good day’s skiing? As skiers of every discipline will tell you, this part of the body is a non-negotiable part of training.
We’ll start off with a well-known exercise: the squat. With your arms stretched out in front of you, keep your back straight and position your feet slightly apart (a bit wider than your shoulders). Bend your knees and squat downwards, keeping your thighs parallel to the floor. Rise back up to standing using only your legs. For optimal results, repeat 3 series of 10 movements.
Next, it’s time for the chair. With your back and heels pressed against the wall, lower your legs until your thighs are parallel to the ground, as if you were sitting on an invisible chair. You’ll feel it in your quadriceps and hamstrings, vital muscles for maintaining the right posture on skis! Try to hold this position for a minute and a half, then repeat three times.
Stand up !
Now that your quadriceps are warmed up, move on to a more difficult exercise. Sitting on a chair, stand up using only one leg: no pushing with your arms, you have to lift yourself up using only the movement of your body and strength of your thighs! Repeat the exercise 15 times for each leg, then repeat the whole series from the start.
Step 2: Work your calf muscles with step
You wouldn’t think that these muscles, wrapped up tightly in your ski boots, would be so important. However, a number of calf injuries occur when they haven’t been properly prepared in advance. You’ll feel more comfortable on the slopes if your muscles are used to how they’ll have to work during skiing.
Step is one of the simplest exercises for training the calf muscles: if you don’t have a step, you can do the exercise at the bottom of your stairs. With your heels off the ground towards the back of the step, step up on tiptoe. Repeat 3 series of 10 movements. If you struggle to balance, you can lean on a support in front to stay upright (a wall, or bar …).
Step 3: How about a little more work on the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes?
Remember we told you that the thigh area is the most used during skiing? Thanks to this step exercise, you’re going to work three muscles at the same time.
The goal is to alternate the movement of your feet with the direction of your step to give the muscles as full a work-out as possible. Step up to the front, to the sides and to the back. Complete 3 series of 10 movements each.
Step 4: Building abdominal strength
No training would be complete without a proper core-building exercise! On skis, your abdominal muscles are forced to work harder than usual: to maintain the right posture on skis, stay upright on chair lifts, and stay tense holding onto a ski tow … It’s therefore vital to prepare this part of the body:
For that, there’s nothing better than the plank position: forearms on the ground, pushing up on your toes. Note that for the exercise to work, your back has to stay straight, don’t stick your behind up in the air!
Step 5: stretching
Phew! The strengthening exercises are over. Now, it’s time to rest. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during and after your training sessions. Take a bit of time to breathe and let your body rest … An hour or two after your session, stretch your muscles with the following exercises:
Stretching your calf muscles:
Stretching your hamstrings:
Stretching your quadriceps:
Stretching your glutes:
You can carry out these exercises 1 to 2 weeks before your ski break, 2 or 3 times a week. Keep it gentle, if you start to feel any pain, back off! The goal isn’t to hurt yourself, but to gently prepare your body so you can enjoy a week’s skiing with peace of mind.
Don’t hesitate to download and print the form below to guide you through your regular sessions!