That's it! Your Val Thorens holiday is all arranged! You can already see yourself hurtling down the slopes of your favourite resort, the fresh mountain air tingling your cheeks... It's going to be so much fun! Even though your holiday is still a few weeks away, there's nothing to stop you having a quick check-up to make sure everything's in order:
- Accommodation: OK
- Packages : OK
- Ski equipment : OK
- Warm clothing: OK
- Snow tyres and chains for the car: OK
- Physical condition: ... OK?
Whether practised as a leisure activity or in a more advanced form, skiing is a sport in its own right. We spoke to François, a physiotherapist at the Val Thorens Medical Centre, who gave us his expert advice on preparing your body to make the most of your skiing holiday.
The aim of this series of exercises is to train your muscles to work specifically for skiing. The result is better endurance on skis, fewer aches and pains in the evening, but also reduced risk of injury. And as we know you're going to be a regular reader, a printable summary version can be downloaded at the end of this article to accompany you wherever you go!
Ready to go? Get set!
Before starting your series of exercises, always make sure you warm up properly. Take at least 10 minutes for cycling, rowing or running: as well as preparing your body for exercise in a fairly comprehensive way, these three sports are also a good way of working your cardio.
Once you've warmed up, have a quick drink of water and off you go to the heart of the matter!
Stage 1: Working the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes: squats and the chair
Who hasn't had a sore thigh after a good day's skiing? Skiers of all disciplines will tell you that this part of the body is an important part of their training.
We start with the well-known squat exercise. With your hands stretched out in front of you, keep your back straight and your feet slightly apart (about shoulder width apart). Bend your knees as you lower your thighs until they are parallel to the floor. Then return to a standing position by pushing on your legs. To get the most out of the exercise, do 3 sets of 10 each.
Next, do the chair exercise. With your back to a wall and your heels pressed against it, bend your legs until your thighs are parallel to the ground, as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. You'll feel your quadriceps and hamstrings working - important muscles for good posture on skis! Try to hold this position for 1 minute 30 seconds, and repeat the exercise three times.
Now that your quadriceps are warm, let's move on to a more difficult exercise. Sit on a chair and use just one leg to lift yourself up: don't use your arms to support yourself, use your body's movement and the strength of your thighs to lift you up! Repeat the exercise 15 times for each leg, in 2 sets.
Step 2: Working the calves with the step
You'd never suspect that this muscle, tightly packed into ski boots, is so important. And yet a number of calf injuries are reported when skiing without prior conditioning. You'll feel more comfortable if your muscles have been used to working for this sport.
To prepare your calves properly, the step exercise is one of the easiest to do: if you don't have a step, you can do this exercise on the steps, for example. With your heels in the air and pulled downwards, tiptoe upwards. Repeat 3 sets of 10 movements. And if you can't find your balance to do this movement, you can use a support in front of you to hold yourself upright (a wall, a barrier, etc.).
Step 3: How about a little more emphasis on the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes?
Has anyone ever told you that the thighs are the area most in demand when skiing? With a step exercise, you can work all three muscles at the same time.
The aim is to alternate foot movements and step orientation to work as many muscles as possible. Move your legs forward, sideways and backwards. Do 3 sets of 10 movements each.
Step 4: Sit-ups for the abdominals
A workout wouldn't be complete without a proper sit-up exercise! When you're skiing, your abdominal muscles work harder than they do in real time: to maintain a good position on the skis, to stand up from the chairlift, to stay tucked in to take the ski lift... So it's essential to work this part of the body properly:
And there's nothing better than the plank position: with your forearms on the floor, leaning on your toes. Be careful, for this exercise to be effective, your back must be straight - you don't want to lift your buttocks!
Step 5: Stretching
Phew! The actual muscle-building exercises are over. Now it's time to rest. Don't forget to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your training sessions. Take the time to breathe a little, let your body rest... 1 to 2 hours after your session, you can stretch your muscles with the following exercises:
- Calves: With your hands against the wall and your legs in a scissor kick, push on your arms to stretch your back leg. Stretch gently, 30 seconds for each leg.
- The iscios : Place your heel on a high surface: a table, chair, step, etc. Then gradually bend your torso towards your leg, stretching your arms towards your foot. Remember to breathe during the exercise, and don't force yourself if you feel pain. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds for each leg.
- Quadriceps : With one foot on the ground, catch the top of your foot in the palm of your hand. Pull your heel towards your lower back as far as you can, and hold the position for 30 seconds for each leg while keeping your torso upright. If you can't find your balance, you can use your other hand to support yourself (chair, table, bar, etc.).
- Adductor muscles : Crouching with both hands on the floor, stretch your leg sideways, with your heel on the floor and your toe pointing upwards. Hold the position for 30 seconds for each leg.
You can do these exercises 1 to 2 weeks before your ski holiday, at a rate of 2 to 3 times a week. Keep it gentle, and if you feel any pain, don't force yourself! The aim is to gently prepare your body to enjoy a week's skiing in peace.
Don't hesitate to download and print the following sheet to support you in your day-to-day sessions!