Ski Your Way to Better Running
Spring skiing offers a bonus for runners that take to the slopes; not only are they having gravity-activated fun, they're improving their running. "Skiing can actually help your running," according to Outside Magazine. "In addition to building coordination, core stability, and leg strength, alpine skiing also works the leg muscles in many different planes, which is beneficial for runners," reports Outside. "Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, as well as your abductor and adductor muscles, are all utilized in downhill skiing." Still, runners that plan to ski this spring will benefit from some preparation. Below are 3 exercises to help downhill skiers gain more control and power: squats, lunges and hops.
Lunges: Lunges will improve balance and overall strength. Begin the "Alternating Lunge" with feet shoulder-width apart, step the left foot forward into a lunge, with left leg bent at 90 degrees and right knee nearly on the ground behind you. Next, push off your front heel, returning to the starting position with feet apart. Then do this on the right leg, with 10 to 20 reps per leg. An alternative is the "Jump Lunge": with your left leg forward, jump up and switch legs in the air, landing with the right foot in front and left foot back. Repeat 10 to 20 reps for each leg. For both lunges, it's critical to keep your chin up, shoulders back and relaxed and upper body straight.
Hops: Hops prepare skiers to aggressively take mogul runs -to quickly and repeatedly make tight turns. This requires agility, stamina and forceful leg and trunk strength. Perform this exercise by starting with a wide stance from which you jump laterally on -and then over- a box. An alternative is to quickly and softly jump back and forth laterally over a foam roller or sandbag. Do so for 30 seconds, before sinking into a squat and holding that position for 30 seconds, keeping an open chest and flat back. Repeat both exercises four to eight times, or as many as you can do with good form, resting 15 seconds between reps. Note that these exercises are not about jumping as high as you can, but rather to improve strength and quickness, both essential for make quick turns on a steep slope with very little to no recovery time.
Squats: The "Basic Squat" will improve strength in the lower body and core, conditioning you to avoid collapsing your upper body and keeping upright, critical to enjoying downhill skiing. Core strength is arguably the most important element of a ski-fitness routine, as it delivers a stable and strong trunk, a must for making quick, dynamic movements on the slopes. Begin the squat by standing with feet a bit beyond shoulder-width apart. Then lower yourself into a seated position, thighs parallel to the ground. Next, with heels grounded and knees behind your toes and arms by your hips for alignment and to strengthen your core, slowly return to the starting position, as you keep a straight back and an engaged core. Do this 10 to 20 times. An alternative is the the "Single-Leg Squat," which prepares skiers for quick changes in terrain by working the quadriceps, lower glutes and hamstrings -muscles important for balance and strength to keep making turns. It is performed by sitting on a knee-high bench and rising on one leg, while holding the other leg out straight in front of you in a controlled, slow motion. A mirrored wall helps maintain proper form: torso upright, hips level, and knee over ankle both vertically and laterally. Do two sets of 20 reps per leg.