Gearing Up For Summer Block
It’s never too early to start planning your summer training blocks. Of course, we must still enjoy what’s left of the season, the snow in our back yard, and remain grateful for the here and now. However, we can still take a few minutes out of the next month to decide what areas of opportunity need to be addressed through the summer months. There are essentially two micro cycles for skiers in the offseason. The first is April, May, June, and the second is July, August, September. These two, three month micro cycles form the larger macro cycle of the summer. Strength and conditioning coaches all over the world, including those that train our favorite olympians, all know that these this macro cycle is the most valuable time for physiological improvements because there is ample time to recover in the event of an injury, conditioning is not a top priority, and the intensity can be dialed up without worrying about residual fatigue from multiple sports. So how should the average skier, the enthusiast, the traveler, young athlete, and novice, all think about these months? Read along as I break this down.
Summer Micro Cycle 1: April 1st - June 30th
These three months are the best months of the year for skiers looking to strength train. You can take advantage of longer rest periods, heavier loading, and more demanding structure because you don’t need to worry about your skiing output, or worse, sustaining an injury in the gym that sets you back, taking time away from the slopes. Your biggest strength gains of the year will most likely be made by the end of June, after which, you’ll need to refocus your energy and time on converting the strength you’ve built into functional, conditioned, and plyometric patterns so that they effectively transfer to snow.
This would be a great time to take on a more demanding program like SKIER LEGS LEVEL III or ALL GYM LEVEL III. Both require more physical preparation each day and place significantly more stress on the body than, for example, BALANCE AND STABILITY LEVEL II. These demanding programs are heavier than most, require longer rest between sets, and more effort for each rep; effort that you would want to be conserving mid season to maximize your days and performance on snow. That’s not to say those programs cannot be run through the bulk of the season, many members are currently training on them as their individual needs and time on snow allow for it. But generally speaking, those are great Summer Block 1 programs.
Ask Yourself “Why”?
Your weaknesses from the season and areas of opportunity should be addressed directly through this initial training block. Did you feel like you couldn’t ski specific terrain? Were moguls more difficult than you expected? Would your edges slide out on fast GS style turns? Consider all these questions when you’re choosing which program to do. The idea here would be to isolate your weaknesses from the season and aim to improve them by targeting these shortcomings with specific strength exercises. If, for example, you struggle skiing chunder and choppy snow, aim to put some raw strength into your legs while developing a sturdy upper body. What do I mean? I mean increase your 10 rep back squat or 3-5 Rep Deadlift, by 10-25 lbs by the end of June! If you can improve your strength by 10-25 lbs over the same rep range, then take that new strength into a conditioning phase through September, your ability to ski choppy snow will be greatly improved.
Make sure to maintain your strengths! No matter what your focus in the off season, make sure not to lose progress in the areas you worked hard for the previous season. Let’s say you completely MOBILITY LEVEL II last year and saw great improvements in your range of motion. Make sure to maintain your mobility throughout Summer Block 1. Not only will this keep your body, joints, and ligaments healthy, but it will support the utilization of the strength you’re building by allowing your body to use that strength in ranges of motion previously unavailable.
What About Conditioning?
Place your conditioning focus on the back burner for Summer Block 1. You should have plenty of cardiovascular endurance from the ski season to maintain your training output without too much fatigue. Additionally, you’ll purposefully be resting longer between sets to allow for muscle recovery. You won’t need the same levels of cardiovascular conditioning that would be needed in the end of Summer Block 2. A great way to maintain your cardiovascular output through Summer Block 1 is through mountain, or road biking. Not only is this a great low impact transition from the slopes but it maintains the speed-eye awareness that you need on snow while utilizing your cardiovascular engine that was fine-tuned by your ski days. Think minimal cardiovascular training, maybe 1-2x/week, through Summer Block 1 to focus on strength without losing your baseline.
What About Recovery?
Recovery is imperative to successful strength gains in the weight room. You really cannot over do it. Along this spectrum, I like to take advantage of any and all rehabilitative offerings. Infrared sauna is a wonderful way to achieve an elevated prolonged heart rate that produces similar physiological adaptations to low intensity zone 2 cardiovascular training. Dr. Rhonda Patrick produces phenomenal research on the outcomes of repetitive IR sauna use. Sauna goes hand in hand with cold emersion. Huberman Lab also has some excellent audio bits and research coming out of Stanford regarding the benefits of contrast therapy wherein you submerge your body in extremely cold temperatures. From my experiences, this seems to be the most beneficial and difficult of recovery modalities. Cold water is really freaking cold and submersion requires new depths of mental toughness. But the effects on the body and how much it aids in recovery cannot be overlooked. Along these lines, acupuncture, massage, and chryotherapy all have their place as well. My personal experience with chryotherapy is amazing yet the price point becomes a problem if you go regularly. The equipment is so expensive that it demands a high per visit cost while the benefits require continual compounded use. Lastly, you can take advantage of at-home recovery tools like the ones I break down in this Training Blog post.
How you structure Summer Block 1 is entirely up to you but I hope this Training Blog post highlighted some of the reasons for establishing a structure early. The sooner you decide what you’re going to focus on, the easier the transition from season to off-season will be. Remember, no goal is too high and no goal is too small. You can follow this post to help arrive at a goal of your own; one that fits your needs. There’s no one-size fits all approach.
As always, if you have questions, email me at email@example.com or DM me on Instagram