Ahhhh the spring time. As sad as we are to see the winter go, it’s hard to beat the changing colors and general hype of spring. Mountain bikes come down from the garage racks, hiking trails start to open up, and everyone starts scheming for how they’ll spend their Fourth of July. Many a years were spent tubing down the Yampa River watching tourists capsize in the strategically placed rapids. You could dive the rapids in the evening and come up with a year’s worth of sun glasses and in some cases, cold, hard, soaking wet cash. But I digress.
Its’ also the time of year to keep the health-stoke going! You just finished skiing for the year, your legs are in great shape, hopefully you’ve been maintaining your training frequency, and now it’s time to decide what you will do during this snow hiatus. Ultimately my goal of this blog post is to give you options. I want to present a few different ways to consider your off season while maintaining a minimal, yet beneficial, training frequency. I will also discuss a few physiological elements to consider so that you’re ready to rip come opening day.
Mountain Biking and Hiking:
As I mentioned in this blog post, mountain biking is a skiers’ best friend. So is hiking. These two sports complement skiing and reinforce some biomechanical needs that are neglected as a result of skiing’s downhill nature. Switching the gears and heading uphill can be great for knee health, quad strength, and glute strength. I’ve written at length in previous blog posts about the needs that hiking and mountain biking miss. However, when complemented with a structured strength training program, they truly elevate the skiers’ conditioning. That’s not to say you need to commit to some insane strength protocol. Just find a minimal frequency that allows you to pursue the sports you love, get outside, and live a healthy life.
During my summer months, I personally strength train on Monday and Friday. I sprinkle in mountain bike rides or hikes with our dog Odin. There’s no set frequency as I like to enjoy my rides and hikes. In my eyes, the gym is where the structured training goes down, and the mountain trails are where I enjoy my hard work. That’s not a cookie cutter model. Ultimately you gotta do what works for you and listen to your body.
I feel like a broken record but for those of you that are reading this blog for the first time, I cannot stress enough, obviously, the importance of maintaining a minimal training frequency. Do just enough all summer to fight natural muscular atrophy. This can be accomplished on a minimal training frequency like the one I do (twice a week), or on much more committed training programs in the three to five days per week range. All programs on The Ski System can be scaled up or down in frequency, so look no further than the Program Dashboard. The main thing you want to achieve through strength training is skill development. Can you perform more complex movements with more stability and a better range of motion than you could when you started? If you can perform a squat to a bench at the beginning of the summer, but going below that height creates pain, aim to improve this. If you can improve your squat mechanics, and range of motion by the end of the summer, this will produce improved proprioception and gained athletic ability for your time on snow. Never underestimate the power of progress, no matter how small the improvement.
Goals and Trips
Where do you plan on going next year? Will you be skiing locally, domestically, internationally? What type of skiing will you be doing? Do you plan to improve your park skills? Do you want to ski specific runs that seemed out of reach the year before? These are all questions worth asking yourself as you come into mud season. The more you know about your upcoming year, the better you can structure your training and activities to complement what it is you will want to accomplish. If you plan on skiing long technical spines in Alaska, you should adjust your training for those environmental demands. If you want to improve from skiing greens to skiing blacks next year, adjust your training for some of the features that you may be faced with. For long technical lines in Alaska, you’ll need more lower body endurance and an ability to cycle oxygen more efficiently through your body at high altitude. Conversely, you could achieve the jump from blue to black by simply improving baseline strength and ski mechanics. At the end of the day you want to be asking yourself questions that will begin to shape your off season. Again, you don’t have to get overly technical here and plan your entire summer on a spreadsheet, but you can certainly put some intention behind your ski training.
The summer is a fantastic time to acquire the necessary equipment to maintain your strength through the early season. Look for local garage sales and check Offer Up for people that may be leaving town and liquidating gym equipment. On the same note, the pandemic seems to be over, and people will be selling off equipment as they return to big box gyms and training centers. People all over the country stockpiled gym equipment In the early months of 2020 thinking that they may be entering a nuclear holocaust. Now we can all benefit from the overstock. Look for discounted kettlebells, barbells, bumper plate sets, dumbbells, and TRX equipment. All the programs on the site operate based on available equipment. So, the more equipment you can get your hands on this summer, the more training programs will be available to you.
Here is an indisputable fact: The heavier we are, the more stress we place on our joints. This is true for both obese populations and “fit” populations that carry excess mass relative to their skeletal structure. Therefore, one main purpose behind weight management for snow sports is joint health. The less total weight that we carry on our body, the kinder we are to our joints whether there is acute impact or not. This is not a call to be skinny. Far from it. This is not to shame those of us that battle obesity, and it is certainly not an effort to discourage overweight individuals from picking up skis and learning the best sport in the world, one that could begin a positive feedback loop to improved health and longevity.
It’s a call to action to take stock of yourself, your current bodyweight, muscle mass, and ask yourself if your current bio markers are promoting healthy joints and longevity. Only you can answer that question honestly. If you’re happy with where you’re at, that’s awesome! If you have questions or want to change something, reach out to me directly. I’m here to help and I want to see everyone achieve the best version of themselves that’s capable of skiing at their desired level. We can all uplift each other in this ski community and it starts with the individual.
Mobility and Flexibility
If there’s one thing we control most readily, it’s our mobility and flexibility. If you work on it daily, you will see improvements. If you don’t, your muscles will only maintain or increase their tightness over time. Neglecting these two areas will only result in limitations, strains, tweaks, and injuries come ski season. Do we all need to be Gumby? No. However, we do need effective ranges of motion for skiing, the flexibility to achieve those ranges, and the strength to support movement in those ranges.
Simply plan some time to stretch. That’s it. Take 10 minutes a day and stretch your body from head to toe before bed. Listen to a podcast, play some Barry White, light some candles. Do whatever makes you feel like stretching. Hold your stretches for long periods of time and only stretch in the available range. Avoid forcing yourself into painful positions. Instead, let the flexibility increase over time.
As you begin to increase your flexibility, make sure to strengthen the new ranges you are creating. The last thing you want when training is a range of motion that is available and weak. That will lead to injury. I personally love doing guided stretches. Many of these are available on YouTube. Additionally, I will be designing and producing an online video series available mid to late summer of 2022. These stretches will be designed specifically for The Ski System community.