If you’re serious about skiing, do something else.

You know how in boxing movies when the boxer trains for that big match, he does a whole lot of other stuff besides boxing. (Enter the theme music for Rocky films). Boxers skip to improve their footwork in the ring. They run to increase their endurance so they can last round after round. All that strength for those punches don’t come from merely boxing. They do a lot of weights and push ups so that they have the ability to deliver that knock out blow we all know will feature in the movie. It’s a pretty similar regime for skiing or for that matter any sport at a serious enough level. I’m going to share with you two disciplines that have improved my skiing.
Pilates helps build a strong core

Pilates helps build a strong core

I first started pilates to address the aches and pains associated with skiing. I don’t know of any skier who hasn’t at some stage compained about either knee or back pains after skiing. I suffered a back injury and was advised by an orthopedic surgeon to build my core up if I intended to continuing pursuing high impact sports, which skiing can be.
After much pilates practice, I found my skiing to be much more stable and therefore more powerful, especially in the bumps and long turns. I could even turn better in short turns. How does a strong core help you turn your skis? Well, picture yourself twisting a coke bottle open. Now instead of holding on to the bottle firmly and then twisting the cap, imagine doing the opposite. Have a firm grip on the cap as you twist the bottle instead. If you didn’t have a firm grip, both cap and bottle would just sort of twist around in your hands. So similiarly, a strong core would allow you to twist your legs better.
A strong core makes it easier to twist our thighs in skiing.

A strong core makes it easier to twist our thighs in skiing.

I started yoga sometime later and found that I managed to increase my overall flexibility through its practice. This then gave me a bigger range in the movements required for skiing. For example, I could bring my knees closer to my chest which meant I could absorb better and my thighs could rotate inwards more which gave me a stronger leg turning.
This pose stretches the gluts, hamstrings and increases flexibility in the hip joint.

This pose stretches the gluts, hamstrings and increases flexibility in the hip joint.

Both yoga and pilates had other benefits. They helped equalise my body strength and flexibility. Skiing is about symmetry. Your left turn should be identical to your right. However, very few of us are completely balanced in that way. Our stronger side is usually also our less flexible side. I started to realise that I had been muscling my way through the turn on my strong side. The weaker side is usually the more flexible with a higher range of movement. Because it lacked the strength to ‘muscle’ the turn, my body was more likely to make the correct technical movements for that side. I realised that I could more easily make equal movements on both sides after being introduced to yoga and pilates.

Most importantly, yoga and pilates gave me a more acute sense of body awareness. I started listening to my feet  and was finally  able to identify the different ways of turning my legs. Did the movement originate from my thighs or did it come from my hips? (An endemic problem with many skiers). And as mentioned before, I became more aware of the symmetry of my movements for both turns.
Most guys will find it more difficult to link hands on their stronger (but less flexible) side.

Most guys will find it more difficult to link hands on their stronger (but less flexible) side.

Whether its the off season and theres no snow or you’re sitting in the office thinking about skiing and wish you could be on the slopes but can’t, there’s something you can do in the meantime to improve your skiing. Most skiers get about one to two weeks of actual time on mountain each year. If you want to maximise your time on skis, get out there and work on leg and core strength, general flexibility and build up your body awareness. Don’t worry too much about cardio (‘Thank you!’ screams my smoke filled lungs). It helps, but not as much as the other things. Skiing’s a technical sport, not a marathon.

Work done off hill will reap dividends on mountain.

Work done off hill will reap dividends on mountain.

The fact is that no matter what we do or where we are, we can’t be on mountain all the time. Use that downtime efficiently and it will reap dividends on the slopes. If you want to ski well, you’ll have to do more than just ski.

  

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