Words by Jordan Glasser. Photos by Eric Poulin
I have owned and operated a gym in Whistler, BC for the last decade and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked “how do I get fit for ski season?” It’s a great question and it challenges me as a coach and trainer every year. I work really hard to keep up with (and adapt to) the increasing demands of skiers and snowboarders who are in the backcountry all winter long.
It’s no secret that those looking to tear up the mountains on skis or a snowboard will likely have been doing something equally as physically demanding all summer. But there’s more to upping your fitness game than sports: it’s time do so some hard work to make you more robust for the long season ahead. Here are my Five Tips on how to step up your game in the backcountry this winter (and stay healthy through the whole season!):
Tip #1: SQUAT/OVERHEAD SQUAT. Sports (in this case skiing and snowboarding) ask the body to adapt to many strenuous situations, both positionally and in duration. Do your best to stay away from mimicking these movements in the gym. The foundation of your training should be full range of motion, functional exercises. This will be the key to longevity in the sport, and building a strong body to avoid the movement pitfalls of the sport you love. Don’t squat in a “ski like position”: your “skiing muscles” are already stronger than they should be. Squat like the athletes who can push enormous amounts of weights, who scour the ends of the earth to turn their weaknesses into strength, virtually eliminating joint imbalances. This should be your goal: a perfect squat position. It’s the canary in a coal mine.
Tip #2: THE WEIGHTED PLANK. Your core is not strong enough, or at least you should train that way. Send me an athlete with a strong core, and you’ll still find a program with a ton of core training. Why? To continue to see core strength improve, anyone will need to do more core training than their weaker counterpart. What most people imagine as core exercises might be a little different than what I do. The role of the core is not to flex and extend repeatedly (example: the sit-up), it’s to hold you upright. Think of touring with a pack for hours on end, absorbing a big drop, or hitting a death cookie at full speed. Our go-to exercise here is the plank with resistance: the weighted plank.
Tip #3: STRETCH (SPECIFICALLY COUCH STRETCH). Undo what you’ve done. Talk to any successful athlete with longevity in his/her sport and you’ll find someone with great discipline in healing the body. That discipline of healing comes in various forms and monetary commitment, but nothing is as simple (or affordable!) as stretching. It’s tried, tested and true. Stretching is practice that’s been around forever, and it’s time for you to think old school (while you read this you could be stretching). The “Couch Stretch” should be a go-to move for any skier as it ties in the hip flexors and quads in unison. The volume of work that touring puts on your hip flexors and quads, combined with living in ski boots day in and and day out, stresses a need for you to do this on a daily basis. Catch yourself getting tight before you’re in need to see a physio or massage therapist. Stay limber in this stretch and you’ll know your keeping your body happy.
TIP #4. LATERAL SIDE JUMPS. Wider is better. This almost aligns with Tip #1. I cannot tell you how often I tell people in the gym to stand wider. I know, for most folks, this flies in the face of what position your feet are in when you ski, and it’s part of the main reason to stand wider. Squat wider, lunge wider, etc…. If you stay narrow, your movements, even if functional, will bias the quad as the prime mover in the exercise, and leave very little for the rest of the muscles in your legs to get stronger. And it should be priority #1 to fix muscular imbalances, standing wider will address strengthening the glutes, adductors, and hamstrings. We use this dynamic conditioning drill to hit these areas, and to get you breaking a sweat!
Tip #5: Bring The Intensity. If you use the gym for results, you need to push your limits. It’s not rocket science. You have many moments of physical intensity in the field; you need to bring it to your training. Don’t confuse this idea with doing things for longer periods, that just make things harder on all of your systems. If you like running, run more hills, not necessarily for an hour longer. Use the same philosophy with your gym session. You don’t need 2 to 3 hours of training: give yourself 1 focused hour and get after it.
About Jordan Glasser
One of the lucky folks to have found the mountains of British Columbia, Canada as a teenager, Jordan Glasser, owner and operator of Opus Athletics, still calls Whistler his home. A couple of decades of nagging snowboard and hockey injuries forced him into rehab and the inside of a gym and he never looked back. He is highly regarded by many Whistler locals as a go-to trainer for all of the sports people avidly chase in the surrounding mountains. Follow Opus Athletics on Facebook and Twitter or check out their website.