Samantha on Skiing Conditioning…

Posted on December 9, 2008 by


Samantha Gilman

Samantha Gilman


Whether your passion on the hill is alpine skiing, snowboarding, telemarking, backcountry and/or cross-country skiing it is essential to prepare your body for the high demands these snow sports require. Preparation and conditioning routines ensure a safe winter and are essential for both recreational skiers and expert skiers. How can we prepare our bodies to be healthy, strong, flexible, and agile so that we can avoid injury? There are several key components for getting your body ready to operate at its optimal performance. These include good posture, proper alignment, core strength training, cardiovascular endurance training, stretching/yoga, adequate sleep, and a nutritious diet.

Skiing is a highly demanding sport that requires top physical conditioning. A skier’s preparation for the season should include overall body strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, and explosive power. Yet many skiers hit the slopes after little or no training in the preseason and ask their bodies to perform. This physical exertion can be too much to ask of our bodies and can often result in sore muscles, fatigue and injury if not properly trained. The most common injuries in skiing are joint related, and the best way to protect your joints is to build muscle to support them. Muscle strength will also improves every skier’s performance, whether they are a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert skier.

I want to expand on posture, alignment, and core strength training first. By core strength training I do not mean just doing abdominal exercises as most people would think. Our core is the engine of our bodies and consists of twenty four muscles that attach into our trunk area that we call our “core”. Strong core muscles keep your back healthy, allow you to hold your body upright and maintain good posture and alignment. A weak core means your body does not work as effectively and your other muscles have to pick up the slack. Guess what this results in? Wear and tear on your joints which can result in back, knee, neck, shoulder injuries and a body that ages way before it is meant to. Think of your car and its alignment, when your car is out of alignment your tires wear uneven and you have to replace them sooner, right? It is the same with your body except who wants to replace their joints? A body that is balanced and strong will give you an extended range of motion and the ability to stabilize your body from any angle, therefore preventing injury. For the athlete a strong core will aid you in your power moves, and your whole body will function more efficiently. To strength train a misaligned body with a weak core will just promote more physical degeneration and pain. Having a strong core and body will ultimately allow your body to operate the way in which it was designed to; healthy and pain free.

Strength training for skiing must include strengthening the core, legs, hips, back, shoulders, and ankles. Building muscle will improve your stability and balance in all types of terrain and snow conditions. It will also develop your foot to foot quickness and add explosive power for intensive bursts of energy required in moguls, tree skiing, and freestyle. When the muscles are not properly developed and balanced the potential for injury is high. Cardiovascular exercise will give you the aerobic capacity, stamina and endurance to ski all day long if you choose. Not having this endurance results in early fatigue and poor concentration that can often result in crashing and injury.

Why add yoga or stretching? Strenuous activities like downhill skiing promote tightness and inflexibility in the muscle groups. Stretching will help protect your joints, tendons, and ligaments from injury and increase your flexibility and range of motion. It will also reduce muscle tension, signal your muscles they are about to be used, improve ease and freedom of movement, and also enhance quickness of ski turns. Stretching also maintains muscle elasticity, this decreases with age and is vital for skiing. Skiing requires you to be agile at all times with the freedom to move quickly and easily without pain or stiffness. Therefore stretching is imperative for all skiers.

Lastly but not least important is that carrying around extra weight puts undue stress on the joints, heart, and all bodily functions. We want to maintain a healthy weight and feed ourselves whole foods that give our body the supreme nutrition in deserves. It is essential to replace the energy our muscles expend while skiing by eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Carbohydrates replace the glycogen lost in the muscle tissue and protein aids in building and sustaining muscle. So after a day on the slopes treat yourself to some fruit, protein, and water instead of beer and fries. Make sure to get plenty of water as it is easy to get dehydrated when exercising outside in cold temperatures. A good nights sleep will also keep your body able to respond and perform at its optimal level.

It is definitely not to late to get your body prepared for the ski season. Go ahead and get out to your local gym, take classes and educate yourself so that you may enjoy a healthy, fun ski season this year and for many years to come!!

Samantha Gilman is an ACE certified personal trainer, ACE certified weight-loss consultant, Kundalini Yoga and Iyengar Yoga Instructor, and has previously held certifications in both Alpine and Telemark Skiing through PSIA. You can contact her at

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