Top 5 home exercises to stay ski fit during the off season

With so many `unknowns` in the foreseeable future, it Is hard to say for sure when we will next be on the slopes. in the meantime however we can ensure that we are in the best possible shape for for when we do get back out there with a few simple home exercises that require no specialist equipment. Here are our top 5 at home exercises to keep you ski fit during the off season. 1. Plank hold While so many ski related exercises focus on the lower body, it can be easy to neglect the upper body. Let’s not forget that when we achieve upper and lower body separation in our skiing, it our core that is `holding it all together` and putting us in the strongest position for skiing. Think of the lower body (hips down) as your shocks – working hard to absorb everything that happens underneath your skis and protecting the upper body from too much instability. Your upper body in turn works extremely hard to remain balanced and centred, allowing your legs to work most effectively. Both your upper and lower body are allocated different roles, but both working together and towards the same goal; strong skiing. As well as having a working core, it is advantageous to be familiar with the associated muscles, and how to engage and relax them, and how it should feel like when they are working. A basic plank is an excellent way to get to know your core muscles, and can be scaled to any athletic level through the length of holding and by being on your forearms & knees or hands and toes. An easy way to get started is by holding yourself on your forearms and knees whilst maintaining a straight line (plank) with your body for 20 seconds. As your muscles become stronger you can extend the time and graduate to your hands and knees, before going onto your toes and hands – such as a basic press up position. If that doesn’t challenge you enough, try adding weights onto your back to increase the amount that your core is supporting. Do try to focus on your midsection and feel how and when the muscles engage. Remember to keep your bottom down as not to break at the hips. 2. Squats Again, nothing complicated about this common workout movement but no shortage of benefits when it comes to linking this back to skiing. Working the core and quads, a deep squat will extend and flex our three lower joints – hips, knees and ankles – with each repetition. In skiing, our Flexion & Extension is the idea that we extend our lower body on every turn initiation, and then smoothly flex those same joints as the turn progresses, bringing us closer to the snow. Squats will build up the muscles surrounding these joints – providing them with better support and minimising the risk of injury. Our quads will also be well worked with each squat, giving us more stamina once on the slopes; strong quads and supportive muscles around our lower joints are extremely advantageous when it comes to skiing. A basic squat looks as if you are about to sit down onto a chair behind you, keeping your knees behind your toes as you go down. Outstretching your arms in front of you will assist with balance, and do remember to keep your chest up and shoulders back. Adding weights to squats is the easiest way to scale to your ability as your body strengthens, and this can be done is numerous ways. Holding a kettle bell with both hands at chest level is a good way to start adding weight to your squats. 3. Side to side jumps Once the first two have been mastered try introducing some side to side jumps. These translate so well into skiing for a few reasons; firstly, our lower joints are continually moving through a flex and extend pattern – exactly what we want to see in our skiing. Secondly, we rely on our core to keep the upper body engaged and balanced whilst the lower body is working (upper & lower body separation), reinforcing the ability to separate. We also introduce some rhythm and timing, another skill that we should be seeing in our skiing in order to provide consistency and fluidity through our turns. As we speed this expertise up it become reminiscent of short turns, and encourages our legs to become increasingly reactive and responsive. An easy way to create this at home is to place a flat object on the ground to the left or right of us – approximately 1 foot in length – and then jumping sidewards over the object, and back again. As you improve, the separation will become more natural and your upper body will move from side to side as your legs work hard underneath you. Try to keep the jumps consistent on each side in size and timing, and as you improve you can increase the pace, the height of the jumps and the distance from one side to another. 4. Wall sits Similar to the plank in that this exercise is deceptive in its simple appearance, and yet demands a lot from us physically. As well as focusing on your lower body and core, it is also a great static exercise for training our gluteal muscles. This group of three muscles ( (Gluteus Minimus, Medius and Maximus) work together to stabilise the pelvis, enable external rotation of the legs, support the knee and hip joints and allow for leg extension. It stands to reason then that these muscles should not be neglected, and the stronger we can build them – the more performance we will get from our skiing. To do a wall sit, simply stand with your back to the wall, ensuring that your hips, back and shoulders are in contact with it. Slowly walk your feet forward as you slide down the wall until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Hold the position with your hands by your side or on your hips, and push down through your feet. This can be easily scaled by increasing the amount of time that it is held for, and how low down the wall you go. If it is your first time doing a wall sit you may not be able to come down to 90 degrees, so you can start higher up and hold it for shorter periods of time. 5. Ankle raises This one is great for skiers and even more so for snowboarders as it focuses primarily on the calf muscles and ankle joints. Building up stability and strength in and around these areas once more creates favourable odds against injury and increases endurance on the slopes. Another over looked and under used joint among skiers is the ankle, with most of us not flexing as much as we should be. This could be for subconscious reasons, like somehow feeling that we don’t need to move it inside a snugly ski boot, or that we shouldn’t be moving it because a boot is so rigid. In reality we should be flexing and extending our ankle in the same way that we would our knee and hip joint to get maximum performance and efficiency from our skiing. The same flex & extend movement is also a key component in snowboarding, along with lots of work from the calves. An ankle raise is going from a flat foot up onto the balls of your feet and toes, before coming back down without letting your heels touch the ground. This can be repeated according to your fitness level, and if you are a beginner then 20 repetitions would be a great place to start. This is done simultaneously on both feet, and if you need to steady yourself for balance you can place a hand on a nearby wall. If you do this, try to avoid transferring any weight onto your hand as it will detract from the work you are doing on your calves and ankles. While skiing may feel like a long way off from where we are now, these easy to do home exercises are of huge benefit to our every day strength and fitness and cover a huge range of movements and muscle groups. As an added bonus they will surely set us up to get the very most out of our next ski trip so we need not spend precious time on the slopes catching our breath and resting tired legs. Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Nadine Robb

Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school specialising in private ski lessons, snowboard lessons and resort guiding services. The first of it`s kind in Hakuba, Japan – guests have the freedom to manage their time how they see fit, and have a choice of ski resorts, onsens and local lunch spots to ensure that they get the very most out of Hakuba. Originally from the UK, Nadine has been in Japan for 10 years now, with time spent in Austria and Canada previously. Author to the children`s book `Joey`s First Ski Lesson`, Nadine is also a professional Ski and Snowboard Instructor, Wilderness First Responder and Swift Water Rescue Technician and mother of two.

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  1. Planks are surprisingly good for feeling the strain and working the arms and core. I don’t do those of often as I probably should. Squats I always do because I got into the habit of doing those and other stretches when boiling the kettle and making toast in the morning. You know, if you can’t find the time, you make the time and multi-task. My minimal exercising has gone by the wayside somewhat during lockdown so this is a good reminder to try to get into a more regular routine with it even if it’s just 20 minutes indoors every morning. If the weather picks up and you’ve got a garden, you can even get a little fresh air and work on breathing exercises outside while you do them.

  2. Thank you for your comment Jen; I love the squats while the kettle boils! I do think that time is a crucial factor in whether or not people end up working out at home or during the off season, and it is all too easy to mentally imagine it as one big `to do` and continually postpone it as we never find the time. Exactly as you do – fitting in handfuls of squats, ankle raises and wall sits throughout the day is a far more approachable method – and will likely result in more repetitions per day than if you tried to fit in one big work out each day.

  3. I prefer working out at home more than spending an hour or two at the gym. I guess it is more convenient since I can adjust my busy schedule and there is no need for me to consider my travel time to the gym. During off season, I tend to create a workout plan that does not only focus on body strength but also on agility, coordination, and balance. Strength would mean nothing if we will not focus on these areas and improve it as well. However, these exercises are truly helpful in improving core muscles and the upper body. It is true that people mostly focus on lower body exercises since it is where power is exerted in skiing but the upper body also contributes in balance and coordination.

    1. Thanks for your comments Douglas – you are spot on. It can be harder to mentally create the time for a gym work out, but setting aside 10-15 minutes each day to do exercises such as these can somehow feel more approachable.

  4. Be careful with wall sits to make sure you’re not wearing anything that can scuff the wall. I used to do these when I was younger while wearing a watch and headband with the metal tie, and it left scuffs and scratches down the wall. Oops. It’s a great exercise, especially if you can keep the knees stable and apart to help strengthen the muscles around the hips. Ankle raises I’ve found particularly good as I’ve got older for restless leg issues and for generally keeping my legs feeling a little looser. Great round up of exercises, very clear to follow and nicely demonstrated with the photos. A lot of folks are turning to home workouts with the inability to go to the gym or easily exercise outdoors.

    1. Thank you Nadine for your comments, and great add on with the wall scuffs! I too have made that mistake….

      Ankle raises is so easy to get into and carry out that I find myself doing them at various times throughout the day, and as you say, it can help too with restless leg syndrome.

  5. Some really useful suggestions here, thank you! May I also suggest a similar article that focuses on stretches / flexibility exercises?

    1. A very useful set of exercises: thank you. My friends seem to have gone two ways over lockdown.

      Type A have realised that they can become very fit without going to the gym or swimming. A few of them have become addicted to cycling, running, walking and these type of exercises.

      Type B have done very little and often it’s not been their fault. Sat at their laptop, working from home, they’ve had to work such long hours that they haven’t had time to exercise. On top of that they’ve picked up posture injuries and of course it has been difficult to see a physio.

      At the end of the day you’ve got to try to do as much as possible to at least maintain your strength and flexibility for that day when you can ski again.

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