Top tips to prepare for your ski lessons

Beginner or advanced – our top tips to prepare for your ski lessons

Plunging headlong into your annual ski holiday might be fun, but it’s physically tiring. A little time and effort beforehand could help you get far more out of your week in the mountains. We asked a ski fitness expert Ollie Martin for some top tips.

Aching back, stiff calf muscles and burning thighs – and it’s only day one? You’re not alone if this is you on your ski holiday, wondering how you’re going to get through the next five days of ski school or snowboard school, wishing you’d climbed a few more stairs at home rather than taking the lift? Well if so, you’re not alone – and you’re likely to feel stiff and sore even if you are fit and sporty at home because skiing and snowboarding uses completely different muscles to any other exercise.

According to Club Med research, 76% of people take part in physical preparation before going on a ski holiday, with 70% of first timers making an attempt to get into shape before they first hit the slopes. So skiers and snowboarders are generally a pretty healthy bunch.

“If you’re “ski fit” you’ll not only get more out of your week – whether that’s ski lessons or snowboard lessons, cruising the reds with mates or ski touring and skiing powder – but you’ll also limit your risk of injury,” says Ollie Martin, performance coach, sports scientist and author of Ski Fitness –himself an avid skier.

“To begin with, most people think of skiing as an aerobic sport but you will actually be able to ski better and longer if you work on strength and stability first. The first place to start is with a corrective exercise to strengthen long, weak muscles and stretch short, tight muscles – which we all have thanks to our desk jobs, stress and cars. I recommend finding a corrective exercise specialist such as a Chek Practitioner (C.H.E.K) to help you with this.”

“Then you can work on strength, power and endurance,” says Ollie, explaining that the key to training for skiing and snowboarding is as much variation as possible.
“A contradiction in sports-specific training is that you want to train movements similar to skiing – for example, train the muscles you would use for a snowplough – but you can never exactly replicate the movement off the snow, so you will actually make yourself weaker if you try! This means you need to introduce a varied range of at least six strength movement patterns in three planes of movement. The programme should be progressive and fun!”

There’s plenty of everyday activities you can take part in to get prepped for your time on the slopes, and you don’t need a gym membership to do them! Find some space in your home to practise some basic arm and leg stretches. Some of these might seem difficult at first, but they’ll get easier as your body gets used to them. They can then be used each day you’re on the slopes to get you warmed up.

Another essential for skiing and snowboarding is core strength – so rather than doing endless sit-ups, which might actually damage your back – why not try planking in front of the TV, one, two and then three minutes at a time, building your endurance. That way, when the time comes to link turns during your snowboard lessons, your back and stomach will be ready to take the hit.

Famous big mountain skier Cody Townsend, popular for skiing ‘The Crack’ in Alaska, swears by his TRX – it’s a small, transportable piece of equipment that offers literally hundreds of ways to exercise, focussing on core and upper body strength. Don’t forget skis and snowboards are heavy, and you’ll be carrying them to and from the lift and around the mountain during the day.

Just upping your general activity levels before your skiing holiday will pay dividends too – climbing stairs instead of taking the lift, getting off the tube or bus one or two stops early and walking to the shops rather than jumping in the car will all add up to a more successful week, and when you’re spending money on ski lessons or snowboard lessons, it makes sense to get as much value from your hard-earned pennies as possible – and to come home in one piece!

Preparing your body for a ski holiday? Here are our six super ski exercises to get your body into shape and help you get the best out of your time on the slopes.

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