Getting Ready for Winter Sports

Written by Libby Norris

Fall is a great opportunity and time to start working on getting ready for your winter activities. We're often between goals from the summer season to the holiday season. Fall activities can also help us transition physically and mentally from the sun and sand to the snow and slopes. 

Here are some tips on how to start developing your fitness program to be ready for your favorite winter sports. 

Build your endurance. Cardiovascular endurance is important with so many winter sports including cross country skiing, hockey, skating and snowshoeing. If you downhill ski or snowboard, you may not be moving your feet fast, but you will still benefit from increased endurance. 

If you've been working out all summer, keep up the aerobic part of your program to maintain your stamina. If you're just starting out, however, start with a manageable amount for your energy and your schedule and then gradually increase both your time and your intensity. 

An ideal target before you hit the slopes, the snow or the ice is to be doing about 120 minutes of cardio per week, which averages out to four 30-minute aerobic workouts a week. 

Always choose activities you enjoy, but you may want to include exercises that use the muscles and the movements used in your sport. For example, an elliptical machine may be ideal if you ski or snowshoe. 

Build your muscles. Once you've established your cardiovascular base, it's time to work on increasing your muscular strength and endurance. Winter sports can be grueling. It's a much better feeling to take breaks because you want to rather than because your legs give out. 

Try to work all your major muscle groups 2-3 times per week keeping the intensity comfortable but challenging. You have lots of options for working your muscles including weight training, resistance bands, muscle conditioning classes or body weight exercises. 

Focus on your flexibility. When it comes to winter sports, flexibility becomes important when taking strides as you cross country ski, as you make turns down the hill or push off with your skates. 

Get to the core. Core training is a big buzz word in fitness. Your core involves more than just you abdominals but also includes your low back, your glutes and your hamstrings. Your core acts as a girdle around your torso and is an important variable with your stability. Winter sports on snow and ice obviously require a lot of balance and stability, so this is definitely an area where you'll want to develop strength. 

Pulling it all together. Once you have your fitness base established, you can then start making your workout more sport-specific. This involves starting to simulate your sport with the kinds of movements or intensity required in the activity. For downhill skiing, you could add squats that are more dynamic and jump from side to side. For hockey or skating, you could make that squat wider with a lateral leap from side to side. These jumping type exercises are called plyometrics. 

There are some really great tools that can help you to get sport-specific as well. Bosus, fit discs, wobble boards, core boards and foam rollers are equipment you will find at the gym but can also purchase for home as well. These increase the stability challenge of any exercise which makes them ideal for winter sport training. 

Sport-specific training has so many benefits. It provides a very specific direction for the strength and endurance you have. It both mentally and physically prepares you for your activity and can also help you to reduce your risk of injury.

Always consult your health care professional before making any significant changes in your dietary habits or your physical activity routines.

*©, 2013 Trademark of Kellogg Company used under license by Kellogg NA Co

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