Winter sports are right around the corner. Will you be ready?
By Paul Scott
Two months. it may seem like the distant future, but in that time winter will be upon us, and more important, you'll be upon winter: skiing through fresh powder, catching air on a new board, chasing down a puck against some guy named Guy, or executing telemark turns worthy of the Norwegian armed forces. At least that's the idea. The question is, will you be in any kind of shape to make the experience worthwhile?
Yep, if you start focusing your training now. "In winter, people tend to forget the basic elements of fitness," says Ed Laskowski, codirector of the Sports Medicine Center at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "We have many more weekend warriors limping in." The casual approach may be fine for summer sports, but given that lift tickets, gear, Advil, and sundries such as ACL reconstructive surgery seem to escalate in cost with each snowfall, on-the-slopes training for winter fun is a risky, and likely painful, proposition that you'll want to avoid.
To fine-tune your preparation, we've assembled brief but potent workouts for alpine skiing, hockey, telemark skiing, and snowboarding, any of which you can tack onto standard strength and cardiovascular training routines. While each of these disciplines requires a slightly different emphasis—and thus different drills—they share a demand for leg strength and lateral agility. "If you're going to do winter sports with side-to-side, explosive movements," explains Laskowski, "you need to train in a similar fashion."
Before diving into any of the following plans, be sure that you have a baseline level of leg strength (i.e., you should be able to squat one and a half times your weight). Start now, and come this December you'll not only be able to break to the goal faster and arrest falls more gracefully, but because your muscles have been prepared for each sport's specific motions, you'll be able to enjoy the full extent of your time on the snow and ice. And maybe, just maybe, your quadriceps won't burn like hell on your first full-scale outing.
Photograph: Scott Markewitz