Getting in shape now will pay dividends this winter season

Trainers say running can help improve skiing, endurance

Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2007

KENAI - Ski season is fast approaching, but being prepared to take advantage of the winter weather starts long before the snow accumulates enough to strap on the sticks.

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"You've got to start somewhere," said Skyview High School ski coach Kent Peterson.

Peterson doesn't believe in waiting to begin working out when those first few flakes flutter down from the sky. He starts the team out early with a variety or cross-training exercises, and he recommends other skiers, particularly those new to skiing, do the same.

"With new athletes, before we get snow, we'll do a lot of running," he said.

Peterson said running can improve a skier's cardiovascular fitness, muscle conditioning and endurance levels.

"We do a lot of runs through the woods and off the trail to keep it interesting," he said.

Peterson added that he still has the runners perform exercises that will benefit them when the snow does come.

"A lot of the running is with poles. It gets the arms involved, so it's more of a full body workout, and it builds strength in the arms and gets them used to carrying the poles," he said.

Peterson said he also has different routines for when the runners encounter hills.

"When they're running the trails, we'll have them 'ski-walk' on the hills. They'll slow down and simulate more of a skiing position by leaning more forward, hunching their shoulders, and still using their poles," he said.

As the would-be skiers become more fit, the workout will increase in intensity.

"We'll then get more aggressive, having them 'ski-bound' by pushing with their feet and the poles on some hills. Because it's very explosive, it builds more strength and cardio," he said.

While Peterson said he favors outdoor activities to prepare for the skiing season, he does utilize some indoor training, as well.

"We do do some workouts in the weight room to build core strength," he said.

Joni Dykstra, an instructor at Peninsula Athletic Club on Kalifornsky Beach Road, said there are numerous ways skiers can tune up their bodies in preparation for hitting the slopes or cross country trails.

As opposed to performing isolated training with a narrow focus on a select few muscles most associated with skiing, Dykstra said she recommends varying workouts to maximize full-body fitness of the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles in the legs, the abdominal and oblique muscles of the midsection, and the shoulders, back and arms of the upper body.

"We recommend people cross-train with different equipment and by taking different classes we offer, rather than just focusing on one activity," she said.

There are machines for performing leg presses, hamstring curls and quadricep extensions, and Dykstra said activities such as a Power Pacing class a workout on stationary bicycles can also build strength and improve cardiovascular endurance.

Lisa Cutler, who teaches BOSU at the gym, said skiers can get a lot out of activities which focus on their midsection.

"It's core-related, so it's really good for the whole body, and it's great for increasing strength, stability, balance and range of motion," she said in regard to the BOSU exercise class which utilizes an athletic training device consisting of an inflated rubber half-ball attached to a rigid platform.

While running and hitting the gym can lend to a skiers preseason fitness regime, Peterson said performing exercises that mimic skiing are the best, so he encourages the ski team to strap on wheels a few weeks before strapping on skis.

"Roller skiing is very important. It's as close as you can get to real skiing, but you can only do it until the ice comes and they start sanding," he said.

Once the white stuff finally does start to fly, Peterson also encourages skiers to not be overly exuberant on their first day out.

"It's best to transition slowly, 45 minutes to an hour for the first time out, then up it as the body adjust," he said.

Cutting too much track or shooting the double diamond on the first day of the season could be a recipe for disaster, according to Henry Krull, a doctor at Kenai Peninsula Orthopaedics in Soldotna.

"The role of getting in shape is key not just for exercise performance, but for injury prevention," Krull said. "For adults and weekend warrior types in particular, getting in shape is even more important. Not getting in shape and hitting the trails or the downhills can predispose you to injury from simple sprains and strains, to muscle fatigue that restricts future exercise, to predisposing you to falls where a fracture, dislocation or soft tissue damage is possible."

Krull said it is best to begin exercising weeks to months before skiing to prevent injuries.

"Now's the time," he said.

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