The white stuff is finally falling in the Snowies and Alpine types are getting ready to strap on their boots and skis and head for the slopes. But sitting in an office one day and plummeting down a mountainside the next is asking for injury. Experts recommend six weeks of preparation, so here’s how to get thighs of iron and buns of steel and get the most out your winter holiday.
Skiing picture from Shutterstock
Your thigh muscles, aka quadriceps, are the most important muscles in skiing. They hold you in position and support your knees. Squats and lunges are ideal to train them up, and you can even do these in the shower.
Office option: wall squats. Stand with your back to a wall or filing cabinet, and slide down until your thighs are horizontal/you’re in a sitting position. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, come up slowly, then repeat. Eventually you should be able to hold for 1-2 minutes.
Inner & Outer Thighs
Your inner thighs keep your skis together, while the outer ones help you steer. Side lunges and adductor machines can be good to work them.
Office option: Keep a medicine ball or firm foam cushion under your desk, and do some squeezes while you work, sitting on your desk chair.
Glutes & Hamstrings
The hamstrings and glutes do a lot of work keeping you stable as you ski downhill with your body in a flexed position, leaning forward from the hips. Deadlifts with barbells and hamstring rolls with a medicine ball are two good options.
Office option: Buttock squeezes in your chair. Squeeze those cheeks as hard as you can and slowly, so your colleagues don’t notice you bobbing up and down. Hold for 5-10 seconds – and release. Do this 5-10 times.
Core stability strength is really important for your balance and your back. Reverse sits ups/reverse crunches are great for these, where you lie on your back, legs bent, and raise your knees. Remember to keep your back pressed flat against the floor and don’t lift your head.
Office option: Focus on the area between your hip bones – the “b-line” in Pilates. Breathe out – tighten an imaginary piece of string from hip to hip – hold, and relax as you breathe in again. Even five repetitions will help you connect with those muscles and start working them. You can also do this standing up.
Unless you’re planning one gentle slide down the beginners’ slope with après-ski starting in the bar from mid-morning, you’ll need to improve your overall fitness and endurance. Going from eight hours on a chair to eight hours on skis is a big shift. Running, rollerblading, ice skating and step aerobics are all good preparation for skiing.
Office option: A treadmill in your cubicle may not be practical, but commuting by foot or bike could be. Even if you take the train, consider getting off a stop early and walking the rest of the day to get some paces in. And if you’re able to take the fire escape stairs rather than the lift, do that. Just make sure the doors aren’t locked.
Optimising your overall health ahead of your holiday is also a good idea. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating well so you don’t get “holiday flu” the minute you’re in the mountains. Shedding a few pounds through healthier choices will also make you leaner and meaner in your ski suit and less like the Abominable Snowman.
Office option: Swap coffee-and-muffin breakfasts and lunchtime fries with eggs, complex carbs, salads and quality protein.
No matter how well you train, make sure you’ve got the right travel insurance. Many policies don’t cover winter sports such as skiing, so it’s wise to look for a specialist policy. As well as medical evacuation from the slopes, it should cover your equipment, lift pass and give you avalanche cover. Some policies will even cover you for loss of income if you’re injured and can’t return to work straight away.
Chloe Quin is a wellness expert with online health insurance provider Health.com.au, whose mission is to help Australians access affordable healthcare that’s easy to understand. Also a qualified yoga instructor, Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.