As we head towards competition season, it’s handy to know what exercises keep you in ship shape for racing and freestyle. Here are my top tips for staying on your a-game!
In all areas of competitive snowsports, injury prevention is key. The risks can be high, but you want to spend less time injured and more time progressing. As many of you may know, big crashes can sometimes be unavoidable, no matter what your ability. So it’s important to prepare your body for these unexpected moments by maintaining a strong and flexible physique overall. This can be achieved through regular gym based workouts and stretching, like yoga for example. It is also very important to warm up and stretch before you hit the slopes, to loosen you up, prevent injury and improve performance.
This video by four-time Olympian Chemmy Alcott combines a short ski-specific yoga session with a warm-up routine.
Next up it’s legs and knees, arguably one of the most important elements for skiing and snowboarding since they connect us to our equipment. Within snowsports the knee can be put under a lot of stress, especially with quick twists and turns which it isn’t really designed for. It’s important to strengthen the legs, but more importantly the muscles that surround and support the knee. For this, the most common exercises include: balance squats on one leg (on flat ground or balance equipment), single leg hops through a floor ladders with quick direction variation and small obstacle courses for increased difficulty. There is potential to get really creative with these sorts of exercises, making them more challenging and fun. Before long you’ll have legs and knees as bomb-proof as Iron Man’s.
Check out this brain-melting gym session from Swiss slopestyle skier Andri Ragettli.
The final off-the-slope focus is core strength, which is crucial for improving your performance in both racing and freestyle. If you are racing you’ll need good core strength to be agile whilst remaining composed on course, in order to increase your overall speed. Then for freestyle, core strength is the key to executing tricks with ease and stomping solid landings. There are many exercises that you can do inside or outside a gym environment, like a sideways plank for example.
Here is pro half-pipe skier and gym guru Rowan Cheshire with some basic core exercises.
Along with being physically fit, success within snowsports comes from hours of practice, working on fundamental skills and fine-tuning techniques. This is where dry slopes and indoor slopes come in. For freestyle you can practice rail and jump tricks to perfection all year round. Features may be much smaller than they are in the mountains, but the techniques will still be the same. Gymnastics and trampoline sessions can help improve aerial awareness for a safer and more positive progression on jumps tricks. Skateboarding and inline skating are also good ways to improve your balance off the slope.
There are also benefits to race training at UK facilities. It takes a lot more to perfect your technique on dry slopes and indoor snow due to the variety of surfaces available. Therefore when you master it, your technique and overall performance will be much stronger, especially when you slide the real deal on the mountain. From a coaching perspective, the process of receiving feedback and making adjustments is much quicker in a smaller environment, and this encourages faster progression.
These excises and tips are just a few ideas, and should only be undertaken in safe conditions with professionals. The most important thing about competitive snowsports is having the confidence to get involved. You don’t need to have an athlete’s physique to reach the podiums, but keeping your body in great shape will make snowsports more enjoyable for the whole season.
Find out more about keeping fit and preparing your body for a ski holiday in our article with Uni Lean here.