Ski tuneup: Time to start conditioning

Posted: Friday, October 18, 2002

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) -- Skiers across the West are watching the skies, waiting for signs of snow.

What most don't remember however, is the pain of the first day of skiing. The sore muscles and inability to walk the next day are an all-too common sight at the beginning of the ski season.

''A lot of people start thinking about skiing when it gets colder and the snow flies,'' Pocatello Parks and Recreation Outdoor Recreation Planner J.C. Norling said. ''There are a lot of things people can do ahead of time, but most don't.''

The key to a successful ski season, according to Norling, is being prepared. Flexibility, agility, strength, and anaerobic and aerobic exercises are all important, Norling said. Without preparation, skiers are more likely to get injured.

Sports medicine specialist Dr. Tony Joseph sees mostly knee injuries during ski season. Starting a strength program at least six weeks before the season is important to build the muscles needed for skiing. Strong quadriceps and hamstrings can help cushion and support the knee, reducing injury.

''Your muscles are your shock absorbers,'' Joseph said. ''Strength is really important.''

To build good downhill ski muscles, Norling suggests weight training and plyometric exercises. Squats, lunges and leg extensions build lower body muscles, and abdominal work is also important. When using weights, however, Norling encourages people to seek professional help.

''You can get hurt if you don't know the technique,'' he said.

Plyometric exercises use body weight to build strength. Striding up a hill using ski poles can build strength. Norling also suggests an exercise where people jump sideways over a cardboard box, lifting their knees toward their chest as they jump. Good exercises, Norling said, are those that mimic the sport.

''They're emulating what you do when you're skiing,'' he said. ''It's got to be specific. Everything you're doing, you're thinking about skiing. Having a goal is important.''

The most helpful preseason exercises, Norling said, should involve movements or muscles used in skiing. Bicycling, for example, works quadriceps muscles and is excellent training for downhill skiing.

For cross-country skiing, however, Norling suggests all-body exercises like hiking with ski poles or rollerskiing. Using the poles when hiking, Norling said, helps work the upper body as well as the lower body.

''It intensifies the workout,'' he said.

Aerobic exercise is also important, Norling said. Most aerobic exercise should be done at between 60 and 70 percent of the maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Once a week, Norling suggests interval training where slower exercise is alternated with bursts of hard exercise. Hiking, inline skating, running and biking are all good aerobic workouts.

For those who find themselves out of shape just before ski season, Norling said, there isn't really a good way to catch up. Overtraining can cause injury. When starting an exercise program, Norling suggests beginning slowly.

''Your body can only get so fit so fast,'' Norling said.

Another important thing to remember is to keep things fun.

''Most of us aren't going to the Olympics,'' Norling said. ''You should be having fun with it.''

Norling said he hopes to see plenty of people on the slopes this year having a good time.

''It's something you can start as a kid and do for the rest of your life,'' he said. ''I'd like to see some more high school kids out there. Put down your Playstation and make a commitment to your health.''

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