FROM DEADLIFT TO CHAIRLIFT: HOW TO GET IN SHAPE FOR SNOW SEASON
Unless you're a professional snow wizard with enough sponsors to foot the bill for an annual summer escape to Patagonia or NZ, you probably greet the first powder dump of the year with a few cobwebs to shake out. And while you can certainly ride yourself into shape, a little prep work in the gym will go a long way to avoiding injuries and spending more days on the mountain. For advice on how to get ready for the winter season, The North Face endurance athlete Mike Wolfe took a few minutes out of his busy schedule (he just opened The Mountain Project, a new gym in Bozeman MT) to share a few thoughts.
“Overall, I would spend two days a week in the gym, building strength, power and agility in the major muscle groups of the lower body and core,” says Wolfe. This will help get the most out of your first days on the hill, and lessen the temptation to pack it in after the first quad-searing run. Be sure to include flexibility and balance work in your routine as well, to avoid injury.
“It’s fine to lift heavy, if you know what you’re doing,” he adds, recommending classic lifts such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges, which translate into power on the snow, as well as core work (including the lower back) to bring it all together. Wolfe also recommends plyometric and agility work, especially single-leg agility drills that will help you identify any weaknesses before they become injuries.
In addition to the days in the gym, spend at least one day a week in recovery with plenty of foam rolling and stretching, and mix in a few days of running, hiking, or mountain biking to build fitness and keep things fun.
In addition to weightlifting, here are some bodyweight exercises that can help get you ready for the snow:
- Pulse Squat: The pulse squat emulates the natural movements of the body as it absorbs bumps in the slope. With your feet shoulder width apart and your weight rooted in your heels, lower into a squat position. Instead of returning to a standing position, lift halfway and drop back to a squat, alternating continuously for 30 seconds.
- Oblique twists with medicine ball: Use this exercise to strengthen your core and improve your turning. Sitting on the floor, hold a medicine ball, plate, or dumbbell out in front of you. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the floor. Flexing your core muscles, rotate back and forth and touch the weight to the floor on either side of you.
- Pull-ups: Focussing on your legs and core doesn’t mean you should totally neglect your upper body. Pull-ups keep your back strong and will help with balance too. It’s a pull-up, how much instruction do you need? Grab a bar and pull up. Good form is crucial, so use assistance if you can’t get to the bar without flailing
- Plyometric push ups: No matter how good you are, you’re going to fall eventually. These explosive push ups help prepare your upper body to absorb the impact of falls on the snow. This move is performed like a regular pushup, but with an explosive upward motion to drive your body off the floor and catch some air. Bonus points if you can clap. Catch your weight on your hands again and slowly lower yourself back to the starting position
- Calf raises: Moreso for snowboarding, a long traverse can leave your calves cramping up if you’re not ready for it. Stand on one foot, balance on the ball of your foot, lift your heel up off the floor and set it back down again. Repeat 20 times and switch sides
With a few solid sessions in the gym, you should be ready for a winter’s worth of powder days.