1. Work Those Thighs
Work those thighs (quads). You know they hurt last year; heck they hurt every year. Pretty much every cardio exercise works primarily your quads so you’re in luck — riding a bike, running, walking hills/trails, and yes, skiing. So run/ride until you feel that thigh burn. If you can’t get outside and need to improve your quads fast (like you’ve scheduled an early ski trip and need to whip those thighs into shape), squats are your go-to exercise. A good motto is, “if it burns now, it’ll burn less on the hill.” That said, if you don’t balance your quads, you’ll only put strain on your ACL (one of the tendons that holds your knees together).
2. Balance with Hamstrings and Calves
The hamstrings are the muscles on the back of your leg and actually, they’re much more difficult to isolate than your quads. If you solely work your quads with no balance in your hams, you’ll pull an ACL (MCL if you work just your hams). While calves are easy to isolate with calve raises (think of walking up stairs on your tippie toes), isolating hams requires a machine that pulls your feet to your butt. Another way to isolate your hams is with a medicine ball — lie on your back with the ball toward your neck and lift your butt into the air.
All this working your legs will require some serious stretching since your newly developed muscles will be pulling tightly on your ACL and MCL tendons. If there’s one muscle group to stretch, it’s your quads. Stand on one foot and pull your airborne foot behind you. ACL injuries are one of the most common on the slopes and this is how to help prevent it.
4. Core Strengthening
Used to be, the thinking was to just prepare your legs and you’ll be fine, but core-building is just as important. Building your core not only supports the rest of your body, but also your balance — an attribute that is somewhat important on the slopes. Strengthening your core will keep you from straining in awkward positions when off balance — something that will only put more stress on your legs (and ultimately, your knees), so in this sense, strengthening your core is a great way to prevent injury on your legs.
5. Get the Gear
No matter what shape you are in, if those boards are shot beyond repair, so are your chances of staying un-injured. In Denver, the Labor Day weekend kicks off the biggest sales of the year. Between Sports Authority’s, “Sniagrab,” and Colorado Ski and Golf’s, “Trex” sales you should be able to find a screaming deal. Both sales feature last year’s models at greatly reduced prices. Of course, “Greatly Reduced” is still highly expensive but there are also ski swaps such as at Larson Sports and others where used gear is a consideration.
Replicating high altitude during the dog days of summer isn’t the easiest proposition — it’s somewhat dangerous and definitely not fun. If you have no shot at building your cardio at elevation, one way to force your body to breathe thinner air is to take advantage of the summer’s heat. On particularly hot and humid days, the air is thinner near the ground. While running in heat won’t produce more red blood cells, it will train your body to do more with less (oxygen in this case).
7. Drive Prep
If you live on the Front Range of Colorado, you may want to get ready for the ski-commutes you’re about to face. Try driving from Downtown to Castle Rock at around 5 PM any day during the work week to loosen up. This still isn’t as bad as I‑70 on a Sunday heading from Summit County to Denver, but you do want to ease slowly into any activity, or risk popping a vein.