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Shape Up to Hit the Slopes

Getting ready to ski or snowboard often consists of trying to remember where you stashed your gear last spring. That approach may get you to the slopes, but it can reduce your enjoyment once you're there.

Skiing and snowboarding use muscles that don't normally do so much work. And high altitudes put even more stress on your body. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting in shape prior to the ski season to minimize injuries.

Luckily, a little preparation can go a long way. Talk to your doctor. They may recommend exercises that target:

  • The core muscles of the abdomen and lower back

  • The hip flexors (pelvis, upper legs) and quadriceps (front of the thighs)

  • The hamstrings at the back of the thighs

  • The gluteus muscles in the buttocks

An exercise called the "wall sit" works the quadriceps. Put your back against a wall and slide down so you're in a sitting position with your knees at right angles. Hold that position for one minute (or as long as you can, since this may be tough at first). Then stand and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat four or five times.

Walking up and down stairs is a simple way to work your quadriceps and gluteus.

Crunches or sit-ups are great for the core muscles. To start, do 10 to 15 crunches, moving slowly and fluidly. Rest for 30 seconds. Then do 10 to 15 more.

Workout at your desk

You can also do an alternative exercise at your desk. Sit up straight without touching the back of the chair. Lift your feet an inch or two off the ground and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Do four or five repetitions, resting in between.

To work the lower back, lie on your stomach with your arms extended over your head. Lift your arms and legs off the ground, like Superman flying through the air. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Lower your arms and legs and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat three to five times.

You can start this exercise regime with as little as a 15-minute walk at lunch. On the slopes, make some easy runs or take a refresher class before trying advanced moves.

Hot tips for cold sports

  • Wear a helmet. Helmets can prevent head injuries or make them less serious.

  • Dress in layers. Polypropylene underwear absorbs dampness and dries quickly. Layer with a waterproof or water-resistant jacket.

  • Stretch before you start. Emphasize the leg muscles. If you're snowboarding, also stretch the hips, which rotate more than they do during skiing.

  • Hydrate as much as you can. Bring a water bottle. But don't drink alcohol before or while you hit the slopes.

  • Pace yourself. Allow adequate recovery time. Take breaks every hour or so. Get enough sleep.

  • Find ski boots that fit well. Take your time and try on several pairs at a couple of shops. Seek help from a good boot fitter.

  • Pick socks with care. Thick socks do not equal warmth. Thin socks that draw moisture away will keep you warmer.

  • Use sunscreen and UV eye protection. Even on cloudy days, the sun reflects off the snow with great strength.