Monday, 21 January 2013

On the Piste

So London has had its first spattering of snow for 2013, and it will probably continue to cause choas for the rest of the week on Transport Network, a bit of a negative view but I think I speak for the entire population of London when I say that a little bit of snow and the city and its public transport comes to a juddering halt.

Lucky I ride a bike.. not that lucky in this weather though, thank god for thermals!! Ski Sunday returned to our screens last week, unfortunately I missed it but I'll be sure to catch up on I-Player to brush up on my parallel turns and racing starts... But this program always signals to me that the ski season is truly underway.

It's often the case that many indivuduals who have been sedentary for vast majority of the year set off to the slopes for a week of either skiing or snowboarding. They get out there, hire their ski's/board and boots and jump on the first lift and try to blow away the cobwebs that have accumulated in the last few years and try to rediscover their technique on the first run.

Confidence grows and they have a great first day of skiing, a few falls and near misses but they survive the day. A little bit of Apres Ski and then off to bed. Wake up the next day and the body feels like it has done 12 rounds with Tyson.

Studies have shown that injuries are most likely to occur on the second day of a ski trip as the body is fatigued from the day before. The encouraging news is that ski injuries have reduced in the last 15 years. This could be due to advancing technology in ski equipment and safety gear such as helmets. However, knee injuries, especially Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), have increased 175% over the last 15 years.

Now I can't teach you how to ski on this blog, I'll leave that to Ski Sunday, but what I can do is give you some advice on how to strengthen specific areas that are susceptible to taking a bit of a hammering on the slopes.

I'm probably being a bit prejudice here, but what a lot of people believe specific training for skiing involves is leaning against a wall in a seated isometric position and holding for as long as possible. It was definitely the advice that I got told by my old sports master at school. Yes, you're lower body muscles - particularly your quadriceps, are contracting in this held position and if practiced regularly (like any exercise) then a quads may develop more strength. But is this position actually specific and functional to skiing? When do you head down a run in that seated position (usually out of control!?).

As much as you need to keep your feet together whilst hurtling down the slope, they are separated and each have their own ski. So each leg has to be able to withstand the bumps and uneven surface that the piste delivers. Work in the gym should replicate this, so single-leg exercises are highly recommended.

One fitness tool that I love due to its versatility and practicality is the TRX. As I train many of my clients in the parks of London, the TRX can be hitched up to a tree a door or even a lampost and offer a fantastic traning stimulus that has proven to achieve desirable results.

In relation to skiing, I would perscribe the TRX Single Leg (SL) squat. This exercises teaches you to engage your core musculature in order to remain stable during the eccentric (downward) phase of the exercise. Your arms are there for guidance and can also help to give you a helping hand on the concentric (upward) phase of the movement. However the focus should be to use the power through your leg to drive back up into the start position. Here's a short video of what the exercise should look like:

In order to gain maximum benefit from this exercise. We need to work the leg at its full range of motion, or as close to. So look to squat below parallel, where the hips are lower than the knee. Gauge your range of motion for the first few repetitions and then look to lower as time progresses.

If you don't have a TRX, another great exercise that can be performed in the home is a step up. All you need.. is a step! Place one foot on the step, whilst staying tall in the torso, all the power comes from the foot that is on the step. Driving from that foot extend the knee until it is straight. the trailing foot will follow. Aim for 12-15 reps on each leg. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, move one step further up.

We also have to look at focusing our training on the trunk stabilisers or 'core musculature.' The trunk plays the pivotal role of connecting the upper torso with the lower extremities. I'm not going to suggest that you perform a 100 sit ups a day to 'strengthen' this crucial area. Far from it, as I have already discussed in a previous post, I'm not a fan of exercises that add stress to the lower spine, mainly by flexion. Sit ups not only do this, but by performing a large number of them will affect an individuals' posture, bring the shoulders forward and only strengthen the rectus abdominus muscles and no other area of the trunk.

Instead I am a fan of planks and side-planks as a beginner exercise for trunk strength and stabilisation. For a plank, the stomach should be braced and the elbows positioned under the shoulders, and the hips level. Once you have mastered this exercise, try an advanced exercise that will put more emphasis on the upper body and your trunk to resist rotation.

Below is a clip of a plank-walkup. Try and keep the hips parallel to the floor and 'walk' up on your right arm and then with your left.

Aim for 10-12 reps. This is a tough exercise, so ensure that you are fully competant on the plank before progressing.

If you are looking for some ski clothing this year, have a look at I've found some great offers on kit from this website, and they are continually changing. They offer cheaper alternatives to Snow and Rock. Check it out. (I'm not on commission from them, just thought I'd share!).

Have a good week.


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