Time to shape up

Trainers share exercises, best tips to get ready for upcoming ski season

Enlarge photo

LeAnna Efird/The Denver Post photo illustration

After the first run, your ankles feel as though they’re caught between a Mack truck and a telephone pole. Three hours later, your quads start to shimmy like they’re shaking a can of paint. By the end of the morning, the question is, do you need new knees?

You know what we’re talking about here. Day 1 on the slopes, and despite your best intentions, you aren’t ready. Again.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can start off the season in shape this year: muscles toned, core strengthened, body balanced, breathing easy.

“Everyone says they’re going to start now, but we all know how hard it is to make the effort,” says Chad Singleton, a personal trainer at Coors Fitness at the University of Denver. “You think, ‘It’s still so warm, I have months before I have to start thinking about that.’ It sneaks up on you.”

It’s true that fluctuating temperatures make it easier to head out for a run or hop back on the mountain bike for another spin on the trail. But kick-starting a training regimen that focuses your muscles, cardiovascular system and mindset on preparing, executing and recovering from that first day on the slopes – and again and again through the rest of the season – not only can make for more impressive efforts that leave you feeling better afterward but also help prevent injuries.

“If you can get yourself to work on it now, the big thing you’ll notice is that you won’t be as fatigued when you go out there,” says personal trainer Christopher Flower at Denver’s Push Gym. “It’s when you start to get fatigued that you start to make mistakes and get hurt, and so when we’re training now, it’s not just so you can ski well, it’s about injury prevention.”

The question many weekend warriors have, though, is what exactly to do now to be ready in time?

“When you’re looking for exercises to try, it’s a good idea to seek out ones that mimic some of the same motions you use when you’re skiing and snowboarding,” says Katie Strandjord, a trainer and nutritionist at Powerhouse Gym & Fitness. “Things like side-to-side hurdle jumps that will help with lateral movements on the slopes, squats and lunges that will help with balance and core for coordination.”

Scott Harwood, who runs Scott’s Boot Camps in Denver, says people like to do the “big, impressive workout stuff like dumbbell presses and heavy weights on the quads,” but all of the trainers agreed that’s not the best approach for protecting the joints that do the real heavy lifting during winter activities.

“That’s not what’s going to get the job done,” Harwood says. “People do that, and then they hit 30, 40, and they have back pain and things start to break down. You have to get back to basics and target smaller muscle groups.

Dana Fullington, a personal trainer at Busy Body Studio in Denver, agrees.

“You have all these little muscle sets that drive the hips, that control the knees,” she says. “If you strengthen those, you’ll change your body for the better, and your chance for injury will go way down.”

The next step, then, is to take a look at the tips and exercises the trainers recommend, and see if they fit into your workout plan.

“The great thing about working out is that there are so many approaches to choose from to get to the same place,” says Samantha Tanenholtz, a Pilates instructor at the JCC Sports & Fitness Center in Denver. “You can experiment to find out what works for you, what you’re comfortable with. And within each discipline there are always ways to take it down or up a notch, so it’s important to be aware of how your body is reacting and adjust the exercises to make sure your form is where it should be and that you’re doing things properly.”

The best part? Training now for winter sports later will pay off now.

“You don’t have to work out for weeks and then only start feeling better the day you get out on the slopes,” Fullington says. “If you start doing just a few things to get ready, you’ll feel better right away. It’s amazing how fast your body will respond.”

This story was distributed by The Associated Press.