The leaves have fallen and cooler weather has taken hold, bringing with it the promise of winter sports. But before grabbing your skis and racing for the slopes on opening day, make sure your body is prepared for the grueling intensity of your chosen activity. Taking the time to transition into a training regimen focusing on strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health – along with emphasis on focusing the mind and training not only for the execution of your sport, but also the recovery – will set you up for success for the entire season. As you become more fit, you’ll be able to ski/skate/snowshoe longer and more easily each time.

Even though the big, impressive exercises, such as heavy squats, deadlifts, and bench press, are very functional and useful in many sports, with winter events – especially skiing – it’s not always the best approach to help train your body. It’s a bit like putting a large amount of muscle mass on a marathon runner. It doesn’t assist in his/her goals and aspirations. It will actually be detrimental to the runner’s speed and training. The same can be said for heavy exercises while preparing for the ski slopes. Instead, it is more beneficial for both the weekend warrior and more serious skier to incorporate bilateral training and exercises that will protect the joints.

Incorporating bilateral and explosive exercises, like the ones listed below, will help ensure you’ll be primed and ready for a high-level, high-quality day, and also help you avoid coming off your first day feeling like you’ve been hit by a small bus.

Add in the following to your workout after a brisk 10-minute warmup and some dynamic stretching. Three sets of 12 to 15 will help build strength, coordination, muscle endurance, and help prepare the body for the complexities of winter sports.

Side Lateral Skip Lunges:

These build strength in the outside of the quadriceps as well as the glutes and hamstrings. Add in the explosive movement and lateral direction to build strength and stability in the knee. Step to the side, avoid stepping too wide, push the hips back and track the knee over the center of the foot, pushing the hips back and sitting into a lunge. Drive up quickly, bringing the feet together and then step to the other side.

BOSU ball squats:

These build balance and stability, and help with proprioception, the connection between your mind and body and where the body and limbs are located in space, helping you adjust to irregularities on the ski hill.

Lateral jumps:

Start this with both feet together, landing soft in the joints, with the hips back and core engaged, but don’t be afraid to cover some distance side to side. Start with small hops, then work them wider and wider until you are challenging the controlled range of motion. As you build strength here you can advance this movement to a single leg – again, start with small jumps and work wider and wider. The lateral jumps build strength in the inside and outside thigh, creating a lot of strength in and around the knee to protect it from any odd angles or turns that may happen while on the slopes.

Rotational Lunge:

Start in a standard lunge position: front knee stacked over ankle, back knee bent, chest over hips, front knee behind the toes. Put your hands out in front of you and as you step into the lunge, engage the glute and keep the body balanced over both feet, without letting the back knee hit the ground. Hold your lunge and rotate the body first to the right, then the left. Work this exercise slow and controlled, hitting your lunge form first, then adding in the rotation. After the last rotation return to start and repeat. Do each leg.

Jenna is trainer and competitive physique athlete with a passion for yoga. She can usually be found at Flathead Health and Fitness in Kalispell helping others reach their health goals either in class or through one-on-one sessions. She also offers personal training out of her private studio and teaches classes at Fitness 365. She also teaches Yoga Athletica at the hot yoga studio Mandala Montana north of Kalispell.

Contact her at or drop into one of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon at Flathead Health and Fitness.